• Using satellite geolocation data, a study with the participation of AZTI analyzes how fishing pressure is distributed in international waters.

February 26, 2021 – An international team with the participation of AZTI technology center, a member of the Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), has inferred and analyzed the global network that links fishing grounds in international waters with the ports that support fishing vessels. The paper is published in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers show that fishing effort is not evenly distributed across the ocean, but in 14 ‘provinces’. These provide a partitioning of the ocean more consistent with fishing behavior than the one that FAO zones currently define. In addition, they allow us to observe the network of ports that support fishing in these provinces, information that can be used for better fisheries control. According to the results of the research, 84% of the fishing pressure on the high seas is supported by only 16% of the ports analyzed.

Based on Automatic Identification System (AIS)

To analyze the position of the fishing vessels, the scientists used the Automatic Identification System (AIS), commonly used to avoid collisions between vessels. This type of data allows the positioning of the vessels and their speed to be obtained, which in turn allows the scientists to deduce whether they are fishing or in transit to fishing grounds. The trajectories of these vessels connect fishing grounds with the ports that support those vessels, creating a network that characterizes the global fishing economy.

This type of study provides a better understanding of how maritime resources are exploited and helps to move towards sustainable fisheries. Finally, the article suggests that a plausible mechanism to improve management in international waters would be to apply Game Theory to the problem of fisheries management, first giving incentives to those agents that show a greater predisposition to cooperate, thus putting more pressure on those less willing to cooperate.

  • Jorge P. Rodríguez, Juan Fernández-Gracia, Carlos M. Duarte, Xabier Irigoien, Víctor M. Eguíluz. The global network of ports supporting high seas fishing. Science Advances. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe3470

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