Using AIS to Attempt a Quantitative Evaluation of Unobserved Trawling Activity in the Mediterranean Sea
In the past decades, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) has been employed in numerous research fields as a valuable tool for, among other things, Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Spatial Planning. In contrast, its use in fisheries management is hampered by coverage and transmission gaps. Transmission gaps may be due to technical limitations (e.g., weak signal or interference with other signals) or to deliberate switching off of the system, to conceal fishing activities. In either case such gaps may result in underestimating fishing effort and pressure. This study was undertaken to map and analyze bottom trawler transmission gaps in terms of duration and distance from the harbor with a view to quantifying unobserved fishing and its effects on overall trawling pressure. Here we present the first map of bottom trawler AIS transmission gaps in the Mediterranean Sea and a revised estimate of fishing effort if some gaps are considered as actual fishing.