The Economist

The Economist

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How technology could end illegal fishing

2d ago
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How technology could end illegal fishing There is a good chance that one fish in five sold in a store or served in a restaurant has been caught illegally. That would amount to 26m tonnes - the weight of nearly 500 Titanics - of... From: The Economist Vi

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There is a good chance that one fish in five sold in a store or served in a restaurant has been caught illegally. That would amount to 26m tonnes - the weight of nearly 500 Titanics - of fish a year. The environmental cost of illegal fishing is huge: In the past fifty or so years one in four fisheries has collapsed, largely because of it. And the economic cost is high too: 23 billion dollars according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. But clever use of technology could help prevent this pillage. How would it work? A new satellite-based surveillance centre in Britain may be a game-changer. Called a virtual watch room, it resembles the control centre for a space mission and can track fishing boats anywhere in the world with the results displayed on a giant video wall. The watch room uses satellites to pull together data from multiple sources. including radar, photographic images and the signals emitted by radio transponders which are supposed to be fitted to fishing boats. Automated alerts, such as when a vessel enters a prohibited area and slows to fishing speed, allow operators to zoom in on anything suspicious. The watch room can also spot vessels working with another ship to which they transfer their catches for transport to market. The virtual watch room has been developed by Pew Charitable Trusts and Satellite Applications Catapult. But the success of the watch room’s technology will also depend on governments and the authorities responsible for fishing sharing information and enforcing international rules and regulations. If, for example, radio transponders aren’t made mandatory on all fishing vessels, tracking them will be complicated. Industry would also need to play its part by using the watch room’s technology to protect their supply chains. The one-in-five illegal fish identified by Pew are often sold by otherwise law-abiding firms. Now those firms have a way to reliably trace where their fish comes from. If customers care enough about buying fish from sustainable sources, then retail pressure coupled with satellite technology should be a powerful weapon to combat pirate fishing.