A New Map May Be The Key To Protecting Hundreds Of Different Species Of Marine Life

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Researchers from Stanford University have created a map that shows where sharks and tuna spend their time in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean and where fishing vessels travel with the hope that the maps will help identify regions of the oceans where species are more vulnerable.

The researchers created the maps by studying the habitats of more than 800 sharks and tunas and 900 industrial fishing vessels. The group of researchers found that vessels from Taiwan, China, Japan, the United States and Mexico accounted for over 90% of fishing in key habitat areas for seven key species of shark and tuna.

The mapping system is geared to be used to analyze how industrial fishing can better moderate and coordinate fishing vessels to ensure certain areas are not overfished to help sustain fish stock levels. The team from Stanford hopes that their work will be used by the United Nation member states that is currently formulating the world’s first legally bind treaty to protect international waters.

We may protect a species near the coastline of North America, but that same species may be exposed to a high level of international fishing in the open ocean. By increasing the transparency of where fish and ship fleets meet, we can identify hot spots where international protection may be required,” said Barbara Block, the Prothro Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford University.

The work done adds to a 2018 study led by Global Fishing Watch, the Block Lab and other researchers where they used marine vessel tracking to design a machine learning algorithm that mapped the footprint of 70,000 individual fishing vessels across the planet.

Overfishing continues to be a major concern for the health of the ocean and the planet. Worldwide, about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world all this comes down to two serious problems. We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. As a result the overall ecological unity of our oceans are under stress and at risk of collapse.

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