Artificial Intelligence Can Replace Illegal Fishing Activity

Fishing maintains a reputable and influential position in the world’s economy. Unfortunately, however, our fish stocks are beginning to decline. Fish are being captured and sold at a faster rate than they are able to reproduce - leading to increasing fish prices, more empty oceans, and an imbalance to the environment. A huge combat to this inexorable reality, however, is IUU fishing - illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. IUU fishing is fishing that either takes place when violating the laws of a fishery, not reporting it to relevant national authority or fishing by vessels without any nationality. People pursue IUU fishing to pursue more quick and effortless catches without going through any accreditation process. This type of fishing accounts for over 30% of the world’s catches. Yet, this is unjust, because fishing in this manner leads to more severe consequences to the economy - costing a near $23 billion for the United States, and similar charges for nations including China and Taiwan.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence is emerging as a factor that can limit IUU fishing. While this may seem unexpected, AI offers the individuals who pursue IUU fishing a legal alternative to their tasks. Specifically, artificial intelligence has began lowering monitoring and operational fishing costs, and improving efficiency in fisheries management. These benefits are quite vital, and can be observed specifically through automatic review of video footage and monitoring vessel sailing patterns for IUU fishing. But the biggest gain out of the employment of AI in regards to fishing is its proven factor in increasing trust between fishers and society. IUU, as it goes unreported, creates an imbalance of trust between these two factors - yet with AI, which is tracked and recorded, society can see each action the fishers take successfully, and become aware of its reasoning.

One of these aspects of AI, image recognition, is especially vital, because it can identify the sizes of vessels and their activity. This helps conservation managers understand who is fishing for what in different bodies of water internationally where it may be unclear which nation this fish belongs to. In fact, it may also contribute to a more narrow understanding of how invasive fish have become spreading across oceans owned by different nations.

Image recognition of the snow crab, identifying it in the international waters of the Barents Sea

Image recognition of the snow crab, identifying it in the international waters of the Barents Sea


Yet, it is incorrect to say that there are no possible risks from the employment of AI in fishing. Some fear that the abilities of AI to enhance the man’s method of fishing and improve our efficiency may make manually performed tasks unnecessary. In addition to this, there is the possibility that human labor in fishing entirely could become obsolete - a larger concern for smaller, coastal fishery-dependent communities.

In sum, however, the applications of AI have without a doubt been impressive and helpful for fishers around the globe. There is a hesitance towards spending money towards bolstering AI’s application for fishing, especially by those not-involved in the process, but by offering greater reasoning and explanation on its benefits, this can change drastically. And despite all this growth in information, it is a lie to say that there is no potential for even more growth, specifically in the integration of science, regulatory authorities and the fishing industry. Thus, more value will be provided to seafood consumers, and the biodiversity of the ocean will be maintained for generations to come.

Yousef Khan