14 June 2024
AI-Driven Study Maps Ocean Industrial Expansion

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Today’s publication in Nature unveils a groundbreaking study that uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite imagery, providing a detailed picture of ocean industrial expansion and its evolving impact on marine environments.

New Research Reveals the Expanding Footprint of Human Activity at Sea



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Hey there, science enthusiasts! I’ve got some exciting news to share with you today. A recent study published in the journal Nature has uncovered some fascinating information about the industrial use of our oceans and how it’s changing. Using the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite imagery, researchers have created the first-ever global map of large vessel traffic and offshore infrastructure. This map has revealed a significant amount of activity that was previously unknown to public monitoring systems. Let’s dive in and explore the details!

Uncovering Hidden Activity

You won’t believe this, but about 75% of the world’s industrial fishing vessels are not publicly tracked. That’s a lot of fishing happening under the radar! The study found that much of this hidden fishing activity is taking place around Africa and South Asia. But it’s not just fishing vessels that are flying under the radar. More than 25% of transport and energy vessel activity is also missing from public tracking systems. This means that there’s a whole lot of human activity happening at sea that we didn’t even know about.

Shining a Light on the Ocean

The lead author of the study, David Kroodsma, described this as a new industrial revolution that has been happening in our seas without us even realizing it. He compared it to how we have detailed maps of roads and buildings on land, but our knowledge of the ocean has been limited. This study is helping to eliminate those blind spots and shed light on the extent and intensity of human activity at sea. It’s like turning on a flashlight in a dark room and discovering a whole new world.

The Power of AI and Satellite Imagery

So, how did researchers manage to uncover all this hidden activity? Well, they analyzed a whopping 2 million gigabytes of satellite imagery from 2017 to 2021. By combining GPS data with radar and optical imagery, they were able to identify vessels that weren’t broadcasting their positions. Using machine learning, they then determined which of these vessels were likely engaged in fishing activity. It’s incredible how technology can help us uncover hidden secrets of the ocean.

Challenges and Implications

Now, not all boats are legally required to broadcast their positions, but these “dark fleets” pose challenges when it comes to protecting and managing our natural resources. The study found numerous dark fishing vessels inside marine protected areas and a high concentration of vessels in countries’ waters where public monitoring systems showed little to no activity. This means that we need to be more vigilant in monitoring and managing our oceans to ensure sustainability.

A Changing Ocean

The study also revealed how human activity in the ocean is changing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, fishing activity dropped globally by about 12%, with China experiencing an 8% decline and the rest of the world seeing a 14% drop. However, transport and energy vessel activity remained stable. In fact, offshore energy development saw a surge during the study period, with an increase in oil structures by 16% and a doubling of wind turbines. By 2021, there were more wind turbines than oil platforms. China’s offshore wind energy had the most significant growth, increasing ninefold from 2017 to 2021.

Unlocking the Potential

This study not only provides us with a comprehensive view of global industrial fishing but also highlights the potential of this new technology to tackle climate change. By mapping all vessel traffic, we can improve our estimates of greenhouse gas emissions at sea. Additionally, maps of offshore infrastructure can inform wind development and help us track marine degradation caused by oil exploration. This information is crucial for making informed decisions about our oceans and holding responsible parties accountable.

A New Era in Ocean Management

The open data and technology used in this study have the potential to benefit governments, researchers, and civil society. It can help identify hotspots of potentially illegal activity, determine where industrial fishing is encroaching on artisanal fishing grounds, and provide a better understanding of vessel traffic in different regions. The best part is that this satellite monitoring is now freely available to all nations, marking the beginning of a new era in ocean management and transparency.

So, there you have it, folks! This groundbreaking study has given us an unprecedented view of human activity at sea and the changes taking place. It’s a reminder of the vastness and complexity of our oceans and the importance of understanding and protecting them. Let’s continue to explore and learn about our incredible planet, both on land and at sea.

Read More: New research harnesses AI and satellite imagery to reveal the expanding footprint of human activity at sea

https://phys.org/news/2024-01-harnesses-ai-satellite-imagery-reveal.html

FAQ’s

1. What did the recent study published in Nature uncover?

The recent study published in Nature uncovered the expanding footprint of human activity at sea through the use of artificial intelligence and satellite imagery. It created the first-ever global map of large vessel traffic and offshore infrastructure.

2. What did the study reveal about hidden fishing activity?

The study found that about 75% of the world’s industrial fishing vessels are not publicly tracked. This means that a significant amount of fishing activity is happening under the radar, particularly around Africa and South Asia.

3. How did researchers uncover hidden activity at sea?

Researchers analyzed a large amount of satellite imagery from 2017 to 2021, totaling 2 million gigabytes. By combining GPS data with radar and optical imagery, they were able to identify vessels that weren’t broadcasting their positions. Machine learning was then used to determine which of these vessels were likely engaged in fishing activity.

4. What challenges does hidden activity pose for ocean management?

Not all boats are legally required to broadcast their positions, so these “dark fleets” pose challenges when it comes to protecting and managing natural resources. The study found dark fishing vessels inside marine protected areas and a high concentration of vessels in countries’ waters where public monitoring systems showed little to no activity.

5. What are the implications of the study’s findings?

The study’s findings highlight the need for improved monitoring and management of our oceans to ensure sustainability. The changing patterns of human activity, such as the increase in offshore energy development, also have implications for climate change and marine degradation. The study provides valuable information for making informed decisions about ocean management and holding responsible parties accountable.



Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Industrial fishing, Satellite imagery, Artificial intelligence

Fishing industry
The fishing industry includes any industry or activity that takes, cultures, processes, preserves, stores, transports, markets or sells fish or fish products. It is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization as including recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing, as well as the related harvesting, processing, and marketing sectors. The commercial...
Read more: Fishing industry

Satellite imagery
Satellite images (also Earth observation imagery, spaceborne photography, or simply satellite photo) are images of Earth collected by imaging satellites operated by governments and businesses around the world. Satellite imaging companies sell images by licensing them to governments and businesses such as Apple Maps and Google Maps.
Read more: Satellite imagery

Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI), in its broadest sense, is intelligence exhibited by machines, particularly computer systems, as opposed to the natural intelligence of living beings. It is a field of research in computer science that develops and studies methods and software which enable machines to perceive their environment and uses learning...
Read more: Artificial intelligence

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