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AI and Satellite Imagery Expose Ocean’s Growing Human Impact

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new study published today in the journal Nature offers an unprecedented view of previously unmapped industrial use of the ocean and how it is changing.

The groundbreaking study, led by Global Fishing Watch, uses machine learning and satellite imagery to create the first global map of large vessel traffic and offshore infrastructure, finding a remarkable amount of activity that was previously “dark” to public monitoring systems.

The analysis reveals that about 75 percent of the world’s industrial fishing vessels are not publicly tracked, with much of that fishing taking place around Africa and south Asia. More than 25 percent of transport and energy vessel activity are also missing from public tracking systems.

A new industrial revolution has been emerging in our seas undetected—until now,” said David Kroodsma, director of research and innovation at Global Fishing Watch and co-lead author of the study. “On land, we have detailed maps of almost every road and building on the planet. In contrast, growth in our ocean has been largely hidden from public view. This study helps eliminate the blind spots and shed light on the breadth and intensity of human activity at sea.”

Vessel Tracking Beyond Broadcasts

Researchers from Global Fishing Watch, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Duke University, UC Santa Barbara and SkyTruth analyzed 2 million gigabytes of satellite imagery spanning 2017-2021 to detect vessels and offshore infrastructure in coastal waters across six continents where more than three-quarters of industrial activity is concentrated.

By synthesizing GPS data with five years of radar and optical imagery, the researchers were able to identify vessels that failed to broadcast their positions. Using machine learning, they then concluded which of those vessels were likely engaged in fishing activity.

“Historically, vessel activity has been poorly documented, limiting our understanding of how the world’s largest public resource—the ocean—is being used,” said co-lead author Fernando Paolo, senior machine learning engineer at Global Fishing Watch. “By combining space technology with state-of-the-art machine learning, we mapped undisclosed industrial activity at sea on a scale never done before.”

While not all boats are legally required to broadcast their position, vessels absent from public monitoring systems, often termed “dark fleets,” pose major challenges for protecting and managing natural resources. Researchers found numerous dark fishing vessels inside many marine protected areas, and a high concentration of vessels in many countries’ waters that previously showed little-to-no vessel activity by public monitoring systems.

“Publicly available data wrongly suggests that Asia and Europe have similar amounts of fishing within their borders, but our mapping reveals that Asia dominates—for every 10 fishing vessels we found on the water, seven were in Asia while only one was in Europe,” said co-author Jennifer Raynor, assistant professor of natural resource economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “By revealing dark vessels, we have created the most comprehensive public picture of global industrial fishing available.”

Satellite Tech’s Crucial Role in Understanding Ocean Activity

The study also shows how human activity in the ocean is changing. Coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, fishing activity dropped globally by about 12 percent, with an 8 percent decline in China and a 14 percent drop elsewhere. In contrast, transport and energy vessel activity remained stable.

Offshore energy development surged during the study period. Oil structures increased by 16 percent, while wind turbines more than doubled. By 2021, turbines outnumbered oil platforms. China’s offshore wind energy had the most striking growth, increasing ninefold from 2017 to 2021.

“The footprint of the Anthropocene is no longer limited to terra firma,” said co-author Patrick Halpin, professor of marine geospatial ecology at Duke University. “Having a more complete view of ocean industrialization allows us to see new growth in offshore wind, aquaculture and mining that is rapidly being added to established industrial fishing, shipping and oil and gas activities. Our work reveals that the global ocean is a busy, crowded and complex industrial workspace of the growing blue economy.”

The study highlights the potential of this new technology to tackle climate change. Mapping all vessel traffic will improve estimates of greenhouse gas emissions at sea, while maps of infrastructure can inform wind development or aid in tracking marine degradation caused by oil exploration.

“Identifying offshore infrastructure is critical for understanding offshore energy development impacts and trends, and is crucial data for our work to detect marine pollution events and hold responsible parties to account,” said co-author Christian Thomas, a geospatial engineer at SkyTruth.  

The open data and technology used in the study can help governments, researchers and civil society to identify hotspots of potentially illegal activity, determine where industrial fishing vessels may be encroaching on artisanal fishing grounds, or simply better understand vessel traffic in their waters.

“Previously, this type of satellite monitoring was only available to those who could pay for it. Now it is freely available to all nations,” concluded Kroodsma. “This study marks the beginning of a new era in ocean management and transparency.”

The study was made possible thanks to the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, National Geographic Pristine Seas and Oceankind, and our technology partner, Google. As an awardee of The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative that is catalyzing social impact on a grand scale, Global Fishing Watch is able to further the application of this innovative work.

