Apr 27, 2016
Modern technology has the potential to transform the way countries and other entities manage their natural resources, particularly in areas like fisheries. Harnessing information systems is only possible if we can get the data collection right, and that requires a modern attitude to collection and regulation.
AFMA are targeting logbook accuracy this month to ensure that fishers are recording their fish data accurately and completely. This recent article on Australia’s Public Service News gives an example of an enforcement oriented response to incorrect completion of logbooks by fishers.
No doubt some of the misreporting referred to in the article will be deliberate. However, it’s likely that unintentional ‘honest mistakes’ make up a significant portion of the misreporting. Therefore, to help improve the management of fisheries data and ultimately achieve improvements in resource sustainability there are a range of approaches that can be applied. Education, training and other assistance can help inform fishers of their reporting obligations and how they meet these. This can help reduce the ‘honest mistakes’. At the other end of the spectrum warnings, directed action and tougher enforcement measures can be applied to that minority of deliberate and recidivist offenders.
The key in all of this is to recognise that fishers are the best source of data for any fisheries information system. They are on the sea constantly, and since time immemorial have gathered data about fishing locations, species, sea conditions and so on to help them do their job.
A typical commercial fishing operation is an intense, consuming business that requires huge commitment. Formal reporting of the type required by regulatory authorities can be complex and cumbersome, making a focus on fisher education and training on the importance of data a vital part of a wider compliance approach. A fisher needs to understand the purpose of collecting information, and have the confidence that the commercially sensitive data they share (e.g. catch locations) is going to be safely managed.
Fisheries management is a partnership between regulators and fishers. There is a natural conflict that exists between these two groups, but the best approach is to try and build a shared understanding of the best ways and means of collecting data.
The same lens can be applied to new initiatives like that of the Ministry of Primary Industries in New Zealand proposing to use cameras and other technology to record catch data, covered in a recent article on the Stuff website. Technology has exciting potential, particularly when you align video to data like location and time stamping, but it must be focused on a partnership between regulator and fisher to sustainably manage a natural resource.
Trust will be just as important as the technology as we apply new tools and ideas to the way fisheries resources are managed.
Posted on August 24, 2015