E-monitoring: potential game changer for managing Pacific longline tuna fisheries

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Longliners in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Electronic monitoring on board Pacific longline fisheries vessels targeting tuna in the Pacific has a huge potential for improving management of these fisheries.

This was one of the stated outcomes of the Pacific Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers’ meeting held last month.

E-monitoring uses video cameras, remote sensors, and satellites installed on fishing vessels to provide information on activities such as retained and discarded catch, bycatch (non-target species caught), location of catch, and movement of catch between boats.

“Observing, measuring, assessing and reporting what is happening with commercial fishing vessels at sea is critical for reducing IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing in the Pacific,” says Hugh Walton, the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Chief Technical Officer for the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2).

The Ministers at last month’s annual meeting (18–19 June) held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), tasked the FFA Secretariat with working with members to develop an electronic monitoring policy before its next meeting in 2020. This policy is to be developed in collaboration with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO) and Pacific Community (SPC) researchers.

Several PNA member countries have focused on e-monitoring of longline vessels since a workshop last year. This was driven by one of its members, FSM, committing to having 100 per cent of its longline vessels with e-monitoring by 2023.

E-monitoring is particularly important for longline fishing where there is a large number of vessels with limited space, making it difficult to have human observers on every boat.

Unlike purse-seine fishing, conditions on longline vessels are often very difficult, with cramped quarters, and boats can be at sea for many months at a time.

The Pacific purse-seine fishery has 100 per cent human observer coverage on vessels. However, e-monitoring could also complement the activities of observers on these boats.

With e-monitoring, different areas of the vessel can be monitored at the same time and operate 24-7. The images and data can be stored indefinitely and reviewed multiple times.

SPC has been working with the OFMP2 to trial and test e-monitoring. Listen to Principal Research Scientist, Neville Smith discuss the benefits of e-monitoring and how it can complement human observers.

SPC has also been trialling electronic reporting on fishing boats. Researcher Andrew Hunt talks about the benefits of e-reporting on the OFMP2 website, SustainPacFish.