Faced with dwindling stocks and rising demand for seafood, fishers are employing new technologies that leave no safe haven for fish, including the application of military technologies, spotter planes, and round the clock exploitation. New technologies and fishing effort have peeled the lid off the oceans, says University of York scientist, Callum Roberts. If we want to keep seafood on our plates we need to put back refuges so some fish survive long enough to reproduce. For most of human history, fish and other marine species had naturally protected areas. These were places inaccessible to fishing because they were too remote, too deep, or too dangerous to fish.
The peace dividend from the end of the cold war has led to civilian applications for military technologies developed for submarine warfare and espionage. These transferred technologies include sonar mapping systems that reveal every crack and contour of the seabed in exquisite detail. Today the U.S. Geological Survey is publishing maps that are enabling fishers to penetrate deep into regions once considered too difficult to fish. Private companies are also weighing in, selling the secrets of the seabed for short-term profit. Guided by precision satellite navigation systems, fishers can now drop nets into previously unseen canyons, or land hooks on formerly uncharted seamounts. Such places may be the last refuges of vulnerable species like skates or rockfish, says Roberts.
Fishers are also looking to the skies for better catches. Off the U.S. East coast, the Atlantic swordfish fleet receives daily faxes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, showing satellite images of sea-sur
Contact: Jessica Brown