**The Emergence of a “New Industrial Revolution” at Sea**
The recent advancements in space technology and AI have led to the creation of the first comprehensive global map of the industrial use of the ocean. This revolutionary mapping has revealed a significant surge in industrial activity at sea, marking the emergence of a new industrial revolution. The study, led by Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and published in Nature, has shed light on the extensive utilization of the ocean by industrial fishing vessels, transport, and energy vessels.
**Significant Findings and Trends**
According to the research, a staggering 75% of the world’s industrial fishing vessels, predominantly concentrated in Africa and South Asia, operate in an untraceable manner. Moreover, more than a quarter of the activity of transport and energy vessels remains undocumented in public tracking systems. Despite a 12% global decrease in fishing activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the study revealed a rapid increase in offshore structures at sea, with wind turbines surpassing the number of oil structures in 2021.
China’s offshore wind energy experienced a ninefold surge since 2017, while the leading offshore wind developers in Europe – the UK and Germany – witnessed a substantial increase in their offshore wind energy. The analysis of ocean industrialization has also pinpointed potential illegal activities, such as industrial fishing vessels encroaching on artisanal fishing grounds and marine protected areas. The study uncovered “dark” fishing vessels inside protected regions, including significant incursions in the Great Barrier Reef and the Galápagos Islands, both of which are highly monitored and ecologically vital reserves.
**Revelation of a Hidden Industrial Revolution**
David Kroodsma, the director of research and innovation at GFW, emphasized the pivotal revelation brought forth by the study, affirming that a new industrial revolution has been unfolding unnoticed in the seas. Kroodsma underscored the substantial growth in ocean activities that have remained concealed from the public eye, drawing a clear contrast to the detailed mapping of terrestrial infrastructure. The study’s findings have illuminated the previously hidden expansiveness and intensity of human activities at sea, unveiling a vital aspect of our planet.
**Breakthrough Technologies and Data**
The study’s innovative approach involved the analysis of 2 million gigabytes of satellite imagery from 2017 to 2021, enabling the detection of vessels and offshore infrastructure across six continents. Researchers merged GPS data with radar and optical imagery, leveraging AI to identify vessels engaged in fishing activities, particularly those failing to broadcast their positions. This strategic amalgamation of technology and data allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the widespread industrialization of the ocean.
**Implications for Ocean Management and Transparency**
The freely available open data, technology, and mapping utilized in the study signify a significant leap towards a new era in ocean management and transparency. The implications extend to facilitating estimations of greenhouse gas emissions and tracking marine degradation caused by oil pollution. Furthermore, the study’s insights could play a pivotal role in enhancing the protection and sustainable management of marine resources, forming a cornerstone for informed decision-making and policy formulation.
**Challenges and Future Endeavors**
The study flagged the challenges posed by “dark fleets” – vessels absent from public monitoring systems, which hinder efforts to safeguard and manage marine resources effectively. The revelation of a dominance of industrial fishing activity in Asia underscores the pressing need for heightened scrutiny and conservation efforts in the region. Additionally, the surge in offshore energy development highlights the necessity for proactive measures to mitigate its environmental impact and ensure sustainable practices.
The groundbreaking study led by Global Fishing Watch has undoubtedly illuminated a new dimension of human impact on the ocean, unraveling the profound industrial transformations occurring in the seas. With the deployment of advanced space technology, AI, and comprehensive mapping, the study has emerged as a cornerstone for advancing ocean management, sustainability, and transparency. It is imperative for stakeholders, policymakers, and global communities to heed the study’s revelations and collaborate towards the responsible and sustainable utilization of our oceanic resources.