AI News, Marine mammal artificial intelligence

Tuna are spawning in marine protected areas

Marine protected areas are large swaths of coastal seas or open ocean that are protected by governments from activities such as commercial fishing and mining.

The researchers observed multiple species of tuna larvae throughout this protected expanse, suggesting that several migratory species are using these protected waters as a reproductive stopover, over several consecutive years, and even during a particularly strong El Niño season, where PIPA may have provided a critical refuge.

“There are various types of protection for marine areas around the world, and all those measures allow us to preserve populations better, and in some cases protect highly migratory species.” Sea change in conservation The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is part of the territorial waters of the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Keer-ee-bahs), a sovereign state in Micronesia made up of three island chains in the central Pacific.

While fishing vessels have respected the protected territory, keeping their activities outside PIPA’s boundaries, legal fishing efforts surrounding PIPA caused the researchers to wonder whether PIPA might eventually provide an economic gain in the form of “spillover effects.” In other words, if an ecological region is preserved over long periods of time, it might produce more fish that, once full-grown, might cross the territory’s boundaries, benefiting both Kiribati and the regional fishing community.

The team pulled up nets teeming with ocean plankton, including tuna larvae, along with tiny crustaceans, jellyfish, pelagic worms, and anchovies, all of which they preserved and transported back to Massachusetts, where they carried out analyses to extract and identify the number and type of tuna larvae amid the rest of the catch.

“If they’re thinking the food is pretty good in PIPA, they may stay inside its boundaries for a few weeks, and might have additional spawning events that they wouldn’t have if they were outside the protected area, where they could get caught before they spawn.” The results are the first evidence that highly migratory species spawn in marine protected areas.

Artificial Intelligence Helps Manage Global Fisheries

Over half of the world’s human population relies on fisheries for much of the protein in their diet, but the ramifications of historical overfishing and climate change are being felt in the world’s oceans and threaten future fisheries productivity.

Traditional fisheries management rests on the assumption that the future will look like the past, however, with advances in AI (artificial intelligence) and burgeoning data resources, scientists have new tools for exploring a greater range of future scenarios, including climate change.  In fisheries stock assessment, scientists analyze data on fishery abundance and catch to determine how many fish can be taken while sustainably maintaining a population.  This 'decision analysis' weighs several objectives, including the goal of maximizing catch while minimizing the probability that the stock will decline below specific thresholds.

“In this paper, we applied recently developed numerical techniques from AI to approximate the optimal decision to fisheries harvesting in the presence of uncertainty.” Britten, who helped develop and statistically train the probabilistic population model that underlies the decision analysis applied in the paper, says their population model uses historical data of global fisheries abundance to estimate population-specific growth and mortality parameters that are then used to project the productivity of the population forward in time.

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