Saturday, March 20, 2021

36th America's Cup : Emirates Team New Zeeland wins 36th America’s Cup

Day 6 race 9
An astounding battle of tacking and gybing

From AmericaCup

Today had a very different feel. Today was the first day that the America’s Cup could be won.
Today was the chance for the Italians to redress the balance after a day in which they had lost two races after winning the starts and maintaining their advantage for the first few legs.
Today was the day that Emirates Team New Zealand could take another step towards winning the Cup.
Emirates Team New Zealand entered cleanly across Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli who took their time to gybe around and head out to the right-hand side of the pre-start zone.
The Kiwis were first to get there, gybing around while the Italians tacked before diving back down to the Kiwis.
Plenty of weaving followed as both boats tried to slow down on their approach to the start line.
With the greater wind speeds the pre-start zone was feeling smaller.

The start was even, both on starboard but a big big gap between the two as they charged out to the left-hand boundary at 30 knots.
A critical tack was coming – could Luna Rossa get up to the Kiwis and cast dirty air on them?

The Italians’ height mode was working as they eventually forced the Kiwis to tack off while they headed for the right-hand lay line for the top gate who had to put in two tacks to get around the top gate plus.
As they came together the Kiwis dipped the Italians’ transom to take the right hand mark of Gate 1, while Luna Rossa took the left hand mark, leading by just a second.
As the pair split on the downwind leg the Kiwis seemed to get a better gust of breeze and manged to cross in front of the Italians when they came back together a lead change followed.
Now they had swapped sides, gone to the full width of the course and were about to come back at each other for another cross.
This time it was the Italians who were in front, another lead change. By the bottom gate a perfectly executed gybe by the Italians protected their position and forced the Kiwis to follow them through Gate 2.

As the second beat continued the battle remained close but by the top at Gate 3 the Italians had protected their lead once again.

The same was true of Leg 4 with yet more close racing. At the bottom Luna Rossa LR rounded the right-hand mark of Gate 4 and were 3 seconds ahead as Emirates Team New Zealand took the left-hand mark.
The Italians had released their cover on the Kiwis, although they retained the starboard tack advantage. 
When they came back together Luna Rossa was still ahead.

But the big change came towards the top of Leg 5 when the pair came together once again.
Now it was the turn of the Kiwis to come back in on starboard.
But Luna Rossa were just ahead as they crossed and tacked in front of the Kiwis forcing the defenders to tack back to the right-hand side of the course. Was this another risk? 
The Italians would be on port tack when they came back.

But there was trouble in store as the breeze shifted right, benefitting the Kiwis.
By the time the pair came back for Gate 5 Team New Zealand had taken the lead, rounding the left-hand mark ahead by 18 seconds.

One leg to the finish with a distance of 400 m between the pair, this was a big distance to make up for the Italians with so little runway left.As Emirates Team New Zealand came into the finish they had taken Race 9 by 29 seconds in the closing stages of the race.
A dramatic and closely fought race to place Emirates Team New Zealand within just one win to take the 36th America’s Cup.

Max Sirena, Skipper & Team Director:
"Possibly one of the best races we have seen in the last 15 years of the America's Cup. The guys did really well controlling at the start, we kept them behind for four legs without ever giving up. After all, we are in the final against a very strong team and I am very proud of the guys on the water and the whole team, because today they raced an amazing race. Obviously we are very disappointed with the outcome, but we are still alive and tomorrow we will go on the water to fight and we will give everything. It's not over yet."

Francesco Bruni, Helmsman:
"It's a hard one to digest. We raced flawlessly until they overtook us: we had to decide whether to defend the left or go right, and in hindsight it probably was the wrong choice. It was very hard to keep them behind, they definitely had an extra gear because whenever we tried to stretch our lead we couldn't shake them off and as soon as we gave them some space they just set off. We don't feel too much remorse because the race was conducted very well, but we don't plan to give up and we will continue to do what we need to do, analyzing where we can improve to get back on the water geared up to go win."

Vasco Vascotto, Afterguard:
"The race was really difficult with tricky wind conditions. I believe the boys raced incredibly well, and Team New Zealand was forced to adapt to our choices. We led the game, and gave a great show of match racing, not only at the start but also throughout the course. This is our mindset, and tomorrow we will keep on racing with this same attitude."

