More than half the world’s oceans are being fished by large commercial vessels, particularly from China, according to the first view from space of global fishing practices published Thursday.
The report in the journal Science used satellite data to track industrial fishing, and found that 55 percent of the world’s oceans and possibly more are being exploited by big fishing operations.
Some parts of the world with poor satellite coverage were not visible.
“The total area fished is likely higher,” possibly up to 73 percent, said the report.
Fleets from five countries China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea account for more than 85 percent of observed fishing efforts on the high seas. Half of the vessels are from China.
Global fishing is a $160 billion industry, and experts estimate that almost one-third of the world’s stocks are taken from the waters at an unsustainable rate, meaning they are overfished.
“Humans have been fishing the world’s oceans for 42,000 years, but until now we have had really no good picture of where and when people are fishing,” lead author David Kroodsma told AFP.
“What we have created is a picture of fishing across the world which is in much clearer focus than we have had before.”
The report does not point to illegal actors, or say whether the amount of fishing being done is too much.
However, Kroodsma said this paper is the first of many in the pipeline using the software by Global Fishing Watch, and aims to help policymakers answer those questions.
“I believe the ocean can be fished much more sustainable than it is being fished, and this information can help that,” he said.