Forecasting Tools Point to Fishing Hotspots

featured in Forecasting Tools Point to Fishing Hotspots, NASA Spinoff, November, 2009.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Sport fishing is an uncertain pastime. Some days the fish are biting; others, not. But for captains of charter fishing boats and recreational fishermen making the most of a day off from work, returning without a catch is more than just a disappointment—it can have a financial impact as well, from wasted gas to frustrated clients taking their business elsewhere. Thanks to an evolving commercial partnership, oceanic data gathered by NASA satellites is now helping take the guesswork out of finding fishing hotspots.

FishBytes screenshot showing fishing spots off Florida’s coast
FishBytes, featuring a database of 18 fish species, uses sea surface temperature and chlorophyll levels measured by NASA satellites to help anglers locate the best areas for their favorite catches.

In 1997, NASA launched the first of more than 20 satellites that now comprise the Earth Observing System (EOS). EOS was designed to provide space-based measurements and imagery of Earth’s surface and atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change and humans’ role in it on a long-term, global scale. However, NASA soon realized that the EOS was making unique observations of weather and the ocean, as well.

In 2002, NASA established the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) at Marshall Space Flight Center to facilitate the use of real-time EOS measurements for short-term weather forecasting—the prediction of weather on a scale of hours, rather than days or weeks. SPoRT uses EOS and other satellite data to provide a suite of NASA products to address challenging forecast issues such as visibility reduction due to clouds and fog at night; the timing and location of severe weather; flood potential due to runoff from snow melt; and the prediction of cloud cover, temperature changes, and precipitation in coastal regions associated with sea breeze fronts. SPoRT repackages the satellite data into useful formats and shares it, along with other tools like forecast models, with government entities like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service, as well as private sector organizations like television’s The Weather Channel.

“We don’t just throw data over the fence,” says Dr. Gary Jedlovec, SPoRT’s principal investigator. “We work closely with these end users to understand what their forecast problems are and then match our data capabilities to their forecast problems.”

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