How artificial intelligence is helping make fisheries more sustainable

By taking account of fish stocks, or the number of fish living in a given area, people can gauge whether fisheries need time to recover.

INDIAN OCEAN – A newly published AI algorithm has been used to estimate coastal fish stocks in the Western Indian Ocean with 85% accuracy.

By taking account of fish stocks, or the number of fish living in a given area, people can gauge the health of fisheries and see whether those fisheries need time to recover.

The recovery of fisheries allows them to be fished more sustainably, rather than depleting the area of the economically vital natural resource.

To gather this information, scientists created an algorithm that utilized years of fish abundance data, along with satellite measurements and an AI tool. They targeted an area on the Western Indian Ocean tropical reefs, where there is a high dependency on fisheries.

The algorithm allowed researchers to quickly and accurately estimate coastal fish stock, all without setting foot in the water, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The model successfully estimated fish stocks in the area with 85% accuracy.

According to the WCS, the AI tool has the potential to quickly provide data about fisheries to local and national governments in a cost-effective way.

Many tropical countries in Africa and Asia, where the highest percentage of people who depend on fishing for food and income can be found, traditionally have not had much access to the usually high-cost methods of taking fish stocks.

Without this data, small-scale fisheries in those countries are often operating blindly, without long-term plans to keep their coastal waters healthy and productive, WCS said.

They noted that tools, such as this new algorithm, can help change that.

"Our goal is to give people the information required to know the status of their fish resources and whether their fisheries need time to recover or not," said Tim McClanahan, director of Marine Science at WCS and co-author on the study.


"The long term goal is that they, their children, and their neighbors can find a balance between peoples’ needs and ocean health," he added.

WCS is hoping to continue this work and help fill data gaps about fisheries around the world.