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Every year, the Pacific government fisheries agencies have to provide a report to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). This information is included in data summaries at the annual WCPFC Scientific Committee meeting.
It’s a big job, and to help countries put together these reports, the Pacific Community (SPC) has developed a set of Country Web Pages for each member country. The main focus of the pages is on producing graphics for inclusion in reports and presentations.
Steven Hare of SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program provides data and information for the Country Web Pages (CWPs) through his role with the Oceanic and Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2).
He says they give countries easy access to nicely formatted graphics that they can use for reports and take to meetings. Access is guarded by a password, so confidential information is carefully protected.
“The web site has dedicated pages, one per country,” Dr Hare says. “Each one includes all the commercial catch data, all the observer data and it’s properly formatted and displayed in a variety of readable and simple graphs.
“It simplifies the whole job of producing colourful, accurate and attractive reports.”
Each of the member countries has a password-protected unique portal accessible only to their country’s data and plots. The focus of the CWPs is on producing graphics for inclusion in reports and presentations, but the data for many of the plots can also be exported as spreadsheets (.csv files). The data and plots are updated roughly four times per year.
In addition to the plots and data, the CWPs provide access to many country-relevant reports produced at SPC over the years (e.g., on FAD-closures, oceanographic effects, bycatch value and seasonality).
The main source of information for the CWPs is the commercial data from the main fisheries: purse seine, longline, and pole and line. The site provides a summary of statistics of each of these different fisheries.
Dr Hare says the data is regularly updated and displayed spatially so that fishing nations can see not just the catch data but also useful information such as data from observers and the fishing hotspots.
“Having data from different sources gives us a check on the commercial data and provides additional information not included in information from the commercial vessels. The vessels tend to report only the catches of the important tuna species,” he says.
The observer data provides bycatch information as well as information on the species of special interest, the SSIs, like turtles and sharks and seabirds caught in fishing operations.
“Because the commercial vessels don’t retain these species of special interest they don’t report them, but there’s a lot of interest in the catch of these other species by non-government organisations. And it’s important to fishing nations if they want certification as a sustainable fishery, something many buyers are looking for,” Dr Hare says.
The Country Web Pages give Pacific countries immediate access to information that they need in advance of them pursuing marine stewardship certification.
“It gives them a handle on what’s actually going on. They can already access a lot of this data through our other databases but some of our summaries are pretty complex and it’s not so easy to read. The Country Web Pages give them easy access to nicely formatted graphics that they can use for reports and scientific meetings,” he says.
But given the ease of access and the amount of useful information they contain, Dr Hare is surprised fishing nations do not make more use of the Country Web Pages.
“I think they’re under-used, considering the amount of work that goes into them and the value of the data,” he says.
“There have been cases where people have come to us and asked if we can give them information on fishing matters, and we’ll show them the access to their webpages. They’re pleasantly surprised at the amount of information that’s already there.”
He says people forget how good the pages are. This might be a consequence of staff turnover, and passwords that get lost as people move on.
“These Country Web Pages do provide a one-stop shopping experience for all the fishery data that’s been collected for individual countries,” he says. “They are a great help when countries are preparing what’s called a Part 1 report for the annual Western Central Pacific Fishery Commission meetings, because they summarise the catch and the bycatch of SSIs and the amount of fishing effort taking place in their zone”.
Steven says that countries have an obligation to provide these reports for the WCPFC meetings.
“They can get all that information directly from the Country Web Pages we provide if they choose to do so. The other option is for them to make their own summaries, obtain the data if they wish, but we’ve actually provided them with the tools to go right directly to the Country Web Pages and get everything that they need.”
He says he hopes countries will make more use of the Country Webpages. To encourage wider use, SPC have begun to include a training session on them in their stock assessment workshops.
The data available on the individual country pages varies from country to country and depends on what is available but might include up to 60 different categories. Below is a sample of 10 of these categories:
- Total catch of target species by gear
- Total catch of target species (all catch within EEZ and national catch outside EEZ)
- Total catch by target species (all catch within EEZ)
- Longline fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
- Purse seine fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
- Pole and line fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
- Longline fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
- Longline fishing effort – total aggregated within EEZ, by year
- Purse seine fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
- Purse seine fishing effort – total aggregated within EEZ, by year
- Pole and line fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
Pacific Island Countries and Territories can use their passwords to access their country’s confidential data and reports at: http://www.spc.int/OFPMemberCountries
The contact person at SPC to obtain the country user name/password is
Emmanual Schneiter – firstname.lastname@example.org.