Friday, March 19, 2021

New Zealand (Linz) update in the GeoGarage platform

3 nautical raster charts updated

Bottom trawling releases as much carbon as air travel, landmark study finds

An area of seabed damaged by trawling. Bottom trawling by fishing boats pumps out 1 gigaton of carbon every year.
Photograph: Marine Conservation Society/PA

From The Guardian by Karen McVeigh

Dragging heavy nets across seabed disturbs marine sediments, world’s largest carbon sink, scientists report

Fishing boats that trawl the ocean floor release as much carbon dioxide as the entire aviation industry, according to a groundbreaking study.

 Bottom trawling, a widespread practice in which heavy nets are dragged along the seabed, pumps out 1 gigaton of carbon every year, says the study written by 26 marine biologists, climate experts and economists and published in Nature on Wednesday.

The carbon is released from the seabed sediment into the water, and can increase ocean acidification, as well as adversely affecting productivity and biodiversity, the study said. Marine sediments are the largest pool of carbon storage in the world.
The report – Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate – is the first study to show the climate impacts of trawling globally.
It also provides a blueprint outlining which areas of the ocean should be protected to safeguard marine life, boost seafood production and reduce climate emissions.

Only 7% of the ocean is under some kind of protection.
The scientists argue that, by identifying strategic areas for stewardship – for example, regions with large-scale industrial fishing and major economic exclusion zones or marine territories – nations could reap “significant benefits” for climate, food and biodiversity.
Protecting “strategic” ocean areas could produce 8m tonnes of seafood, they say.
Humanity and the economy benefit from a healthier oceanDr Enric Sala, scientist

“Ocean life has been declining worldwide because of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change,” said Dr Enric Sala, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and lead author of the paper.
 “In this study, we’ve pioneered a new way to identify the places that – if strongly protected – will boost food production and safeguard marine life, all while reducing carbon emissions.
“It’s clear that humanity and the economy will benefit from a healthier ocean. And we can realise those benefits quickly if countries work together to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.”

The scientists identified marine areas where species and ecosystems face the greatest threats from human activities.
They developed an algorithm to identify regions where safeguarding would deliver the greatest benefits across three goals: biodiversity protection, seafood production and climate mitigation. They then mapped these to create a practical “blueprint” that governments can use, depending on their priorities.

The top 10 countries with the most carbon emissions from bottom trawling, and therefore the most to gain, were China, Russia, Italy, UK, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Croatia and Spain.

Beam trawlers’ heavy chains are dragged along the seabed, releasing carbon into the seawater.
Photograph: aphperspective/Alamy

The analysis shows that the world must protect a minimum of 30% of the ocean in order to provide multiple benefits.
The scientists say their results lend credence to the ambition of protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030, which is part of the target adopted by a coalition of 50 countries this year to slow the destruction of the natural world. 
Zac Goldsmith, the UK minister for Pacific and the environment, described the paper as “an important contribution to the science on ocean protection and highlights the need for countries to work together to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030”.
He said the UK was playing a leading role in a global ocean alliance supporting this target and promised: “We will do all we can to deliver it at the UN biodiversity conference in China.

“There is no single best solution to save marine life and obtain these other benefits. The solution depends on what society – or a given country – cares about, and our study provides a new way to integrate these preferences and find effective conservation strategies,” said Dr Juan S Mayorga, a report co-author and a marine data scientist with the Environmental Market Solutions Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Pristine Seas at the National Geographic Society.
One notable priority for conservation is Antarctica, which has little protectionDr David Mouillot, co-author

The study calculates that eliminating 90% of the present risk of carbon disturbance due to bottom trawling would require protecting only about 4% of the ocean, mostly within national waters.

Dr David Mouillot, a report co-author and a professor at the Université de Montpellier in France, said: “One notable priority for conservation is Antarctica, which currently has little protection, but is projected to host many vulnerable species in the near future due to climate change.”

The study estimated the emissions at between 0.6 and 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide a year, or an average of 1 gigaton annually. Aviation emissions of carbon dioxide in 2019 were 918m tons.

