New traceability tech to transform data collection for tuna fisheries
A ceremony on Monday, 8 August marked the official kickoff of a new Fisheries Information System (FIS) outfitted for the Maldives and spearheaded by the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF).
The database interface will equipped the Maldives’ one-by-one tuna fisheries with the latest tools to fulfill international traceability requirements in relation to catch and vessel reporting.
The FIS has been in the works since 2012 following the implementation the European Union regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), which was enacted as of 1 January, 2010. The E.U. regulation, along with the successful Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the skipjack tuna pole-and-line fishery in 2012, gave the Maldives incentive to provide sufficient fisheries capture data.
As a means to satisfy some of these new requirements, the Maldives Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture introduced logbooks and the requirement for fishermen to complete entries for every fishing trip, sending the data directly to the ministry. However, maintaining and implementing logbook software proved onerous for Maldives fishers, and so the decision was made “to build a new dynamic system capable of meeting the fisheries’ needs for many years to come,” said IPNLF.
“The Maldives has been one of IPNLF’s biggest priorities from the outset,” said John Burton, Chairman of IPNLF, at the launch event. "Originally our work focused on supporting the MSC certification of its pole-and-line skipjack fishery. Today, we’re working closer than ever with local fishing NGOs, government, scientists and the commercial industry to ensure the country’s traditional one-by-one fisheries continue to be managed as responsibly as possible, while providing sustainable employment for Maldivian fishing communities. Therefore, it was abundantly clear to us that a robust FIS was essential for safeguarding their futures as well as to capitalise on the huge international demand for sustainable one-by-one caught tuna.”
Support from IPNLF, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury and World Wise Foods helped to create the FIS system, with some of the backing going towards hiring a database specialist to work full-time at the Marine Research Centre of the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture to develop the system.
“Following four years’ development work, the catch Statistics, licensing, catch certification, fish purchase and transfer modules for the new FIS are now complete and fully live,” said Burton of FIS. “Crucially, as well as providing necessary assurances related to MSC certification, the data it provides is also sufficient for the reporting requirements of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, which is responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas.”
The FIS development work "certainly hasn’t stopped, it is being expanded to a second phase that includes automating catch reporting from fishing vessels, and we look forward to sharing details of that progress in due course,” Burton added.
The launch of FIS comes after a meeting held in July involving major fish exporters from the Maldives, where new modules and the new certification process were discussed, as well as a subsequent pilot trial of the certification process.