Scientists are training artificial intelligence to count Hawaii’s deep sea bottomfish

Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Each fall, NOAA scientists head out to sea to count bottomfish like opaka and onaga, and calculate the abundance of seven different species.

The survey gives fishery managers information to help them set catch limits for local bottomfish stock.

“Currently, the bottomfish stock in Hawaii is not over-fished and it’s not experiencing over-fishing. Surveys like those that we conduct help give managers the information to ensure that the stock stays in that status into the future,” said Benjamin Richards, a NOAA research fishery biologist.

He works on the annual bottomfish survey. To do it, NOAA deploys an underwater camera system called the MOUSS at hundreds of locations around the main Hawaiian islands.

“It allows us to get information on fish in their local environment when they may not be biting a hook,” Richards said.

The camera sits on the ocean floor and captures hundreds of thousands of images.

“For our work we’re interested in the Hawaii Deep 7,” he said. “We have detectors that are tuned specifically to those seven species of fish.”

Then comes the heavy lifting. It takes four scientists four months to review the images so NOAA is testing a new software package called VIAME.

The artificial intelligence can detect, identify and count the bottomfish in about half the time it takes to do it the old way.

“It really makes that process more efficient,” Richards said.

NOAA also relies on input from research fishing operations that partner with the agency.

“That collaborative effort has really helped to make the survey the best science available,” he said.

Richards believes VIAME will be fully operational within two to five years.

“Our first priority is getting the accurate count for the managers,” he said.

NOAA needs help to train the VIAME program to identify the different species of bottomfish.

To get involved, click here.

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