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Taking the Deep Dive – Exploring Our Oceans with GIS

An image from Esri’s Ocean Initiative – which allows scientist to explore the mysteries of the oceans

Story Highlights

Recently I watched the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you watch the documentary. To give an overview of the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and his quest to perfect the art of sushi.

As I was watching, I was reminded that Esri recently announced an Ocean GIS initiative, which can help businesses and restaurants like Jiro’s, and also allow governments to make informed policy decisions to protect our fragile environment. This is another way that GIS is transforming our lives, and facilitating improved decisions by policy makers.

Jiro’s restaurant is world renowned for their sushi. The restaurant is also a recipient of a 3 Star Michelin Award. The documentary also profiles Jiro’s two sons, Takashi and Yoshikazu, both of which have been trained by Jiro in the art of sushi. Yoshikazu is Jiro’s oldest son, and will run the restaurant once Jiro retires. Takashi opened his own sushi restaurant. Although Jiro is a world renowned sushi chef, his art is in jeopardy due to climate change and overfishing.

Jiro’s entire life has been a quest to perfect sushi. Jiro works every day of the year, unless it is a national holiday, he rides the same train each day, and he has the exact same routine every day. I won’t say too much more, it’s a fascinating look into a man who has completely devoted himself to his passion.

During one segment of the documentary, Yoshikazu and Jiro speak about a major threat to their business, over fishing. Jiro mentions that many kinds of fish, and quality, are no longer available, due to overfishing. Jiro believes that this will eventually put his restaurant at risk.

In a recent report announcing Esri’s Ocean Initiative, Esri states, “On a planet where 71 percent of the surface is covered by water, the oceans are critical for life itself. They feed us, regulate our weather patterns, provide over half the oxygen that we breathe, and contribute to our energy and economy.” The report continues to state that an estimated 350 million jobs are linked to the oceans – including that of Jiro and his sons. The report also identifies, “One billion people living in developing countries depend on fish as their primary source of protein.”

As the documentary identified overfishing to be a problem for the sushi industry, the Esri report also backs up some of Jiro’s beliefs, stating, “Eighty-five percent of the world’s fisheries are categorized as either “fully exploited,” “overexploited,” or “depleted.” Ninety percent of the big fish in the oceans are gone.”

The Ocean Initiative is an attempt to understand one of our planets greatest mysteries, the ocean. The report states, “Only 5 to 10 percent of the ocean floor and the waters beneath the surface have been explored and mapped in a level of detail similar to what already exists for the dark side of the moon, for Mars, and for Venus.” The Ocean Initiative has dozens of programs attached to it; one in particular that is interesting is the Ocean Health Index. This project was created in partnership with Conservation International, the National Geographic Society, and the New England Aquarium.

The goal of the Ocean Health Initiative is to establish a metric for ocean health with one single number. Esri states, “The index is designed to take the pulse of the oceans to provide a quick set of vital signs (i.e., indicators that measure the intensity of the most urgent ocean stressors, including climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, habitat degradation, invasive species, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and eutrophication). This will aid managers, policy makers, and the public in quickly diagnosing where problems lie and identifying possible solutions.”

This is just one of countless examples of how GIS has the potential to truly transform our lives. For businesses like Jiro’s, this initiative has the potential to continue a way of life and help improve the viability and health of our environment. If you are interested in learning more about GIS, and how it can impact you in your daily life, be sure to check out our interactive graphic. By visiting, you will see dozens of case studies how GIS impacts us on a day to day basis. Also, please be sure to check out our recent guide on GIS technology.

When Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Check out the Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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