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WWF-New Zealand: New Tech Is A Win-Win For Conservation And Fisheries

New Zealand’s inshore fisheries and marine conservation is about to fundamentally change with the rollout of cameras on boats.

Today, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced that Spark will be the vendor to implement electronic monitoring. This initiative will help secure sustainability of our fisheries through a combination of state-of-the-art cameras, software, and, in a world-leading first, unprecedented applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML).

“Spark is a new player to this space and we are interested in seeing what they will contribute to what has been a relatively closed market. It gives Aotearoa a bigger chance to punch above its weight in the technology space, and lead the Pacific towards greater sustainability and transparency in fisheries,” says Bubba Cook, Western & Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager for WWF-New Zealand.

This technology is relatively new, represents a significant operational change in our fisheries, and proposes to introduce a new era in fisheries management and sustainability.

“We believe cameras will not only have a huge, beneficial impact on marine conservation efforts, but it’s also likely to create substantial benefits for the industry, as well. First, it will level the playing field and require all vessels to be subject to the same rules and regulations. Second, it gives greater insight into the amount and type of species caught leading to better fisheries management. Lastly, with greater transparency and traceability, fishers can definitively demonstrate to consumers their products were caught sustainably and ethically,” continues Bubba Cook.

For the last five years, MPI has been engaged in a comprehensive outreach and consultation effort with all concerned stakeholders who will be affected by this change.

Bubba Cook explains, “As participants in this process, we can say with confidence that it was a methodical, inclusive, and supportive approach to ensure all voices have been heard. While change can be daunting to any industry, there is an opportunity here for the industry to capitalise on the ability to show consumers how, where, and by whom their seafood is produced.”

Cameras on Boats is the vital next step towards creating a fully transparent seafood supply chain. It will give our fishers the social licence to prove its reputation of accountability, responsibility, and sustainability.

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