Washington DC, Feb. 22 - A study published today in Science illuminates the extent of global fishing - down to individual vessel movements and hourly activity - and opens an unprecedented gateway for improved ocean management.
The study shows that, while the footprint of capture fishing extends across more than half the global ocean, activity is clearly bounded by different management regimes, indicating the role well-enforced policy can play in curbing over-exploitation.
Using satellite feeds, machine learning techniques and common ship tracking technology, a team of researchers from Global Fishing Watch, the National Geographic Society's Pristine Seas project, University of California Santa Barbara, Dalhousie University, SkyTruth, Google, and Stanford University found that industrial fishing covers more than 55 percent of the ocean's surface - over four times the area covered by agriculture.
"By publishing the data and analysis, we aim to increase transparency in the commercial fishing industry and improve opportunities for sustainable management," said lead author, David Kroodsma, the Director of Research and Development at Global Fishing Watch.
While most nations appear to fish predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones (EEZs), China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea account for 85 percent of observed fishing on the high seas.
The total area of the ocean fished is likely higher than the 55 percent estimated, as the data do not include some fishing effort in regions of poor satellite coverage or in EEZs with a low percentage of vessels using AIS.