New Electronic Monitoring System Improves Tuna Effort and Catch Data in the Pacific

A new electronic monitoring system, called the Onboard e-Reporting app – developed to improve the accuracy of tuna catch data, reduce the occurrence of unreported and unregulated fish stock, and maintain safety of on-board observers – is being tested in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

The Onboard e-Reporting app was developed by The Pacific Community (SPC), a regional scientific and technical organisation, in order to allow ship captains to electronically report effort and catch data. The organisation is focused on ensuring a more sustainable fishing industry, so that Pacific people can benefit from sustainable economic development and live long and healthy lives.

The Integrated Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS), has developed a corresponding Observer e-Reporting App, to be used by on-board fisheries observers in the same region. This app will directly address non-reporting, misreporting, and under-reporting of fish caught, an issue that is prevalent in the Pacific Ocean.

Both apps have been developed in response to persistent reports of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which results in an annual loss of US $600 million in the western and central Pacific region. The use of the e-Reporting apps is expected to expand across the Pacific, in a bid to crack down on those exploiting the region, an area well-known for its diverse range of tuna species that supply markets around the world.

At present, both apps are being tested by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a regional body that manages shared tuna resources. The primary aim of using electronic reporting of tuna catch is to ensure a sustainable fishery and to better inform fisheries managers, so they can maintain viable populations of both tuna species and the surrounding habitat.

The e-Reporting apps document and electronically report efforts and catch statistics on the number, composition, and size of fish caught by commercial fishing boats; this data is digitally collected by a boat’s crew, skipper, or on-board observer and transmitted directly to officials via satellite. This method allows them to easily collect catch data and adjust management actions accordingly.

At present, a paper-based record-keeping system is in place, which has been a standard practice in commercial fisheries for years. However, there can sometimes be up to a two-year delay between data collection and when it is available to the fisheries management system. Over the coming years, it is anticipated that this pen and paper method system will eventually be replaced by the app; this will dramatically speed up data collection, link the information present in the vessel’s log book, the fisheries observer’s report and the port inspector’s report, and ensure compliance with fishing regulations.

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