Keeping watch on the ocean

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 864-865
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7613

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Coastal and high-seas fisheries make a crucial contribution to global food security (1), but the vast distances of open waters and limitations of observing systems have precluded a high-resolution global view of fishing activity (2). Monitoring of fisheries has traditionally relied on region- and fleet-specific electronic vessel-monitoring systems, log books, and on-board observers; access to these data is often constrained. Ship positioning data from automatic ship identification systems (AISs), designed to track and monitor specific vessel movements, is providing a surge of information on ocean fisheries. On page 904 of this issue, Kroodsma et al. (3) report tracking industrial fishing from 2011 to 2016 by processing 22 billion AIS messages. They show that more than 55% of the ocean area is fished. Global patterns of fishing are sensitive to culture and political events and are partially insulated from short-term environmental variation.