Can ‘big data’ help protect threatened turtles?

Fishing vessels can avoid species like leatherback sea turtles with maps created using government data.
©Al Woodson, USFWS volunteer

New tools using ocean data, including weather and ocean chemistry, are helping determine where fisherman can avoid bycatch of protected sea turtles and other species. Using information that predicts people’s behavior combined with government ocean data, scientists can determine where species like turtles, albatrosses and whales may be located within areas where fisherman are attempting to catch swordfish, tuna and other fish. One example is EcoCast. The “big data” tool compares locations of sightings of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), sea lions, blue sharks (Prionace glauca)and swordfish (Xiphias gladius) as well as measurements of ocean conditions, in order to create a daily map for the West Coast swordfish fishery. As a result, the fishing industry can determine where to find their catch and avoid threatened species.

Read the article in the Washington Post.