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Australia ‘outraged’ over aid worker killed in Gaza

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Australia ‘outraged’ over aid worker killed in Gaza

Worker Zomi Frankcom, an aid worker with the World Central Kitchen charity, has tragically lost her life in Gaza due to an Israeli air strike, sparking outrage and demands for transparency from Australia. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has called for a thorough inquiry into the incident, which also resulted in the deaths of six other charity workers.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed his desire to directly speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the death of Ms Frankcom. Netanyahu has acknowledged the incident as an unintended strike on innocent individuals, stating that such events unfortunately occur in the midst of conflict. He has promised a comprehensive investigation into the matter.

Amid escalating tensions between Australia and Israel, Senator Wong emphasized Australia’s strong stance on accountability for the death of humanitarian workers. She stressed the need for a transparent inquiry and full explanation, as well as accountability for those responsible.

Mr Albanese has labeled the deaths of the aid workers as “completely unacceptable,” emphasizing the tragedy of the situation. The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network has gone a step further, calling the deaths not just a tragedy but a crime, and urging the government to take decisive action against Israel.

Ms Frankcom’s family, friends, and colleagues have been left devastated by her untimely demise. Described as a kind and selfless individual, Ms Frankcom’s legacy of compassion and bravery in helping those in need is being mourned by those who knew her.

World Central Kitchen, the charity for which Ms Frankcom was working, has paused its operations in Gaza in the wake of the incident. Chief executive Erin Gore condemned the attack as unforgivable, highlighting the dangers faced by humanitarian organizations in conflict zones.

The Australian government remains firm in its demand for accountability and justice in the wake of this tragedy. While Israel has expressed regret for the incident, the international community, including Australia, is pushing for a transparent investigation and assurance that such events will not be repeated in the future.

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Russian Government Urges Australian Embassy to Remove Social Media Post

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Russian Government Urges Australian Embassy to Remove Social Media Post

Embassy officials from the Australian embassy in Moscow have been summoned by Russian authorities following a social media post that criticized the holding of Russian presidential elections in occupied parts of Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry stated that the post, made on the Telegram platform, questioned Russia’s territorial integrity and contained false information about the voting process in various Russian regions during the presidential election on March 15-17.

Australia’s Chargé d’affaires was informed that the online post was considered as interference in Russia’s internal affairs. The Russian government demanded that the message be removed and that measures be taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

The Australian embassy’s post on Telegram on March 19, in Russian language, highlighted Australia’s stance on the election conducted by Russia in Ukrainian territories. The post emphasized that these actions by Russia undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence. Australia rejected the outcome of the election and reiterated its call for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.

The Russian presidential election, which saw President Vladimir Putin declared the winner with over 87% of the vote, took place in areas of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed, including Crimea and parts of four regions seized after its 2022 invasion.

The incident underscores the ongoing tensions between Russia and Western countries, including Australia, regarding the situation in Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continued involvement in Ukrainian affairs have been met with strong opposition and condemnation from the international community.

Australian embassy officials have not yet responded publicly to the Russian government’s demands regarding the social media post. It remains to be seen how the Australian government will address the issue and whether the post will be removed as requested by Russian authorities.

As the diplomatic exchange continues between Russia and Australia, the situation highlights the importance of careful communication and diplomacy in addressing sensitive political issues. The tension over the Ukrainian territories and the implications of the Russian presidential election in those areas serve as a stark reminder of the complex challenges facing the international community today.

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What Happened When McDonald’s System Crashed Worldwide!

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What Happened When McDonald's System Crashed Worldwide

McDonald’s says a worldwide IT outage that hindered its servers from processing payments and resulted in restaurants closing across the country and elsewhere on Friday evening was not a cybersecurity violation.

The firm has also confirmed some of its food outlets’ systems are back up and running, and it is currently working to restore service to the rest of its restaurants as soon as possible.

The difficulty is being resolved, according to a McDonald’s spokesman.

“We thank customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.

“Notably, the issue is not related to a cybersecurity event.”

The outage primarily affected the company’s internal systems, with one McDonald’s employee telling the ABC that servers couldn’t see anything on their computer monitors.

It also affected the MyMacca’s app, with notifications being sent to global outage tracker Downdetector from around 4 p.m. AEDT.

McDonald’s employees put up signs telling customers they were unsure when the issues would be fixed.(Digital Daily News)

The technology meltdown affected the fast-food supply chain’s worldwide operations, with stores being closed in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

Restaurants in Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, and Austria were also reportedly affected.

McDonald’s has around 1,000 restaurants in Australia, according to its website.

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