New Use for A.I.: Correctly Estimating Fish Stocks
Published:31 May2023    Source:Wildlife Conservation Society

For the first time, a newly published artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm is allowing researchers to quickly and accurately estimate coastal fish stocks without ever entering the water. This breakthrough could save millions of dollars in annual research and monitoring costs while bringing data access to least-developed countries about the sustainability of their fish stocks.

Understanding "fish stocks" -- the amount of living fish found in an area's waters -- is critical to understanding the health of our oceans. This is especially true in coastal areas where 90 percent of people working in the fisheries industry live and work. In the wealthiest countries, millions of dollars are spent each year on "stock assessments" -- expensive and labor-intensive efforts to get people and boats out into the water to count fish and calculate stocks. That extremely high cost has long been a barrier for tropical countries in Africa and Asia, home to the highest percentage of people who depend on fishing for food and income. Small-scale fishers working coastal waters in many countries are essentially operating blindly, with no real data about how many fish are available in their fisheries. Without data, coastal communities and their governments cannot create management plans to help keep their oceans healthy and productive for the long-term.
The algorithm has been shown to work with high accuracy for coral reef fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean pilot region. WCS is currently seeking new partnerships and funding to scale the tool so it can be deployed and fill critical data gaps around the world.