Report Synopsis

Fishers should be encouraged to collect data. Lots of it! Using tablet-based technologies to collect data in commercial and recreational fisheries

Tom Robinson

In a world where the general population relies so heavily on smartphones and tablets to perform day to day tasks such as banking or checking the weather, the commercial fishing industry has been stubbornly slow to adopt electronic reporting in their businesses.

As a consequence, fishing regulators around the world are forcing industry to move toward electronic reporting, often against their will. In many cases, regulators are reverting to tactics such as charging for paper-based submissions in an attempt to force this change. Even this rather blunt approach has failed to meet its objective, with many operators hanging on to paper for as long as they possibly can.

This report explores the reasons behind this reluctance to embrace the move to electronic reporting, noting that the very fishers who are hanging onto their paper, moved as members of the general public to electronic banking and online bookings years ago.

The reasons behind their decision to avoid reporting electronically are many and varied. Ironically, none are linked to the fishers’ belief that there are technical challenges stopping them from making the move, with all those interviewed feeling comfortable that if their banking is secure, their fishing data should be secure at a technical level.

The real insight of this report relates to a perceived risk by the fishers that recording their fine scale data, which is really their intellectual property (IP), is putting their businesses at risk. They are fearful that once data is collected it can be accessed by other stakeholders (principally government agencies) and potentially used against them for things like marine parks or quota reductions.

This report demonstrates that if industry started collecting its own data, it would be in a stronger position to have meaningful dialogue with those stakeholders who ultimately manage their fisheries. All stakeholders would benefit from the greater transparency that well managed, secure data could provide, starting from the decision to open the fishery by the regulator, through to the person who ultimately consumes the catch.

Can the fishing industry continue to hide its data because of a perceived risk of the government using it against them? Or, does industry and the fisheries regulator, need to get smarter about how they use data to sustainably manage fisheries into the future.

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