FOOD SECURITYThe Information Age Is Starting to Transform Fishing Worldwide

By Nicholas P. Sullivan

Published 19 April 2022

The post-industrial area – with its robots, sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning — has transformed manufacturing and farming. Commercial fishing, one of the oldest industries in the world, is a stark exception, with industrial fishing, factory ships, and deep-sea trawlers still the dominant hunting mode in much of the world. This approach has led to overfishing, stock depletions, habitat destruction, the senseless killing of unwanted by-catch and wastage of as much as 30% to 40% of landed fish. But these patterns are starting to change.

People in the world’s developed nations live in a post-industrial era, working mainly in service or knowledge industries. Manufacturers increasingly rely on sensors, robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace human labor or make it more efficient. Farmers can monitor crop health via satellite and apply pesticides and fertilizers with drones.

Commercial fishing, one of the oldest industries in the world, is a stark exception. Industrial fishing, with factory ships and deep-sea trawlers that land thousands of tons of fish at a time, are still the dominant hunting mode in much of the world.

This approach has led to overfishing, stock depletionshabitat destruction, the senseless killing of unwanted by-catch and wastage of as much as 30% to 40% of landed fish. Industrial fishing has devastated artisanal pre-industrial fleets in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

The end product is largely a commodity that travels around the world like a manufactured part or digital currency, rather than fresh domestic produce from the sea. An average fish travels 5,000 miles before reaching a plate, according to sustainable-fishing advocates. Some is frozen, shipped to Asia for processing, then refrozen and returned to the U.S.

But these patterns are starting to change. In my new book, The Blue Revolution: Hunting, Harvesting, and Farming Seafood in the Information Age, I describe how commercial fishing has begun an encouraging shift toward a less destructive, more transparent post-industrial era. This is true in the U.S., Scandinavia, most of the European Union, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and much of South America.

Fishing with Data
Changes in behavior, technology and policy are occurring throughout the fishing industry. Here are some examples:

·  Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit, monitors and creates open-access visualizations of global fishing activity on the internet with a 72-hour delay. This transparency breakthrough has led to the arrest and conviction of owners and captains of boats fishing illegally.

·  The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, an international business-to-business initiative, creates voluntary industry standards for seafood traceability. These standards are designed to help harmonize various systems that track seafood through the supply chain, so they all collect the same key information and rely on the same data sources. This information lets buyers know where their seafood comes from and whether it was produced sustainably.