EDF’s SmartPass program aims to bring artificial intelligence to US fisheries management

Published on
February 18, 2021

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is launching a new program with the aim of improving data collection and fisheries management.

The program, SmartPass, integrates shore-based cameras with artificial intelligence to get a more accurate assessment of the number of vessels fishing in a particular region, according to EDF Global Fisheries Initiatives Senior Manager Sepp Haukebo.

“SmartPass aims to bring new technology to an old challenge: accurately accounting for the level of recreational and commercial fishing in the ocean,” Haukebo said in a press release. “SmartPass applies technological advancements, such as machine learning, that have been applied across numerous other fields of study to improve fishery management in a cost-effective way.”

EDF developed the program with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, CVision AI, Teem Fish Monitoring, and Snap IT. It uses images from cameras placed in strategic locations such as river mouths, harbors, or other coastal bottlenecks to provide real-time estimates of fishing effort.

Making accurate determinations of recreational fishing effort, given the seasonality of much of that sector and the number of individual vessels involved, can be tricky, EDF said, but automated collection and analysis of fishing effort will help federal and state officials do better and more cost-effective management of the sector.

“The more accurate and efficient we can be with our ocean counts of recreational boat trips, the better we can manage the fisheries for recreational anglers and for conservation needs,” ODFW Ocean Sampling Project Leader Eric Schindler said. “We are very hopeful that SmartPass will provide us an accurate count of boats going out so we can focus more of our staff time on interviewing anglers dockside to get an average catch per boat and other biological data needed for fish management.”

There were an estimated 8.6 million recreational anglers in the United States, who collectively generate USD 73.8 billion (EUR 61.1 billion) in sales, USD 41.5 billion (EUR 34.4 billion) in value-added impacts, and USD 24.7 billion (EUR 20.5 billion) in income, collectively supporting 487,000 jobs in the country, according to EDF.

Image courtesy of EDF

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