Due to the reliance of a substantial portion of the population on seafood as a protein source, overfishing and marine habitat damage are a major threat to food security. In recent decades, many regional and international fisheries regulations have been implemented such as catch limits, fisheries seasons, bycatch regulations and the establishment of marine protected areas. While regulations have had some success seafood traceability and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing continue to threaten seafood sustainability. With a growing demand for seafood, the aquaculture industry has expanded and will continue to grow to ensure global food security.
Proper management of fisheries stocks and aquaculture requires information from ocean observations. Ocean observations can provide information about toxic algae that might impact fisheries and aquaculture sites, identify and track illegal fishing activity and monitor environments that support fisheries stock species.
Ensuring that fisheries stocks are being harvested responsibly requires routine data and information collection from recreational and commercial fisheries. The health of ecosystems that serve as habitats and nurseries for commercially important species is also important for sustainable seafood. Earth observations can also provide information to fishers to facilitate efficient and safe fisheries practices.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing
IUU fishing threatens healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries around the world. In many regions, IUU fishing has severely depleted fish stocks and caused environmental damage. Remote sensing surveillance methods have the potential to increase the identification of IUU fishing activities allowing for more effective fisheries policing and management.
Aquaculture – the farming of aquatic fish, shellfish and plants – is a widespread practice that can provide food, ornamental fish for the aquarium trade and fish and shellfish for the restocking of wild stocks. With increasing demands on the world’s fisheries and a need for consistent sources of high quality protein, aquaculture is expanding in scale and scope. Consistent monitoring of aquaculture sites allows for management of environmental pressures, such as sea surface temperature, pollution and habitat degradation. Ocean observations and monitoring also provide the aquaculture industry with information that can help ensure the health of their stocks and success of their industry.