Blast Fishing: A New Solution
Blast fishing or ‘fish bombing’ is exactly what it sounds like – the indiscriminate use of explosives to kill fish. Sadly, it has has been around for a very long time, and even though for many years it has been made illegal by almost every government in the world, enforcement is patchy at best. The practice is particularly, though not exclusively, prevalent in Southeast Asia, and it has been estimated that over ten percent of fishermen in the Philippines regularly use explosives to catch fish.
The results of blast fishing can be devastating, with massive damage caused to reef systems and marine life other than the fish it purportedly targets. There are also real dangers for the fishermen handling explosives too, with premature explosions not unheard of. Tourism also suffers, and this is particularly important in many of the affected areas. So now the focus seems to be on the apprehension of culprits and a resultant deterrent effect rather than prevention which is a rather more difficult operation, and it’s refreshing to see some tech innovation come to the rescue. Californian company ShotSpotter has been working on projects in Borneo with a pressure group that seeks to end the practice of blast fishing and the results are encouraging. The company produces software used by law enforcement and others to detect gunfire and it’s been discovered that the system seems to work well in locating underwater explosions too.
As soon as an explosion is detected the system kicks into action and publishes the data worldwide that’s accessible on Internet connected devices everywhere, including mobiles and tablets. This allows local authorities to immediately respond and arrest the perpetrators. But the aims of the project go further. It is hoped that involvement with local communities where the practice appears to be heaviest will help educate them about the long term damage blast fishing causes and eventually they will be able to police their own waters. In the long term it is hoped that if the practice becomes unacceptable in those communities the problem may well be solved eventually.
It’s a small step towards eradicating the practice, but a welcome one.