Monday, June 24, 2024

How Global Fishing Watch used AI to map human activity at sea

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Mapping dark fleets and greenhouse gas emissions

In addition to identifying infrastructure, AI and radar imagery from Google Earth Engine detected the presence of “dark vessels,” or ships that don’t publicly broadcast their locations. It was found that globally, half of all large operating vessels aren’t available in public monitoring systems, and that fishing presence is four times larger than previously mapped.

Ocean vessels can be estimated to release over 1 gigaton of carbon annually, with shipping producing 3% of global emissions. To help understand the full extent of greenhouse gas emissions at sea, Global Fishing Watch is joining Climate TRACE, a supported coalition that tracks emissions, and working with WattTime to measure and attribute sea emissions by country. Carbon release happens on the sea floor, too. Research using Global Fishing Watch found that each year more than 300 megatons of carbon emissions may come from bottom trawling, a fishing method that releases carbon when nets are dragged over the sea floor. This research has in turn informed targeted policy campaigns to restrict this practice.

In West Africa, overfishing from foreign industrial vessels entering country waters has left local fishers with depleted stocks, affecting the local economy and diet. In the region, governments now have a more comprehensive picture of the number of fishing vessels in their waters so they can better patrol high-pressure areas and restore fish populations for local fishermen.

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