Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
If you make a contribution of $150 or more, you will become an official “Friend of the Planet” and receive a Friend of the Planet T-shirt or water bottle. You can also submit opinion essays to us for our consideration for posting on our new “Bright Ideas” op-ed page.
Why This Matters: When fisheries management regulations and enforcement by the government are lax, sometimes the market can fill in the gap. Here, with the help of U.S. NGOs, fishermen and consumers are benefitted by technology that is now readily available on smartphones. That is super smart. And better fisheries management using this technology will help to ensure that healthy fish populations are maintained, feed 3 billion people and protect the livelihoods of more than 260 million, and as well as help fishers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Which begs the question, why is it taking so long for there to be widespread adoption of this technology by fishers here in the U.S.?
Tech Helping Make Fishing Smarter From Alaska to the Yucatan
Not surprisingly, smartphones are ubiquitous globally and thus provide an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective way to collect fisheries data in coastal communities. The World Wildlife Fund has developed an electronic fishing logbook app, or e-logbook, to help fishermen report their catch data and help fisheries managers better monitor the activity of fishing vessels and track the origin of seafood products — it is currently being tested in Ecuador and Chile. The app is simple to use — fishermen to use their mobile phones to digitally record the date and time of each fishing trip—as well as the fishing vessel’s location and then submit it via the internet into a secure online database, where it is available in real-time for fisheries managers. This information also helps the fisher to decide whether it is a good day in terms of prices to go fishing, or if it is time to stop fishing once their permitted catch limit has been reached.
In the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico, with help from the Environmental Defense Fund, Pelagic Data Systems devices have been installed on the fishing vessels — they use geo-tracking to demonstrate their commitment not only to good fisheries management but also to the conservation of endangered species in the region, such as the tiny vaquita porpoise which is hovering on the brink of extinction.
Alaska’s cod fishery is testing an even more sophisticated system that is combining an electronic monitoring system with computer vision technology and machine learning (an application of artificial intelligence that allows systems to learn from their own feedback), to help the cod fishers to avoid overfishing Pacific halibut, a high-value species in the region.
Why This Matters: Climate impacts are costing our economy already due to severe weather events such as wildfires and hurricanes. Even though increasing ocean acidification may not be visible to the eye, its costs are just as devastating.
At the end of December, an appeals court in Washington, D.C. upheld the designation by President Obama of the first national “monument” in the Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument off the coast of Cape Cod, an area teeming with unique and endangered wildlife (such as North Atlantic Right Whales) and due to its topography of deep canyons and extinct volcanic peaks.
Why This Matters: This is a clear win for the conservation of natural resources. The area covered by the monument is full of ocean wonders and is as deserving of protection as similarly precious places on land — like Yellowstone or Yosemite.
In 2019, the ocean finally got its due — from a growing public determination to end ocean plastic pollution (think straw bans) and the increasing scientific recognition that the ocean has taken the brunt of climate emissions and now is rapidly changing in ways that are impacting people all around the world today (like sea-level rise and historic/chronic flooding jeopardizing places from Houston to Venice), the ocean as an environmental cause finally got the attention it deserves.
Why This Matters: The ocean connects everyone on the planet, and globally there is tremendous support for protecting it — we are called the “blue planet” for a reason.