All it took to reach a more realistic estimate of how much fish is being harvested from the sea was one scientist with an Internet connection and an inquisitive mind.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia used satellite imagery from Google Earth to discover that large fish traps in the Persian Gulf could be netting nearly six times more fish than official statistics report.
The study began with a .doctoral student at the university messing around on the Internet.
“I was just playing around with Google Earth, doing what most people do when they first get on, which is try to find their house,” said Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak.
The Kuwait native noticed that three fish traps, known as weirs, could be seen near her parents’ home on the Persian Gulf.
“I had a light-bulb moment,” she said.
It was the start of a research project that used the Google program to count 1,900 fishing weirs – huge, fencelike structures that use the changes in tides to trap sea life – off the coast of six countries in the Persian Gulf. The study used the inventory to estimate that the region caught about 31,000 metric tons of fish in 2005.