Observers working aboard tuna vessels fishing in the largest single skipjack resource in the world are set to begin full scale trials for Electronic Catch Documentation Systems (eCDS), which will make catch data reporting much more timely and efficient.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) has announced its decision to start eCDS trials for onboard fisheries observers, following successful trials in member states’ PNG and the Marshall Islands. The systems, via the use of android tablets and satellite reporting, are expected to significantly increase the quality, reliability, and timeliness of information collected by observers, thus helping considerably towards the management of tuna stocks.
Until now, data reporting has been on paper, and has usually taken months or even years to be made available for analysis and review, but by seamlessly merging with other electronic systems, the eCDS should vastly improve the timeliness of data reporting. The systems make use of a Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS) tablet and Observer App.
The eCDS technology, designed by Australian firm Quick Access Computing, is being trialedalongside other electronic system based projects managed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), which is now working with electronic log sheets, overseeing an e-reporting longline project, and establishing e-reporting officers throughout SPC member countries.
International NGO WWF, which contributed to the financing of these systems, has welcomed the decision, stating that “this ground-breaking project exemplifies the PNA members’ progressive and proactive attitude toward achieving sustainability of the region’s highly lucrative and socially important tuna fisheries.”
One tuna trader, speaking to atuna.com, expressed his reservations: “You can record and monitor whatever you want, put a camera at every traffic light and connect it straight to the police station, the question is: 1.- Will you fine every violator and when? 2.- Will you collect the penalties? 3.- Will it be done in a fair, just and transparent manner? Once those procedures are guaranteed through legislation and manpower in place, with enforcement being executed swiftly, these tablets can be a powerful tool.”
He continued by stating that “as far as management is concerned, if these nations receiving catch data, also take it upon themselves to protect their stocks and do not wait for RFMOs to do it for them, there could be an advantage. But again, it all depends on well trained manpower available to analyze the data and PNA states to act on it swiftly. Otherwise it will be merely another nice toy.”