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Squid fishing vessels take advantage of unregulated waters

Squid fishing is increasingly expanding into unregulated spaces, despite growing concerns over stock status, according to a new study led by Global Fishing Watch.

The researchers investigated the activities of global squid fleets across three oceans from 2017 to 2020. The experts discovered that as these fisheries expand, they shift locations into the high seas, where no particular nation has jurisdiction. 

“These squid fisheries are highly mobile, fishing multiple oceans within a given year,” said study lead author Professor Katherine Seto of UC Santa Cruz. “While some conservation and management measures are in place to regulate this type of fishing, our research found that actors may take advantage of these fragmented regulations to maximize resource extraction.”

“To address this, we need to address the factors that promote the growth and expansion of fishing efforts, and increase data sharing and communication between management entities.”

The research was conducted through a partnership between Global Fishing Watch, the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong, and the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency.

The team used satellite imagery, vessel tracking, and data monitoring to determine that squid fishing activities increased by 68 percent during the three-year study period.

Squid fishing vessels were found to conduct 86 percent of their activities in unregulated areas. The researchers noted that while unregulated fishing is not necessarily illegal, it presents many challenges, such as fisheries sustainability.

“By synthesizing data from multiple sources, we created a robust picture of the fishing activity of the high seas squid fleets. Our analysis highlights the interconnectedness of fishing grounds used by the fleets,” said study co-author Nate Miller. “It demonstrates the critical importance of comprehensive data sharing agreements between regional bodies for improving understanding of the movements of these vessels and quantifying their impacts on squid stocks.”

“These unregulated fishing activities require urgent action,” said study co-author Quentin Hanich from the University of Wollongong. “They occur in our global commons, shared by all, yet few receive any benefit, and neighboring coastal States are increasingly concerned regarding the impact on their own shared fish stocks.”

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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