Stanford marine scientists hope to monitor sustainable fishing and commercial seafood industry


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — While many marine scientists follow the sea creatures of the ocean, Alfredo Girón-Nava follows the ships that work to harvest them: the commercial fishing industry. Its aim is to shed light on the seafood that we could possibly buy at the supermarket.

“One of the things that happens in seafood supply chains is that as soon as ships can kind of disappear from sight, it’s just impossible to know what they’re doing. “, said Girón-Nava.

To change that, Girón-Nava and his collaborators at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions are turning to powerful tools, big data and artificial intelligence.

First of all, it is useful to understand that large commercial vessels are often equipped with automatic identification systems – sometimes called AIS – which generate information about their position. Many commercial fishing fleets also voluntarily contribute to databases, known as Proactive Vessel Logs, which can provide transparency on where they are and what they are catching. Combining all of this information with satellite and other records begins to paint a picture.

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“We have all these machine learning AI algorithms to say, ‘What were they doing at any given time? Were they fishing? Did they move?

The Stanford team is working with collaborators including Global Fishing Watch, which developed the satellite algorithms to not only analyze all of this commercial fishing data, but also to make it more widely available.

This allows businesses up and down the seafood supply chain to weed out illegally caught products and assures consumers that what they are buying has been fished sustainably.

Lindsay Jennings is a project director with another collaborator, the Santa Cruz-based FishWise Group.

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“And a lot of that comes down to a consumer with buying power, where we want to invest our money,” Jennings said.

The data-tracking project is still in development, but Girón-Nava and his team hope it can eventually have a big impact on both illegal fishing and help responsible companies better protect our ocean environments.

“Because, of course, what we’re trying to do is empower companies to do it themselves,” he said.

Learn more about the project here.

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