Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tech solutions to tackle overfishing

Overfishing has become an increasing concern over the past few decades. However through the use of technology there are increased solutions for combatting this problem. Technology platforms such as App for Workers, Bar Codes, Eyes on the Sea, Global Fishing Watch, and Tech for Tuna are the future to help save the oceans from over fishing.

In an industry like commercial fishing, regulations must be monitored in order to prevent overfishing and maintain a healthy population. Despite everyone’s efforts in combatting this problem, 25% of the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted, and another 52% is fully exploited. But with the use of technology this problem could potentially be reduced and eventually resolved.

But can technology really make a substantial impact on the overfishing forefront? Personally I believe it will be a challenge for fishing companies to carry out these technological advances. Although tech companies are making it easier for fishing vessels to prevent overfishing there is still not a simplest solution. The App For Workers is an application that allows Burmese and Cambodian migrant workers around the world to inform and report their working conditions. But the problem I see with this solution is the availability of smartphones for these workers. The workers on these ships are hired for cheap labor and a lot of them can’t afford luxury items such as a smartphone, something that we take for granted. Obviously not every vessel is going to be run up to code, so the use of this app could be important. But with a short of cellphones this genius idea could be an utter failure.

The use of Bar Codes could be an answer to the prayers that overfishing activists have been looking for, but I see downsides to this solution as well. With few monitoring restrictions on the open water the room for potential problems are endless. The barcode can provide a permanent record of where the fish was caught, the species, the weight and the boat that it was caught on. But what happens if fish aren’t scanned? The potential for black market fish sales are even greater, and undersized fish could be kept and not counted on hand. Also another step in the fishing process could decrease production, and pure laziness could get in the way of saving the drastically decreasing marine life.

But with platforms such as Eyes on the Seas and Global Fishing Watch I see huge potential in identifying illegal fishing. This could help prevent fishing in protected areas and help maintain a new standard for commercial fishing. Although I don’t see this problem being fixed in the near future, I believe that this can be a start. Through the use of technology I see fishing becoming much more stringent in the future, and I hope that this can be resolved before we are completely depleted of our greatest food source.


  1. Chris has tackled an important issue about the problems of overfishing. I think this is certainly both an ethical and environmental issue. Since the human population is growing continuously, the demand and consumption of food (fish) has exceeded production. At this rate, we can easily deplete our natural resources in a heartbeat. So yes. I do agree with Chris in that there needs to some sort of system to monitor fishing industries, so they do not wipe out these species of aquatic life.

    Are there other ways to keep track the amount of fish caught from a certain area? Firstly, I want to address that big data may not be the “go to solution” when dealing with the fishing dilemma. More specifically, we have to take in account of the IUU (Illegal, Unreported, and Unenforced) fishes that are caught. Nonetheless, this accounts for 20% of fishes caught globally. Also, if we were to use big data platforms, it would only work if the fishing industries used AIS transponders. From what I’m getting at is that monitoring also requires some enforcement and policing. However, using big data systems to track and locate who and where is illegal fishing occurring can be expensive.

    As of now, overfishing needs to become more aware in that it requires more government intervention as well social awareness. To sum it up, people generally aren’t taking the issue of overfishing too seriously.

  2. Christopher, I found your critique on these overfishing applications interesting and it made me think of other potential issues with the technology. One thing that came to mind was recreational fishing. Since I was young I have been fishing with my friends and I have never considered my impact on the exploitation of the fish. I know my personal impact on overfishing is miniscule but when you consider all the people who fish recreationally the impact is more substantial. I think that many people who spend only a few days a year fishing will be unlikely to record their catches and this will skew the data.
    Furthermore this app will increase the work for fisherman and without proper regulations in place people will not report at the level necessary to properly combat it. Laziness is a very real factor that will impact the level of reporting. I agree that a missing availability of smart phones will affect the data and that smartphones may make this easier but it may also make it more difficult in poorer communities. Perhaps they could put a system in place where fisherman are required to record once they come to port. I think solutions are available and that these apps will have a positive effect but with the variables in place the idea needs to be reworked to help minimize the skew these variables will cause. I think with some reengineering and regulations put in by worldwide leadership, overfishing will be able to be regulated and hopefully controlled.

  3. Overfishing was something I was completely unaware of and I had no idea that there were technologies that were developed to help it – this just proves how technology can be integrated into all industries. I think Chris made a good point bringing up the idea of the workers being unable to have smart phones, but I feel like there are more problems with this concept of controlling overfishing. Will people be able to get fishing companies to care about how much they are fishing? I feel like they would be more concerned with the revenue they can bring in from the fish rather than how they are impacting the fish population.
    I think the biggest challenge this presents is getting the companies to care about the overfishing. Additionally, using this app just presents them with more work rather than just fishing, so how are those concerned with the overfishing issue supposed to get the companies to actually take part in these apps. Is there a punishment companies face when they are caught with black market fish, or are they able to just get away with the overfishing? I think this would be a great idea to keep track of the fish population, but it always comes down to getting people to care enough about the issue, making sure they have the appropriate equipment to fix the issue, but also be qualified to use the technology that’s aiding them.
    If they could do this with fish, I was wondering if there was a way they could use this technology to track the population of animals. They wouldn’t have to do this when hunting, but maybe there could be a way to place harmless trackers in animals to keep them from extinction. There could be some special groups that take care of this and I am sure there are environmentalists that would be willing to try to develop an app processing this data to improve animal populations. Again, it would be a task to create a team, develop the apps and train the people to use the technology, but it would be worth it if it allowed us to help build the population of animals facing the threat of extinction.

  4. Chris made some very interesting points in his reflection regarding over fishing. I believe it is an industry that has been underdeveloped in the utilization of technology especially in regards to the regulation of over fishing. Over fishing is a very easy issue to overlook as very few people are directly influenced by fishing policy and the average citizen will usually only see a difference in price when they buy dish at their local grocery store or restaurant. I believe the reason why over fishing regulation is such a difficult issue to resolve is because it is a highly polarized political issue. A lot of fishing territory particularly in Southeast Asia is an overlapping morass of ocean rights as these waters are defined by proximity to the country which is an issue in an area with such a high density of sovereign nations. I believe the use of applications as well as an update to the systems used to report the total catch weight of countries is a positive step in the right direction to solving these issues. Adding transparency to the way that the fishing industry is pertinent because it will bring to light a lot of terrible practices they use as well including drag net and fish aggregating devices which have serious negative implications for the overall oceanic ecosystem. Simply being able to track these ship will allow nations to quickly identify illegal chines shipping vessels which has been a rampant issue for the past decade. Very recently the South Korean military has begun shooting at these vehicles in order to deter them from fishing in what is to them illegal waters. One can only hope that this industry adapts the use of technology such as big data so that the countries behind these vessels can make decisions regarding policy enacting with the most amount of data/information possible.


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