Domino effects of cumulative bias and erroneous data in fisheries big-data mapping models / by Francisco Blaha

A couple of months ago I wrote on the report of Global Footprint of Transshipments produced by Global Fishing Watch and then on the methodology used. I was quite positive about it, recognising that the base tool AIS, while limited in their application to fisheries, is not totally useless.

The business of transhipemnts 

The business of transhipemnts 

Now the other side of the bell rang, and a report by Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi from FishSpektrum (i+D).  I don't know much about them, yet they look like as a solid outfit that defines themselves as:

FishSpektrum Project (FSK) is a multidisciplinary “big-data” project focused in improving knowledge on global fisheries activity and historical footprint that combines the identification of vessels and their fishing capacities as well as their targeted fishing grounds
FSK's core is based on a Unique Fishing Vessel and Fish Carrier Vessel Identifier Database (UFVFCID or Krakken) that currently accounts for some 1.697.327 fishing-unit references and should reach the 2 million mark by the end of 2018, thus already the single largest and most robust existing fishing vessel database in the world, largely doubling FAO’s Fishing Vessels Finder (FVF) data content.

The report is a critical in-depth look on the GFW one, and from what you can see in the abstract (quoted below) is not particularly complimentary of it.

Cumulative-biases in fisheries big-data mapping models have a domino effect that inevitably culminates in independent innovative and worthy technological projects failing to deliver the scientific rigour that is expected of them.
Worse still, they open up such projects to the charge that the over or under-reporting in their findings and the lack of rigour in their statistical analysis is down to politically biased vigilantism, skewed more towards media environmental activism rather than a true reflection of the situation at sea.
Moving from public-facing awareness- raising tools to credible independent Monitoring Control & Surveillance (MCS) systems that help bring rogue fishing industry to order, such is the challenge facing the independent fisheries MCS intelligence community.

Science advances by contrasting research and educated criticism on a subject. I don't have the technical knowledge to have an opinion on the accuracy of these two reports, yet I celebrate that they are out there and deepening the understanding in an area that is going to get more and more important.