Google Earth helps researchers estimate fishing rates

The data, the number of fishing weirs along the coast, shows that countries in the Persian Gulf may have vastly underreported their catch numbers.

Large fish traps could be catching up to six times more fish than they are officially reporting, according to a study which used Google Earth’s satellite images to estimate fish catches.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia used the images to estimate the presence of 1900 fishing weirs along the Persian Coast during 2005.

Using this data they approximated that would relate to 31,000 tons of fish caught that year, though the official figure reported to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization was 5,260 tons.

Countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar reported no catch data from their fishing weirs but the images showed that Iran had 728 weirs, with a potential catch of 13,225 tons of fish.

“Time and again we’ve seen that global fisheries catch data don’t add up,” says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator and the study’s co-author. “Because countries don’t provide reliable information on their fisheries’ catches, we need to expand our thinking and look at other sources of information and new technologies to tell us about what’s happening in our oceans.”

Weirs are fishing traps, traditionally built with date palm fronds, are nowadays built using galvanized mesh and bamboo. The study looks to understand why global food data does not match up to the actuality on the ground and shed light on the over exploitation of food resources.

The study was published Tuesday in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

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