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Big Technological Step for Tracing Tuna Catches

Big Technological Step for Tracing Tuna Catches

In a world-first for tuna fisheries, real-time verification and validation of fish deliveries from sea to port is being actioned through an innovative electronic reporting platform.

WWF, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Pacific Community (SPC) are celebrating the implementation of this electronic reporting, which has put ruggedized tablet computers into the hands of fisheries officials in key landing ports around the Pacific. This approach, complemented by the new Observer eReporting App for on-board fisheries observers, will provide supply chain transparency and traceability in the Western and Central Pacific tuna fisheries.

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a persistent problem in the Pacific region. This new technology will directly address non-reporting, misreporting, and under-reporting, which represents the greatest proportion of IUU.

Through the recent SPC Tuna Data Workshop held in New Caledonia, 13 fisheries officials from nine Pacific countries were trained on the use of these devices that will provide real-time information on fisheries management in the Western and Central Pacific region. In these member countries, port inspectors are now being trained using SPC’s Tails application (an in-port data collection tool) and fishing vessel captains are being trained to use the OnBoard application (to electronically report effort and catch data).

“Getting timely and accurate verification and validation of catch records at the point of landing has always been extremely difficult with a paper-based record-keeping system, but now port inspectors can go to the dock and input information that will immediately be fed into management systems,” said Bubba Cook, WWF’s Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager.

“This technology links information collected in the vessel’s log book, the fisheries observer’s report and the port inspector’s report, making real-time electronic catch documentation and supply chain traceability a reality, rather than just a concept.”

“This electronic reporting technology is changing the game for fisheries management, and we need every tool available to ensure fisheries can operate more safely and transparently.”

Following the 2016 Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) Emerging Technologies Workshop (held in New Zealand), WWF and EDF joined forces to support the development and implementation of a Port Inspection Electronic Reporting System (PIERS) that would be combined with applications already under development by SPC (the regional scientific services provider) to provide for a single, durable hardware platform.

“It was a no-brainer for us to support this work,” said Sarah O’Brien, EDF’s Pacific Tuna Initiative Senior Manager. “Ruggedized tablets, and the associated technology, will support the move towards more efficient data collection systems, allowing fisheries managers to collect more timely and accurate catch and effort data.”

“We are very pleased to be able to roll out the Tails and OnBoard applications with WWF and EDF support,” said Malo Hosken, the Regional Electronic Reporting and Electronic Monitoring Coordinator for SPC. “This use of mobile technology has already enabled key improvements in data quality to inform management decisions by governments across the region.”

Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) Offshore Division Director, Tim Costelloe, said that MMR welcomed the introduction of the tablets to support the work of fisheries officers in the field.

“We are implementing electronic reporting across our entire commercial fleet in the next two to three years, and this emerging technology supports our work in accessing and verifying reports from vessels,” Mr Costelloe said. “We are also rolling out the same technology to our Pa Enua (outer islands) officers, to support the electronic reporting from local artisanal fishermen which, in turn, increases the data available to the Ministry and SPC for management purposes.”

After the exposure of human rights violations and other illegal activity in some seafood supply chains, seafood market interests are increasingly calling for improvements in transparency and traceability to reduce the risk of their brands being associated with such activities. It is expected that this initiative will lay the foundation for further rapid adoption of these technologies in the region, which are designed specifically to target improved transparency and traceability of seafood products.

Note to editors:

1 The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is a leading international non-profit organisation that creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect at

2 The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. It is an international development organisation owned and governed by its 26 country and territory members: American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. See

3 The Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) is responsible for the conservation, management and development of marine resources. Established in 1984, the Ministry's objective is to ensure the sustainable use of living and non-living marine resources for the benefit of the people of the Cook Islands. See

4 At the April 2017 SPC Tuna Data Workshop, held in Noumea, New Caledonia, 13 fisheries officials from nine member countries were trained on the use of the Tails and OnBoard applications. These staff will be training other fisheries officials in their respective countries who will be using the Tails application (for port sampling) and fishing vessel captains who will be using the OnBoard application (for e-logs). The member countries are: Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji and Solomon Islands.

5 What's next for this technology rollout? The Tails application will continue its first phase of testing with Fiji, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, and Tuvalu. An updated version is set to be released in August 2017 with the aim for a wider roll out to other member countries. The OnBoard application will continue its first phase of testing with five vessels in New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Cook Islands. An updated version is set to be released in August 2017 with the aim for a wider roll-out to other member countries and longline vessels.

6 With roughly 60 per cent of global tuna catches, the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is home to a variety of tuna species that supply markets around the world. Estimates have put the value of the fishery as high as $7.2 billion in recent years.

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