Satellite image of shrimp trawlers in China – Kyle Van Houtan
Yesterday, the Science section of the New York Times featured an article on the visible impact of shrimp trawling wordwide: Satellites Show Harvest of Mud That Trawlers Leave Behind. This is an interesting use of Google Earth for research and presentation purposes. Although I think Google Earth has a long way to go before it will be adopted by “the masses” it is simple enough to install and use that it is a viable way to get information across to those who are motivated enough to seek it out.
The gist of this research project is that when shrimp trawlers drag their gear along the bottom of the ocean, not only do they damage the ocean floor and kill many non-target species (aka bycatch or discards and can constitute as much as 98% of the total catch), they stir up so much mud that they actually affect water quality in a large area – large enough to be visible from space. Of course, image resolution is so fabulous now that almost everything is visible from space. But the point is that the previously unseen impact of one type of fishing is now clearly visible to anyone who chooses to look, from the comfort of their own computer.
If you want to take the “tour”, Kyle Van Houtan and Daniel Pauly have posted a web site with trawler mudtrail images in Google Earth with full instructions and more information about their project.