Commercial Fishing Has Taken Over More Than Half Of World’s Ocean

A group of marine scientists and Google experts have paired together to create a first of its kind map revealing that commercial fishing now covers 55 percent of Earth’s waters.

Four times the total area devoted to terrestrial agriculture, the findings of total ocean used for industrial fishing reinforces how unsustainable the current fishing practices are.



The map was generated by using fishing boat movements from satellite navigation records. The study, published in  Science, analyzed 22 billion automated identification system (AIS) messages from more Ethan 70,000 fishing vessels sent between 2012 and 2016. AIS automatically tracks a ships position, speed, and heading every few seconds and was designed to assist in avoiding collisions.

The results revealed that areas off of Europe, South America, East Asia, The Pacific Northwest, and Africa are the most heavily fished regions in the world.

Satellite data showing the areas that host the most fishing vessels. Via Kroodsma Science, 2018

As well, large regions of open ocean were home to a high amount of fishing. Ships from China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea dominated 85 percent of the fishing in open seas.

Surprising to the researchers data revealed that some areas in the open ocean have no significant fishing activity. The author of the paper believe that there is the potential that poor AIS connection may have resulted in the anomalies of fishing-free areas.

Given that belief, the researchers gathered information from nearby regions that do have satellite coverage and estimated that the real extent of industrial fishing actually covers 73 percent of the ocean.

As discouraging as that number may be, the actual coverage is lower than the previously estimated total of 95 percent. The belief is that growing marine sanctuaries have brought down the total amount of fishing coverage, allowing fish stocks to recover and offering them places to flourish.

The study is extremely important in determining which areas of the world’s oceans are being targeted for fishing and which areas are being unaffected. With this study, researchers can help propose sustainable fishing methods and help identify areas that are important to building up fish stocks to ensure healthy populations into the future.

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