Smart Phones Improve Both Fisheries Management And Consumer Choices

Several U.S. environmental organizations with the support of large philanthropic organizations are working to help countries around the world achieve better fisheries management, and increasingly they are using smartphones and technological innovations to empower fishers to decide where and when to fish in order to get the best price. Similarly, today consumers can use their smartphones to scan QR codes in the grocery store and learn about the origin of their fish and whether it was sustainably caught, thanks to a cloud-based blockchain service, which allows consumers to follow their tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean from boat to plate.

Why This Matters:  When fisheries management regulations and enforcement by the government are lax, sometimes the market can fill in the gap. Here, with the help of U.S. NGOs, fishermen and consumers are benefitted by technology that is now readily available on smartphones.  That is super smart.  And better fisheries management using this technology will help to ensure that healthy fish populations are maintained, feed 3 billion people and protect the livelihoods of more than 260 million, and as well as help fishers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Which begs the question, why is it taking so long for there to be widespread adoption of this technology by fishers here in the U.S.?

Tech Helping Make Fishing Smarter From Alaska to the Yucatan

Not surprisingly, smartphones are ubiquitous globally and thus provide an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective way to collect fisheries data in coastal communities. The World Wildlife Fund has developed an electronic fishing logbook app, or e-logbook, to help fishermen report their catch data and help fisheries managers better monitor the activity of fishing vessels and track the origin of seafood products — it is currently being tested in Ecuador and Chile. The app is simple to use —  fishermen to use their mobile phones to digitally record the date and time of each fishing trip—as well as the fishing vessel’s location and then submit it via the internet into a secure online database, where it is available in real-time for fisheries managers.  This information also helps the fisher to decide whether it is a good day in terms of prices to go fishing, or if it is time to stop fishing once their permitted catch limit has been reached.

In the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico, with help from the Environmental Defense Fund, Pelagic Data Systems devices have been installed on the fishing vessels — they use geo-tracking to demonstrate their commitment not only to good fisheries management but also to the conservation of endangered species in the region, such as the tiny vaquita porpoise which is hovering on the brink of extinction.   

Alaska’s cod fishery is testing an even more sophisticated system that is combining an electronic monitoring system with computer vision technology and machine learning (an application of artificial intelligence that allows systems to learn from their own feedback), to help the cod fishers to avoid overfishing Pacific halibut, a high-value species in the region.

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