Students Learn About Fishery Dynamics With Global Fishing Watch

Austin Humphries, (left) Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island, used Global Fishing Watch to teach his “Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Science and Management” students about real-life fisheries dynamics.

Global Fishing Watch is being used by scientists, governments, and conservationists to better understand commercial fishing activity worldwide. It can also be a valuable tool for educators. At the University of Rhode Island, Assistant Professor Austin Humphries uses Global Fishing Watch in his “Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Science and Management” course to help students understand fishing activity. The purpose of the class is to bring together graduate students who study more anthropocentric realms of fisheries, such as marine policy or economics, with biological fisheries students to get them to “think about how to perform holistic assessments of the entire fisheries system,” he says.

Humphries’ students participating in a game simulating catch share management.

His students are required to read our report, The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings as homework during the “fisher behavior and vessel dynamics” section of the course. When they discuss vessel dynamics, Global Fishing Watch serves as a real-world example.

“I use Global Fishing Watch to ground some of the theory I give during lecture on what’s driving people’s fishing behavior,” he says.

As part of the class, Humphries prods students to think about how to use our data in an innovative way with the question “How might you use fishing vessel behavior to determine how much is being caught and with what fishing gear?” One student came up with the idea of measuring the size of ship holds to determine the maximum possible size of a catch per boat, then coupling that with Global Fishing Watch data.

“It’s always helpful to tie the lesson back to a real-world problem and discuss how people are working to solve these problems,” he says.

He found that the lesson got his students thinking about what data was necessary to answer questions around vessel dynamics.

“In the future, I would like students to download the publicly available transshipment data to identify and track refrigerated cargo vessels in order to better understand transshipment,” he says.

We are thrilled by Humphries’ use of Global Fishing Watch and by the responses of his students. If you would like to use Global Fishing Watch in your own classroom, check out our SciStarter page for some ideas.

Have you used the Global Fishing Watch map or data in your work?