The UN’s biodiversity conference, Cop15, which is to be held in Kunming, China, this year, is expected to produce a global agreement for nature, building on the targets already set by some nations to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. 
Links :

Thursday, March 18, 2021

What happens to oil spilled in oceans? Oil in the Ocean photooxides within hours to days, new study finds

Satellite image taken on May 9, 2010 of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: MODIS on NASA's AQUA satellite, 9 May 2010 @ 190848 UTC.
Downlink and processed at the UM Rosenstiel School's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS)

From Miami University by Diana Udel

Study provides new details on the fate of spilled oil in the marine environment, effectiveness of chemical dispersants 

A new study lead by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science demonstrates that under realistic environmental conditions oil drifting in the ocean after the DWH oil spill photooxidized into persistent compounds within hours to days, instead over long periods of time as was thought during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This is the first model results to support the new paradigm of photooxidation that emerged from laboratory research.

After an oil spill, oil droplets on the ocean surface can be transformed by a weathering process known as photooxidation, which results in the degradation of crude oil from exposure to light and oxygen into new by-products over time.
Tar, a by-product of this weathering process, can remain in coastal areas for decades after a spill.
Despite the significant consequences of this weathering pathway, photooxidation was not taken into account in oil spill models or the oil budget calculations during the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The UM Rosenstiel School research team developed the first oil-spill model algorithm that tracks the dose of solar radiation oil droplets receive as they rise from the deep sea and are transported at the ocean surface.
The authors found that the weathering of oil droplets by solar light occurred within hours to days, and that roughly 75 percent of the photooxidation during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred on the same areas where chemical dispersants were sprayed from aircraft.
Photooxidized oil is known to reduce the effectiveness of aerial dispersants. 

“Understanding the timing and location of this weathering process is highly consequential. said Claire Paris, a UM Rosenstiel School faculty and senior author of the study. 
“It helps directing efforts and resources on fresh oil while avoiding stressing the environment with chemical dispersants on oil that cannot be dispersed.”

“Photooxidized compounds like tar persist longer in the environment, so modeling the likelihood of photooxidation is critically important not only for guiding first response decisions during an oil spill and restoration efforts afterwards, but it also needs to be taken into account on risk assessments before exploration activities” added Ana Carolina Vaz, assistant scientist at UM’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and lead author of the study.

The study, titled “A Coupled Lagrangian-Earth System Model for Predicting Oil Photooxidation,” was published online on Feb 19, 2021 in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. 
The authors of the paper include: Ana Carolina Vaz, Claire Beatrix Paris and Robin Faillettaz.

The study was supported by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI): C-IMAGE III (Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem) and RECOVER 2 (Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk).


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Stormy seas ahead: confidence in the cruise industry has plummeted due to COVID-19

From The Conversation by Jennifer Holland

The cruise industry has weathered many storms, including fairly regular brushes with disease.
Outbreaks of norovirus, H1N1 and measles have all happened in the not too distant past.
Despite this, a cruise has traditionally been regarded as a safe holiday – the kind where you don’t have to worry about a thing.

COVID-19 has changed this.
Cruise ships were a hotbed of transmission during the early stages of the pandemic, particularly the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined for six weeks in Japan in spring 2020.
It had over 700 confirmed cases, and for a period was the world’s leading COVID-19 hotspot after China.
Coverage of this and other ships’ outbreaks has taken its toll.

Research that I conducted with colleagues in Australia shows that the pandemic has changed how people think of cruise holidays.
We surveyed over 600 people in the UK and Australia, both cruisers and non-cruisers, to ask them about their willingness to cruise and future travel intentions, to explore how COVID-19 has affected perceptions of travel and cruise risks.

Nearly 45% of interviewees had less belief than before the pandemic that cruise lines are transparent and honest about safety or health issues.
Respondents were also fearful of going on a cruise, with 47% saying they don’t trust cruise lines to look after them if something goes wrong.
This is staggering for an industry that depends on repeat customers.

We further found that 67% of people are less willing to cruise as a result of the pandemic, while 69% said they feel less positive about cruising now.
What’s most surprising is that even repeat cruisers said they feel nervous about cruising as a result of the pandemic, with this emotion coming up repeatedly in the survey’s open-ended questions.
This is a gamechanger.
Until now, loyal cruisers have always come back, with previous disease outbreaks having little impact.

What went wrong?

