U.S. researchers observe surging fishing activities in S. Pacific ahead of full ban

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 28 — Researchers from two U.S. universities have found evidence of skyrocketing fishing activities in the South Pacific before a full ban was imposed to restore fish stock in the protected area, the University of Oregon (UO) said Monday.
A team of researchers from UO and University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have observed that fishing operations jumped 130 percent in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the South Pacific before a full ban was applied, UO said in a statement.
Such excessive fishing activities have dented projected efforts to let nature rebuild fish stocks by 18 months, UO quoted the researchers as saying.
It said the researchers came to the conclusion after they examined real-time satellite data about ship activity in the Phoenix Islands area and a nearby control area, which was not facing a ban, from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2016.
The closure took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, after which shipping patterns indicative of fishing in the protected area ceased.
The data were provided by Global Fishing Watch, a website that monitors commercial fishing activities globally by adopting the technology of Automatic Identification System (AIS), an automatic tracking system used on ships for marine traffic monitoring.
With access to the information from the AIS service, the researchers were able to analyze patterns of common fishing practices such as trawling and longlining.
The researchers believed that on a broader scale, the preemptive fishing activities triggered by an announced ban could temporarily increase the share of over-extracted fisheries from 65 percent to 72 percent.
Such a response reflects an expected, normal human behavioral adaptation that should be considered while planning marine conservation closures and projecting potential benefits, said the study’s co-lead author Grant McDermott, who is also a UO assistant professor of economics.
McDermott and his three other colleagues at UCSB said their findings help shed light on some of the puzzling aspects of marine reserves, including why predicted conservation effects are not realized.
They said human behavior is an important factor that should be considered during the process of drawing up conservation policies.
One possible solution is to reduce the time between the announcement or planning phase of a reserve, and the actual enforcement date, they said. – XINHUA