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User-friendly Technology Can Help Small Fishers Get Ready for Big Business

User-friendly Technology Can Help Small Fishers Get Ready for Big Business

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The collection of accurate, reliable data is particularly important in 2 key areas of fisheries management: providing science as basis for relevant policy, and positively determining whether a fishery is operating legally. Such data for any fishery can help bring the operation to a higher level of environmental performance that may qualify it for certification, thus opening up a larger market of buyers committed to purchasing only seafood harvested the “responsible” way.

A fisherman prepares his handline fishing gear. (Photo by: © WWF Coral Triangle Programme / Alanah Torralba)

A fisherman prepares his handline fishing gear.
(Photo by: © WWF Coral Triangle Programme / Alanah Torralba)

What happens, however, when a fishery—particularly small, community-based operations in developing countries—has neither the resources nor the technical know-how to build up its database just yet?

In 2010, WWF launched a Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP), designed as a means for small-scale operations to progress. The same year, FIPs were implemented in Lagonoy Gulf and waters of Occidental Mindoro in the Philippines to raise standards for small yellowfin tuna handline fisheries exporting to Switzerland and the Netherlands.

When the European Commission began to require full documentation of all seafood entering the continent, however, as part of a worldwide effort against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) catch, the Philippine FIP sites’ lack of a database, as well as of a foolproof documentation system, made it impossible to comply with European Union (EU) standards.

Earlier attempts by the country’s main regulatory agency, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), to issue Simplified Catch Certificates (SCC) proved insufficient and challenging when it came to ensuring the legality and origin of exported tuna. This is because all information on boats, fishers, and legality of fishing operations is under local, not national, jurisdiction, and certificates are only issued at the national level.

Technology to the rescue

Fortunately, a user-friendly technology has come to the rescue. In 2012, Dr. Jose Ingles, WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme coordinator for Fishery Improvement Projects and Policy, met with Alan Steele, CEO of Traceall Global Ltd., and agreed to develop an electronic Catch Documentation System (e-CDS). The e-CDS stores all the necessary information, from the legal status of a fishing operation and fishing method used, to volume and origin of catch; is traceable and tamper-proof; and allows for easy data access and entry, records updating, and document verification and validation.

“The e-CDS is meant to address 2 important goals,” Ingles says. “First, it forms the basis for verification and validation of documents for traceability required for all exports to the EU. Currently, for the tuna handline catch, there is no documentation system, and information regarding veracity of catch and legality of source is simply certified by the buyers. So, there is a lot of room for abuse.

“Secondly, the e-CDS addresses the need to collect very important scientific fisheries data, which will be fed into the overall stock assessment, and which can guide policy locally, nationally, and regionally. Operational data such as catch, effort, location, and seasonality are important parameters to guide such policy.”

Key people in the supply chain will be trained on the use of the e-CDS. Buyers or “casa” representatives can quickly enter data at the landing sites, data which will eventually be consolidated by representatives from public fisheries agencies. BFAR and local government officials will have full access to the database of boats and fishers to verify records and check the validity of licenses and registration. Local processors and buyers can peruse fish catch reports, see what was caught, and check if the fishers who caught them are operating within the law.

(Posted in WWF-Global on 17 February 2015. Read the full story.)

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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