When the pandemic began, cruise ships immediately suffered high infection rates among passengers and crew.
During the first wave, thousands were stranded onboard ships as they were held in quarantine or refused entry to ports as borders closed.
By the end of April 2020, over 50 cruise ships had confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 65 deaths had occurred among passengers and crew.

Confined living conditions on cruise ships mean that disease outbreaks aren’t uncommon.
Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE

The story of one ship – the Ruby Princess – gained particular attention.
Its passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney in mid-March, with a number carrying the virus.
The ship would go on to be linked to more than 900 COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths.
The state of New South Wales later launched a public inquiry into the ship’s outbreak and found that the state’s ministry of health made a number of serious errors in allowing passengers to get off.

It didn’t take long for cruises to be depicted as places of danger and infection, particularly in Australia.
Lots of information about COVID-19 on cruise ships was published, especially about the Ruby Princess, grabbing the public’s attention.
Undoubtedly, this amplified people’s perceptions of risk around cruise holidays.
Our study found that the many stories on COVID-19 also reminded the public of previous illnesses and outbreaks onboard cruise ships.

Given the high intensity of media interest in Australia, we weren’t surprised to find that perceived risks were higher there compared with the UK, with willingness to cruise lower.
This suggests that there could be regional differences in how difficult it is for the industry to recover after the pandemic.
What happens next?

Most respondents in the study said they would wait until it was safe to cruise again – and there’s probably a long way to go on changing the current perception of cruise ships as giant incubators of disease.
It’s doubtful pent-up demand from loyal cruisers will be enough to fill cruise ships to capacity – which is critical for long-term economic viability – and so financial uncertainty grows.

The pandemic has been catastrophic for the industry so far, with financial losses of US$50 billion (£36 billion), 1.17 million job losses, 18 cruise ships sold or scrapped and at least three cruise lines stopping trading.
Before the pandemic, a new cruise ship was built every 47 days, and off the back of the industry’s robust growth over the past two decades another 19 ships are due to enter operation in 2021, despite demand very likely to have fallen.

Brand new ships, such as P&O Cruises’ Iona, were built according to past demand and will enter service in a tough market.
Focke Strangmann

To recover, the industry will need to address people’s perceptions of risk, which our research shows have heightened.
Risk perception has a significant influence on holiday decision-making, and it will be even more critical post-COVID.

In the wake of the pandemic, would-be cruisers will need to think about health protocols, outbreak prevention plans, onboard sanitation procedures, social distancing measures and health screenings.
Also, they’ll need to consider the implications of potential outbreaks during the cruise.
These could result in being quarantined in their cabin, needing to access healthcare, or even the cruise being terminated.

All of this creates uncertainty, which adds to perceptions of risk.
The industry will need to provide reassuring answers on all of these points to entice holidaymakers back onboard.
Cruise companies will also need to convince customers that they are trustworthy and accountable, given the concerns about honesty and transparency raised by our research.

Overall, the sector has been devastated by the pandemic.
Possibly no other area of tourism has been as widely affected.
A return to the robust growth enjoyed previously is unlikely for many years, if ever.
But for there to be any chance of this happening, the industry must understand how the pandemic has affected people’s perceptions of cruises and address their concerns.
Links :

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The future of ocean exploration

From Techcrunch by Brian Heater

“It seems quite odd that no one has built the SpaceX equivalent for the ocean,” Anthony DiMare tells TechCrunch.
“There’s no big, modern technology company that fits the space yet.”

DiMare cofounded Bedrock Ocean Exploration last year, with Charles Chiau.
The latter brought a depth of robotics expertise to the space, while DiMare has experience with the oceans.
His previous company, Nautilus Labs, which specialized in ocean fleet logistical planning, raised an $11 million Series A back 2019.
After leaving the startup, DiMare says he met up with Chiau at a San Francisco diner, where the pair discussed the challenges and opportunities in mapping the ocean floor.

Today Bedrock is announcing that it has raised an $8 million seed round led by Eniac Ventures, Primary Venture Partners, Quiet Capital and R7.
“It seems quite odd that no one has built the SpaceX equivalent for the ocean,” Anthony DiMare tells TechCrunch.
“There’s no big, modern technology company that fits the space yet.”

