Reversing the rapid decline in ocean health is critical to addressing climate change. It is a global challenge requiring a global solution. Our oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface, generate over 50% of the world’s oxygen, absorb half the carbon produced and account for 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. Ocean Health is critical for economic and food security reasons, with over 100 million households livelihoods dependent on the fisheries industry and 3 billion dependent on seafood as their primary protein (Source: WEF).
In many countries around the world, the seafood sector is growing at twice the rate of GDP growth. It is a significant employer and contributor to government revenues. However globally, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing represents a theft of around 26 million tonnes, or close to $24 billion value of seafood a year. In certain cases, such as tuna, stocks have declined over 90%, and some species could soon be classed as ‘at risk’. The decline of such stocks impacts economic development, jobs, livelihoods of coastal communities that are already under stress, as well as having serious environmental consequences. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing has exacerbated the situation, taking more fish out of our seas than scientists recommend.
In addition, the seafood sector is a particularly challenging sector for the 100 million who work across the seafood value chain. Poor labour conditions and human rights abuses, both on fishing vessels and in processing plants, are notorious and well documented. As vessels travel in and out of national jurisdictions, monitoring such poor and hazardous labour conditions require new approaches.
New technologies around traceability in the seafood supply chain could offer powerful new techniques to address illegal fishing and ensure growth can be sustainable. Technologies such as lower cost satellite tracking, unmanned drones that can fly for months on end, unmanned vessels, lower cost sensors, big data, blockchain, can help automate and remotely monitor fisheries, making it easier to regulate against illegal fishing activities.
Sustainable innovation will require industry to take greater responsibility along the supply chain. By requiring that all seafood is fully traceable to the vessel or aquaculture farm, retailers and harvesters can ensure all seafood entering the supply chain is safe and legally sourced. This requires strong public-private collaboration.
We announced our commitment to the UN Oceans Conference 2017 and the launch of a project dedicated to developing talent and skills on machine learning and AI for addressing Oceans challenges.
Data analytics and machine learning can provide a range of new or deeper insights/foresights for understanding, sizing and managing ocean resource exploitation and illegal fishing, among many other challenges.
There are many diverse ways to nurture talent, but in all cases an essential element is practical tangible experience. This si the format of Data Science for Social, an initiative dedicated to the exploration of data science to problems that matter. The format is challenge driven, whereby a group of data scientists (with skills on machine learning, image detection, statistics, visualization and geospatial analysis) work on a specific problem. In one of the first projects, the goal is to demonstrate how Machine Learning applied to a combination of AIS data, high resolution satellite images and other ocean data sources can provide meaningful progress towards addressing the challenge od detecting and ending illegal fishing.