Satellite Technologies Aiding Fisheries

EarthzineAgriculture, Earth Observation, Earthly Updates, Original

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According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), new technologies in developing countries could be used to help improve the fishing sector. In order for fish farming to continue serving as a source of income for anglers worldwide, countries need to develop their usage of the internet, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and remote sensing, the report says.

Farming of fish and shellfish is currently the fastest growing area of animal food production due to its high source of protein. Therefore, there is a high source of demand for improving fish farming technologies to make the most efficient use of the world’s oceans. For example, GIS can be used for updating hardware, software, data, and personnel to collect and analyze geographically referenced information. GIS already has been used to monitor fish farms in developing countries such as Colombia, Bangladesh, Malawi, and Cambodia.

Cambodia. Image Source: Wikimedia CommonsSimilarly, remote sensing can provide ocean temperature readings, monitor the speed of currents, and examine wave heights. Therefore, the report states that technology has “reached the point of becoming an essential step in providing the enabling environment for the development of marine aquaculture.”

Jos̩ Aguilar-Manjarrez, aquaculture officer at the fisheries and aquaculture department of the Italy-based Food and Agriculture Organization, notes that these technologies are not costly. He says that GIS and remote sensing is now undergoing an open source software trend which allows users to share, update, and distribute the software. However, these technologies still have costs such as infrastructure, training, and maintenance.

To make the most use of these technologies, countries must participate in data sharing, the report says. A key way to disseminate knowledge is to begin at universities and educate undergraduate and graduate students to understand, analyze, and update fish farm data.












Shrimp. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.Many countries already have begun using these new technologies to monitor fisheries and other aquaculture. For example, Ecuador uses information gathered from the Landsat 7 satellite to put together the Epidemic Alert and Aquaculture Management System for Shrimp Farming (SAEMA), which aims to keep the shrimp of the Gulf of Guayaquil in good health. By measuring the monthly rate of shrimp production in the gulf through satellite data, Ecuador’s fishermen can know when pollutants or other factors are affecting their fisheries. Chile also has installed a similar project, called the Chilean Aquaculture Project, that presents daily information on sea surface temperature, clarity of seawater, and chlorophyll a levels. Data showing chlorophyll a patterns shows where there are harmful algal blooms and allows the farmers to try to alleviate these problems.






A fish farmer and his fish. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.Specifically, Colombia has employed a tool called Geovisor by the Marine and Coastal Research Institute. Used by other countries, this data integration system allows users to gain access to 360-degree geospatial information on any location using satellites. This can help fishermen in Colombia locate sandbars and shoals.

Currently, Universidad Nacional de Colombia is working with National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to measure chlorophyll levels and sea surface temperatures, as well as the presence of phytoplankton food base fish. Free workshops will be administered to teach fish farmers how to use this technology. The aim is to create a website with updated maps showing the potential productive fishing areas identified from daily data, according to biologist Angela I. Guzman. However, these technologies also will monitor overfishing and study breeding periods in order to keep our fisheries alive.