DiMare cofounded Bedrock Ocean Exploration last year, with Charles Chiau.
The latter brought a depth of robotics expertise to the space, while DiMare has experience with the oceans.
His previous company, Nautilus Labs, which specialized in ocean fleet logistical planning, raised an $11 million Series A back 2019.
After leaving the startup, DiMare says he met up with Chiau at a San Francisco diner, where the pair discussed the challenges and opportunities in mapping the ocean floor.

Today Bedrock is announcing that it has raised an $8 million seed round led by Eniac Ventures, Primary Venture Partners, Quiet Capital and R7.
The funding will go toward developing partnerships and building out the company’s robotics and cloud platforms.
The team, which currently includes some participants from the recent Shell-sponsored XPrize ocean floor competition, should be expanding, as well.

Among the chief uses for the technology is laying undersea cable.
“As of now, it’s done in basically a one-off basis,” says DiMare.
“I know that if I need to lay a cable between the United States and China, I’m going to guesstimate the most efficient route and do a survey over that area and hope that it generally returns information that I need to lay a cable. But if I find something, I need to reroute it.”

Off-shore wind farms are a major potential growth category for the company as well. 
“Right now we’re not working with any oil companies,” says DiMare.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have to go down that route. Thankfully, offshore wind has just absolutely exploded. There’s just so much work to be done in the offshore wind space that we can literally just focus on that.”

Links :

Monday, March 15, 2021

Illegal fishing: the great threat to Latin America’s marine sanctuaries

Banner image by Kipu Visual’s team of illustrators for Mongabay Latam.
Design and programming of the visualizations by Rocío Arias Puga and Daniel Gómez Hernández for Mongabay Latam.

From Mongabay by Michelle Carrere
  • An investigative collaboration by Mongabay Latam, Ciper in Chile, Cuestión Pública in Colombia, and El Universo in Ecuador looked at illegal fishing and the threats it poses to Latin America’s marine sanctuaries.
  • The investigation revealed suspected illegal fishing activities in marine protected areas in those three Latin American countries as well as Mexico.
  • Many Latin American marine protected areas do not have enough surveillance or budget to prevent these crimes, and in some cases lack even a management plan defining a monitoring strategy.
  • It is in this context that foreign fleets, particularly from China, including boats with a history of illegal fishing, also cross marine sanctuaries during their journeys.
After drugs and arms trafficking, illegal fishing is the third most lucrative illegal activity in the world. It is estimated that around 26 million tons of fish and other marine resources are caught illegally every year to supply a black market worth up to $23 billion.

Illegal fishing takes many forms, one of which involves fishing inside marine protected areas that have been created to safeguard the biodiversity within them.

A team of journalists from Mongabay Latam, Cuestión Pública in Colombia, El Universo in Ecuador, and Ciper in Chile, with the advice of satellite-monitoring experts and scientists, analyzed the movement of boats within marine protected areas over a five-year period between 2015 and 2020.
This research revealed illegal fishing in marine sanctuaries in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. These four countries are among the top six in Latin America with the largest amount of protected marine territory, but the findings raise questions about whether they have the tools to control, monitor, and stop such illegal activities within their marine protected areas.

What the images reveal

The ability to track a boat’s movements in the ocean depends on whether it has a satellite device on board.
The device “is essentially a box that is in connection with satellites in orbit,” says scientist Fabio Favoretto, a member of DataMares, a civil society organization that analyzes data on fishing in Mexico and that collaborated with Mongabay Latam in analyzing the information for this research.
The device sends a signal every hour to a satellite indicating the boat’s position, speed, and course — information that allows researchers like Favoretto to later see, on a computer, the location of the boat, its trajectory, its speed, and how long it is taking.

When a boat is fishing, “many times, the first thing it does is slow down and then start to make turns or changes of direction,” said Favoretto, who is also a professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.
He points out that boats can behave differently depending on the type of fishing gear they use. “Some use purse-seine nets and characteristically have circular movements.
Others, which are trawlers, simply slow down and then follow a straight line.
With experience and knowledge of these types of gear you can recognize these patterns,” he said.

This Global Fishing Watch map shows some of the fishing activity in the world.
Press play to start the video and use the + and – buttons to zoom in and out of the map.

