Fish bombing (also known as ‘dynamite fishing’, or ‘blast fishing’) is a destructive fishing practice in which typically homemade bombs are dropped into the ocean or onto the seabed. Shock waves produced by the explosion either stun or kill fish, some of which are then collected from the surface while the rest sink to the seabed. Fish bombing not only targets fish but all other surrounding marine life, as well as destroying the coral reef which takes decades or even hundreds of years to recover.
Blast fishing and other destructive fishing techniques and overfishing are reported to be a medium to severe threat to nearly 60% of reefs globally, with the greatest prevalence occurring in countries in the coral triangle in Southeast Asia (Burke et al., 2012) and in Tanzania (Wells, 2009).
The coral reefs of South East Asia currently provide food for well over half a billion people, provide natural coastal protection, and attract millions of tourists each year. Recent estimates place the value of goods and services provided by coral reefs worldwide between US$172–375 billion annually. At risk is a major source of protein for billions of people in Asia and the health of the world’s remaining coral reefs.
Raymundo et al. (2007) reported no recovery on a blasted reef in the Philippines after 20-30 years, others predict hundred of years. Pew estimates that illegal and unreported fishing costs the global economy up to $23 billion annually, which represents around 20 percent of the global seafood catch.
The impact and risk to coral reefs caused by destructive fishing is so immediate and so severe that the elimination of destructive fishing practices is a key element of Goal 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
A California company Shotspotter has applied acoustic technology to detect gunshots in over 100 cities, pin pointing gun shots, vastly increasing response time, and reducing gun crime in some cases by over 50%.
With Shotspotter, the SFB team developed acoustic detection and location technology for fish bombs. In summer of 2017 our team applied the Shotspotter technology to detect and locate fish bombs in real time with the Department of Fisheries Sabah and Sabah Parks in field trials in a marine park off Sabah Malaysia. The tests provided proof that the system can be easily adapted for the purpose of locate an underwater explosions from fish bombing in real time, assisting with enforcement in a challenging environment.
Collaborating with governments and other stakeholders and integrating detection technology closely with legal systems and the development of alternative livelihoods, there is tremendous potential to realize part of Goal 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources) of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.