The Future of Fishing Is Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

Meg Wilcox at Civil Eats: “New England’s groundfish season is in full swing, as hundreds of dayboat fishermen from Rhode Island to Maine take to the water in search of the region’s iconic cod and haddock. But this year, several dozen of them are hauling in their catch under the watchful eye of video cameras as part of a new effort to use technology to better sustain the area’s fisheries and the communities that depend on them.

Video observation on fishing boats—electronic monitoring—is picking up steam in the Northeast and nationally as a cost-effective means to ensure that fishing vessels aren’t catching more fish than allowed while informing local fisheries management. While several issues remain to be solved before the technology can be widely deployed—such as the costs of reviewing and storing data—electronic monitoring is beginning to deliver on its potential to lower fishermen’s costs, provide scientists with better data, restore trust where it’s broken, and ultimately help consumers gain a greater understanding of where their seafood is coming from….

Muto’s vessel was outfitted with cameras, at a cost of about $8,000, through a collaborative venture between NOAA’s regional office and science centerThe Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. Camera costs are currently subsidized by NOAA Fisheries and its partners.

The cameras run the entire time Muto and his crew are out on the water. They record how the fisherman handle their discards, the fish they’re not allowed to keep because of size or species type, but that count towards their quotas. The cost is lower than what he’d pay for an in-person monitor.The biggest cost of electronic monitoring, however, is the labor required to review the video. …

Another way to cut costs is to use computers to review the footage. McGuire says there’s been a lot of talk about automating the review, but the common refrain is that it’s still five years off.

To spur faster action, TNC last year spearheaded an online competition, offering a $50,000 prize to computer scientists who could crack the code—that is, teach a computer how to count fish, size them, and identify their species.

“We created an arms race,” says McGuire. “That’s why you do a competition. You’ll never get the top minds to do this because they don’t care about your fish. They all want to work for Google, and one way to get recognized by Google is to win a few of these competitions.”The contest exceeded McGuire’s expectations. “Winners got close to 100 percent in count and 75 percent accurate on identifying species,” he says. “We proved that automated review is now. Not in five years. And now all of the video-review companies are investing in machine leaning.” It’s only a matter of time before a commercial product is available, McGuire believes….(More).