There are different online platforms that show the position and route of boats at sea. One is Global Fishing Watch, whose algorithm combines numerous variables, including those Favoretto described, to identify when a boat might be fishing.

Although these tools have a high degree of certainty, to be able to assert that a boat has been out fishing requires in-person confirmation. 
So countries use this technology to send their navies or fishing control authorities to certain locations to confirm fishing activity.

“We are never 100% sure. There is always a small percentage of error, but not because the model is wrong,” Favoretto said. 
“This error could be because they [the boats] made the maneuver, but did not fish … the net came up empty. What I am 100% sure of is that they did something they normally do when they are fishing.”

The suspicious activities observed in this investigation through satellite monitoring have been cross-checked with other sources to determine which boats have a history of illegal fishing and which companies are behind such activity.

The findings

In Mexico, we observed 17 boats bearing a Mexican flag and 1 bearing a U.S. flag carrying out suspicious fishing activities within Revillagigedo National Park, which is home to endangered sharks and manta rays, and where fishing is prohibited.
Despite these findings, since December 2018, only three boats have been reported for alleged illegal fishing in this protected area.

In Colombia, we observed that boats bearing a Panamanian flag and a Colombian fleet from the Seatech company (from the well-known tuna brand Van Camp’s) operate in Yuruparí-Malpelo National Integrated Management District, adjacent to Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, where industrial fishing is not permitted.
Some of the boats have a history of illegal fishing and even of shark finning — the practice of catching sharks and cutting off their fins before throwing the fish back into the sea. 
Shark finning is illegal in Colombia.

Image by Juan Mayorga.

Seatech benefited from tax reforms after the company and its managers donated 480 million pesos, roughly $155,000, in 2018 to the campaigns of candidates aligned with the uribista movement, a dominant strain in Colombian politics.

In all four marine protected areas we analyzed, the surveillance and budget allocated to control is insufficient.
In some cases, management plans and a monitoring strategy have not even been created. In other words, many marine protected areas are currently parks in name only, making them more vulnerable to illegal fishing.

It is in this context that Chinese fleets move around the boundaries of the territorial waters of four South American countries to fish for giant squid (Dosidicus gigas), even passing through marine protected areas on some occasions as part of their journeys.

At the beginning of June last year, a Chinese fleet of around 260 boats reached the boundaries of the Galápagos exclusive economic zone to fish for squid.
For days, this group of boats, which artisanal fishermen described as “a giant city” in the middle of the sea, concerned scientists and government officials.
Although there were no reports of any of these boats entering Ecuadoran waters to fish illegally, their presence alarmed fishing authorities, the navy and even President Lenín Moreno, who ordered the creation of a committee to design a protection strategy for the Galápagos Islands.
The illegal fishing records of some of the Chinese boats were key to the Ecuadoran government’s decision.

Hammerhead sharks in the waters of Revillagigedo. Image courtesy of National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP)/Erick Higuera.

During this same period, 149 of the boats shut down their satellite systems and “some boats even changed their identification,” said Darwin Jarrín, commander of Ecuador’s Navy at the time.
Turning off the satellite signal is often indicative, though not conclusive, of a boat engaging in criminal activity.

In the case of Chile, we found Chinese fleets crossing Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, the largest marine protected area in Latin America, during their long journeys across the region.
When this story was originally published in Spanish in October 2020, these boats were near Peruvian territorial waters and had begun to move south, putting Chilean authorities on alert.

This investigation identified the companies that own at least 140 of these boats; 95 of them are operated by just 10 companies.
Most of these companies are based in the city of Zhoushan, on the East China Sea.
Until a few years ago this was one of the focal points of the Chinese fishing industry, but its resources have now been depleted.
At least three boats with a history of illegal fishing have moved in or around the Galápagos and Nazca-Desventuradas marine parks in the last five years.

A difficult crime to trace

Illegal fishing not only has devastating consequences for ocean biodiversity, but also for the economies of coastal communities that make a living from fishing, and for global food security.

The biggest problem is that detecting illegal fishing is difficult, according to Juan Mayorga, a data scientist who heads an alliance of three institutions using technology to further marine science and conservation: the Sustainable Fisheries Group of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the U.S.; National Geographic’s Pristine Seas marine conservation program; and Global Fishing Watch.

