Electric Monitoring Impact Growing

Tidings | Apr 20, 2020

New opportunities to partner with machine learning experts offer promise for electronic monitoring technology.

This is a snapshot taken from one of the electronic monitoring devices placed on fishermen boats. It shows the deck of the ship where two fishermen sort through a recent catch.
A view from one of the electronic monitoring cameras being placed on boats.

To comply with federal regulations, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine are monitored by fisheries observers — people who ride along with fishermen to collect catch data. There are several challenges associated with human observers, including safety and cost.

In recent years, GMRI and fishermen partners have pioneered a new technology called electronic monitoring (EM) — a system of cameras and computers mounted onboard fishing vessels. The EM program at GMRI has grown tremendously in recent years. The 30 vessels participating in the program this year have contributed data from 1,401 hauls over 451 trips, collecting data on over 77,000 individual fish.

Increased participation from fishermen means more video data to process. That’s why we’re working with machine learning experts to make the program scalable. Instead of relying on humans to watch the video generated onboard, we’re exploring how computers could identify fish species directly from video footage — the same way Facebook recommends tags for photos of your friends and family. 

This is just one of many examples of how new technologies can improve outcomes for both fishermen and managers. Stay tuned for more updates as the work evolves.

GMRI researchers explain electronic monitoring in this video from our Gulf of Maine, Explained series.

Thanks to our partners Ecotrust Canada, Integrated Monitoring, SNAPIT HD, Cvision LLC, The Nature Conservancy, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Association, Maine Fishermen's Association and participating captains and crews.

Funders include The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.