(WASHINGTON – Oct. 19, 2021) Environmental Defense Fund today launched a new short film highlighting the valuable role of new technologies like machine learning and smartphone applications to strengthen the global fishing sector for increased climate resilience, sustainability and well-being for fishery-dependent communities.

The 20-minute documentary, “Fishing Smarter: How new technology can help our oceans thrive,” follows several fisheries technology projects led by EDF’s Oceans Technology Solutions team and demonstrates the real-world potential for digital technology to generate benefits for fishers and fish workers and their communities. The film, showcasing innovative projects from Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, spotlights the important and helpful role technology can play in improving fisheries management, food security and community sustainability.

“Emerging technologies can allow fishermen to harvest more sustainably and efficiently, and to minimize their impacts on ocean ecosystems. Our on-the-water projects are showing that fisheries tech can potentially bring huge benefits if scaled widely,” said Christopher Cusack, director for Oceans Technology Solutions. 

Many of the digital technologies highlighted in the film are computer vision-enabled “smart” cameras, which can efficiently monitor fishing activity on a vessel (e.g., electronic monitoring or EM) or track fishing effort in terms of the number of vessels coming in and out of port areas. For example, SmartPass camera systems placed at the most active ports in Lampung Province, Indonesia, allow for more accurate estimates of fishing effort in the highly-valued blue swimming crab fishery. Due to the sheer volume of small vessels participating in the fishery, managers have not been able to quantify fishing effort until now.  

As climate change poses increased challenges to the availability and equitable distribution of fishery resources, cost-effective technologies can be a huge part of the solution to surmount these challenges and meet the needs of communities reliant on the ocean for food, nutrition and livelihoods.

“With good data collection, we can prevent fish from going extinct,” said Victor Pandapotan Malau, a fisheries enumerator from Indonesia, featured in the film.

Innovative technology advancements have revolutionized other food production sectors. However, digital ocean technologies have yet to make a broad impact in wild-capture fisheries. As approximately 3 billion people around the world rely on fisheries as a primary source of protein, ensuring fisheries are resilient to climate change, overfishing and other stressors is critical. Technology can help solve these challenges and must be implemented responsibly, with equity, inclusion and cost in mind.

Yet, new technologies are not a panacea, and barriers still exist that limit more widespread, equitable adoption of them for fisheries, such as cost, policymaking delays and challenges with information-sharing. The film showcases how overcoming these barriers and ensuring that technologies are implemented with fishers and their communities at the center of the solution, can help ensure more sustainable, profitable and efficient fisheries.

“Fishing is what sustains our community. There is no person here in the Gulf of Santa Clara who is not involved in the curvina fishery,” said Cirila Aldama of the Franco Fishing Cooperative in the Gulf of Santa Clara, Sonora, Mexico, a fisheries stakeholder also featured in the film. The Gulf of Santa Clara curvina fishery housed the community catch monitoring project, which used QR codes and cellphone apps to track the number of vessels fishing to ensure sustainability.

EDF’s Oceans Technology Solutions team works to accelerate the adoption of new technologies to greatly improve sustainability, efficiency and profitability in the fishing sector across the globe. In addition, EDF works to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our oceans by breaking down barriers to adopting new technologies.

“Fishing Smarter” aims to inform both familiar and new audiences about the value digital technologies can provide to sustainable management of global fisheries resources. Learn more about the fisheries digital revolution here, and watch “Fishing Smarter: How new technology can help our oceans thrive” here.