Unlike forests, where illegal logging is visible, fishing crimes at sea happen underwater; so after a crime has been committed, it is not possible to see that prohibited marine resources have been taken.

Moreover, “those carrying out the illegal activities do not want to be seen,” Mayorga said. 
“So the vast majority of these boats are going to turn off their tracking devices if they have one” in order to avoid detection.
Even if the ships leave their tracking devices on, “in many countries, legislation and laws are a couple of steps behind the technology, with this kind of evidence still not accepted in legal cases.
This means that we have to intercept the boats, which is a much more expensive operation,” he said.

Destruction of the Fu Yuan Yu Leng’s illegal cargo in 2017. The vessel was caught with its freezers full of sharks near the Galápagos Islands. Image courtesy of Galápagos National Park.

In this respect, Alex Muñoz, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas director for Latin America, noted that “in addition to the difficulty of detecting illegal activity there is the weakness of the legal and judicial systems in prosecuting crimes committed at sea in the courts.”
According to Muñoz, it is for this reason that “countries often simply choose to persuade ships to leave national waters rather than arresting them and initiating legal proceedings against them, as the evidential systems are very outdated.”

In other words, Muñoz said, “it is very difficult to prove the existence of a crime and the fines or other sanctions are very weak, meaning it is not worth the effort for sanctions that tend to be very minor.”

Although the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) placed the global total of fishing boats at 4.56 million in 2018, this figure is only an estimate as it is not possible to determine the number of boats at sea with certainty, according to Mayorga.

The Global Fishing Watch platform tracks approximately 80,000 vessels via their automatic identification system (AIS) and another 5,000 via their vessel monitoring system (VMS), another satellite system. “We are talking about 85,000 boats, but there is simply no other organization, no other group, that can give us more
 That is what there is, that is what we have,” Mayorga said. 

The importance of marine protected areas

Oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large amount of our carbon dioxide emissions, regulate the climate, and feed the world’s people.
The value of oceans as an asset amounts to $24 trillion a year, according to a “conservative” calculation in a 2015 WWF report.
Yet science has already shown that 66% of the marine environment has been significantly altered by human activity, 34% of fish stocks are overexploited, and populations of marine vertebrates declined by 49% over a recent 40-year period.
This degradation is increasing due to pollution, rising water temperatures caused by climate change, and ocean acidification as the ocean absorbs excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

To reverse these problems, marine protected areas are essential.
They have already been shown to benefit fisheries since they serve as nurseries for biodiversity.

This is why most countries committed to protecting at least 10% of their maritime territory by the end of 2020. While many countries fell short of this target, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico are among those that met it.
In fact, Latin America as a whole has made significant progress in protecting the ocean: in 2000 it had protected only 1.43% of its sea area, a figure that has since increased to 23.6%, according to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD).

How much marine territory is protected in Latin America?

According to a United Nations Environment Programme report, however, “the physical area covered is just one part of the commitment […]
For marine protected areas to be truly effective they need strong governance to influence human behaviour and reduce the impacts on the ecosystem.”
Part of that governance involves each protected area having a management plan that sets out how the area’s marine resources will be protected.

In Chile, five of the 28 marine areas with some level of protection have a management plan. In Colombia, 13 of 18 do; in Ecuador, it’s eight of 11; and in Mexico, 36 of 37.

Satellite systems show that when a marine protected area is created, fishing activity immediately changes: boats leave the area (especially from fully protected parks) to allow sea life to recover. However, as this investigation shows, there are exceptions.

Mayorga pointed out that the development of management plans requires the same kind of patience as the unfolding of the biological, social and economic benefits of marine protected areas.
However, he said, it is important to remember that “without management plans, marine protected areas will not be effective.”

Muñoz underscored the point: “A marine protected area must be well protected through mechanisms for monitoring fishing and through legal and judicial procedures that allow offenders to be sanctioned.”

This is a translation of the main story in a special series called “Illegal Fishing: The Great Threat to Latin American Marine Sanctuaries,” which was coordinated by Mongabay Latam and Ciper (Chile), Cuestión Pública (Colombia) and El Universo (Ecuador). It was originally published here on Oct. 6, 2020, on our Latam site, where you can find links to the other stories in the series.

Sunday, March 14, 2021