Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Google Earth enables remote tracking of fish catches

Ola Al-Ghazawy in Persian Gulf governments could use Google’s free global satellite imaging program to better monitor and control fishing in their waters, say experts. Their comments follow a study that used Google Earth to uncover huge discrepancies between reported and observed fish catches in the region.

The study, which tracked fishing from space, found that actual catches taken from Persian Gulf fisheries could be six times greater than the official numbers the Gulf states reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada used Google Earth to count, for the first time, intertidal fishing weirs — an old technique used to catch fish by placing obstructions across tidal waters. They examined six countries on the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The study, which was published last year (27 November) in ICES Journal of Marine Science, highlights the unreliability of some countries’ official reports to the FAO. It found 1,900 weirs were operational in the countries surveyed in 2005 and estimated their combined production that year at approximately 31,000 tonnes of fish — more than six times the combined total of 5,000 tonnes the six countries reported to the FAO that year.

“Underreporting fish catches can jeopardise a country’s food security and economy, not to mention impact entire marine ecosystems,” says Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak, the study’s first author...

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