We spoke with Brett Alger, NOAA Fisheries and Lisa Borges, Fish Fix, co-chairs of ICES Working Group on Technology Integration for Fishery-Dependent Data (WGTIFD), on the timeliness of this new group.
Electronic technologies (ET) work by incorporating anything from cameras, gear sensors, GPS (the three components of electronic monitoring), and electronic reporting into fishing operations. “There's a lot of interest in developing electronic technologies for fisheries data collection", states Alger, “reducing costs, timeliness, and accuracy are a few driving factors. And there is a lot of development and implementation of different technologies, both for reporting and monitoring, going on around the world. However, each region or fishery has different approaches and technology applications and this leads to various challenges."
Members of the newly created group felt that this provided the ideal opportunity to come together and learn more about what others are doing. What are they collecting? What are the challenges? What have been their successes? The group's membership has a good mix of perspectives: technology service providers, academic and governmental marine institutions, and non-profit environmental organizations, who will use the group as a forum for exchanging information and sharing relevant technical applications and policy. The group's aim is to approach ET in a more systematic and strategic way to harmonize how data is collected and used for fisheries management and science globally.
Do we understand each other?
There are different ways to collect the same data element. Location, for example, can be recorded in a logbook program, by an observer, or through a GPS system. WGTIFD wants to explore the trade-offs with self-reported information and independently monitored information and explore how the different data can be used - whether for enforcement, science, management, business applications, traceability, or the variety of other reasons that people are collecting data.
The chairs point out the starting point for the group was clarifying definitions. “The term electronic monitoring means different things to different people based on their experiences. Electronic reporting, electronic monitoring, data, video, data, metadata, all these different terms get thrown around so it has been important to set a foundational vocabulary so we understand each other when we say certain things."
WGTIFD plans to establish a good working relationship with a number of other ICES groups. For example, they will work with the new working group on machine learning in marine science (WGMKLEARN), set up to identify trends and future needs and promote the use of relevant machine learning technologies.
Some data do not require a person to manually record it because for example a gear sensor can provide the information automatically. This is where the group looks to machine learning and advanced techniques of retrieving and analyzing data without as much human intervention as in the past. If you simply put cameras on a boat but then ask a person to review the video after the trip, you haven't made a lot of savings as you're still using a lot of human time to process and analyze data. Applying machine learning techniques to rapidly analyze data can bring down costs and that can do certain things for you.
The group is also interested in the upcoming Workshop on Science with Industry Initiatives (WKSCINDI) as they feel there will be many shared synergies, for example implementing incentives for participation in programmes. While a lot of fisheries around the world have partial observer coverage, to go from 1% observer coverage (in the EU) to 100% monitoring represents a big cultural shift for fishers. The group wants to explore incentives for fishers to adopt technologies in a voluntary fashion as opposed to using enforcement. Are there opportunities for deregulation for fishers that are fully monitored? Will fully traceable and independently monitored fisheries result in higher prices at the docks for fish sales? Maybe fisheries get MSC certification because they are participating in some programmes.
“What we want to do is build a tool box", explains Borges. "Therefore, if you are a brand new monitoring programme or a new fishery, or even if you have an existing programme, how do you improve? Can you use cameras for collecting monitoring data and refocus observers for biological sampling? Can you shift away from human observers to cameras? Can you shift away from paper logbooks to electronic reporting? Can you automate some of your data collection away from manual entry? We will present the types of data that you can collect with certain tools and the considerations you should make when deciding which tools to pick. We're hoping in the next year to open up the toolbox, which we are trying to fill right now."
The work carried out by WGTIFD relates to our science priority on emerging techniques and technologies. This priority emphasizes horizon scanning, testing, developing, and where appropriate harnessing new and emerging techniques and technologies that have the potential to progress the ICES vision and mission; with an emphasis on data gathering, processing, and interpretation.
Read more on ICES science priorities.
Members of ICES Working Group on Technology Integration for Fishery-dependent Data (WGTIFD) at their first meeting in ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen.