As fish stocks continue to deplete, what is the future of fishing?
Smart nets, capture sensors, live video, and reporting software are cool, but it all starts with the people in the trenches.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll have a completely different perspective on what people think the future of fishing looks like. Old-school recreational fishermen will tell you that sustainability initiatives are just smoke and mirrors, and the water is as healthy as it ever was. Scientists and conservationists will tell you that we have only 27 years left before the ocean is completely depleted of fish.
BACKGROUND: A WET START LEADING TO AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF FISHERIES
How did we get there ? How did fishing become such a taboo subject when it is such a necessary part of our existence?
Many believe this is because the industry has remained “behind” in implementing the technology. The future of fishing demands that the industry catch up with the rest of the world. Almost all economic sectors have started to prepare for the future and the fishing industry continues to fall behind. Meanwhile, litter, bycatch and bad practices are killing our fish, harming our oceans and coastal communities.
A tiny percentage of the world’s fisheries actually use data and IT to manage and optimize their fishery. Most don’t even keep track of what they catch other than on paper. This is so easily handled and is part of the reason overfishing is such a problem. There is no track, there is no way to follow anything, and therefore, there is no way to enforce the laws and regulations that prevent fisheries from taking more than their own. fair share.
The creation of âsmart boatsâ using satellites and cellular networks is the blueprint for the future. This will make the fishing trade more efficient and sustainable, create jobs and increase profits. While we are at it, we must tackle the decades-long mismanagement of the fishery. Lack of regulations, rules and tons of government money lead to corruption.
It hasn’t always been that way. Coastal communities relied on small boats sending out ‘mom and pop’ style fishermen to catch whatever they could at night so they could sell it at the fish market in the morning. Rinse and repeat. What happened?
Subsidies are said to be at issue. Governments around the world inject $ 35 billion into the commercial fishing industry each year. This money does not go to the little âmom and popâ store, however. It is going to larger commercial fishing operations to reduce costs and make it easier for them to operate even with declining fish stocks.
ANALYSIS: DOES TECHNOLOGY SAVE FISHING?
The sad reality is that the fishery could go in one of two directions. We could go on as we are, and we’ll be lucky if we don’t deplete most of the fish stocks by 2050. Now is the time to make a change and start implementing new technology. Fortunately, there are many great companies that are making a difference.
The cost and ineffectiveness of monitoring the commercial fishery is a good start. Currently, fisheries have no way of tracking the number of fish caught by their vessels, unless they enter the marina and get caught by the authorities. The strategy employed by many fisheries is to have a âmonitorâ on board who will take note of the catches, keep track of everything and act as a check and balance for the fishermen.
A big problem with this is that the data is usually inaccurate, and it’s such a slow process that it can take months for the data to even reach the agencies in charge of sustainability.
The future of surveillance lies in sensors similar to a queue at an amusement park. Amusement parks can track the number of guests moving around certain areas with the help of these spinning bars that you lower as you walk around. EDF’s Smart Boat initiative attempts to implement something similar.
The sensors will also help fishermen determine the quality of the water they are fishing. Agencies are working on the development of sensors that can also provide insight into how a particular body of water is fished.
Artificial intelligence will also have an impact by identifying and counting fish as they enter the boat. Using real-time video data, the AI ââwill choose a type of fish, examine its size, and determine if it can be kept or should be released. This will create a system of “checks and balances” that will hold the fisheries accountable while helping everything run better.
This video technology will also make it easier for managers to supervise vessel operations without being on site. Scientists in Alaska are now testing the technology and believe it will allow better monitoring of the process while reducing costs.
Finally, even when fisheries collect this data, there is no way they can get it quickly to the people who need it. If scientists are monitoring fish stocks or fisheries are monitoring sustainability, it is difficult for people on the ship to get information from them due to the lack of wireless networks and software. As mentioned, commercial fishing still lives in a world where you write things down with pen and paper.
The smart boats of the future will allow fishermen to check their available quota against what they have already recorded. They will also have easy points of contact with other fishermen to exchange stocks and quotas if necessary. From there, they will be able to report water quality or marine life issues directly to agencies responsible for environmental safety and sustainability.
OUTLOOK: WHAT WILL FISHING LOOK LIKE IN 100 YEARS?
As technology continues to advance, I expect the commercial fishing trade to become more systematic. Until now, fisheries have had complete control over their functioning, and although there are agencies responsible for regulating them, the rules are so poorly enforced that it doesn’t really matter.
I believe the act of fishing will work out the same way it has for thousands of years. Of course, I expect some primitive methods like trawling to become completely illegal. It’s currently illegal in some well-protected areas off the west coast, but it has such a high margin of error that I can’t see it continuing for much longer.
Smart grids are already being implemented. These contain audible devices that emit a sound that only large marine mammals like seals and dolphins can hear, and this deters them from swimming in the nets.
If I could paint a living picture of fishing 100 years from now, I hope sustainability stays in the conversation and that commercial and recreational fishermen take it seriously. We are the only ones who can make a difference, because the application of these regulations cannot go further. It is up to the men and women who are there every day to take sustainability seriously.
Smart nets, capture sensors, live video, and reporting software are cool, but it all starts with the people in the trenches. We need to be more aware of the damage caused by overfishing and how it could have a huge impact on our future. Only then can we start to right our mistakes and clean up the mess.
LegalReader thanks our friends at Your Bass Guy for their permission to republish this article. The original can be found here.