Collecting Quality Fisheries Data

3 14, 2018

Managing the shift from paper to electronic reporting.

FINNZ General Manager, Mark Jones recently hosted a session on data harmonisation within the fisheries sector at the annual Seafood Directions conference in Sydney. Mark’s presentation focused on how New Zealand’s Government outsourced a range of services from its Ministry of Fisheries to a newly created, industry-owned business, FishServe back in 2001.

One of the main reasons behind this shift was for industry to play a greater role in the services they pay for (NZ Fisheries are cost-recovered). This outsourced model has, in turn, led to a reduction in operating costs from NZ$8 million a year to about NZ$4 million. A key driver behind this reduction in costs has been the shift from paper-based to electronic reporting.

Mark’s presentation delved into exactly how data was handled when the commercial fisheries sector transitioned from paper-based reporting to the provision of online services.

Mark spoke about the importance of having a set of well-defined performance standards with clear processes in place to ensure the data that is being collected is of the quality that is required. He also elaborated on the point of no matter how well defined your purpose and processes are, how smart your digital technology, it does not exist in its own right.  He commented on the importance of ensuring that the needs of fishers as the main providers of the data are met. As such the success of information systems is often measured on the ease of which end users can submit and extract data.

Mark explained:

“One of the things we got right when the services were separated from government was our desire to treat our fishers as ‘customers’ of the business,” he said. “When we started, staff put in a lot of effort to work directly with fishers to identify what they needed and to help sort out any issues.”

“If someone had a problem we would go and see them, and show them how the forms worked, and how to do things online.”

“These early efforts and a customer service focus have improved the quality of data and efficiency of service delivery.”

The importance of ‘human’ friendly systems

Having proactive customer service professionals incorporated into your data management and administrative teams can provide one means of creating efficiencies and accuracy with regards to the manner in which fishers supply data. The active provision of training and education programmes targeting the manner in which fishers submit their data can significantly reduce the amount of data collection errors that occur. It also reduces both the time taken by administrative staff and fishers’ to correct any errors and furthermore facilitates an increased level of data quality within a fishery.

One means of creating efficiencies in your operations and those of your fisher stakeholders is to remember that users are humans, and need to be treated as such. Implementing a comprehensive training and communication programme makes a significant difference to the implementation and ongoing effectiveness of your information technology systems.

Some ideas for supporting the ‘humans’ in your system include:

  1. Training Roadshows – trainers meet fishers at fishing clubs, pubs and town halls in the fishers’ local areas.
  2. A regular newsletter sent to fishers providing relevant information on your services and/or requirements, plus providing tip-sheets on items such as correct completion of their electronic logbooks.
  3. Direct intervention – where individual fishers appear to be struggling and regularly making the same errors (particularly in respect of logbook form completion) contact them directly to advise of the correct way to complete their forms, applications or transfers.

Any of this activity should be driven by an ethos of ‘letting fishers fish’, but also ensures your staff spend less time in managing data related issues, thereby reducing operating costs.

To find out more about Mark’s presentation and how fisheries data is managed in New Zealand, check out the article published in Decembers issue of the FRDC magazine - ‘Outsourced data delivery a win for NZ’.

You might also be interested in our case study - Smart System for a Sustainable Future which looks at how a new Fisheries Management System is improving access to vital fisheries data and information for New Zealand’s fisheries.

Download our Case Study: Smart System for a Sustainable Future

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