Under the MOU, an e-reporting officer will be employed at the Cook Islands Fisheries Field Office (CIFFO) in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to begin the trials with one of the Cook Islands-flagged longline fishing fleets.
E-reporting is the electronic recording of data in the field by vessel captains, crews and fisheries officers.
SPC Principal Fisheries Scientist Peter Williams, who was in Rarotonga this week as a member of the technical working group for the fisheries Quota Management System (QMS) meetings, says the e-reporting programme recognises the move throughout the Pacific region towards implementing new technology for the tuna industry and fisheries authorities.
“Data is important for science, and this will allow for a much more accurate picture of fish stock status, which has really been the impetus for this programme,” says Williams.
SPC is the region’s principal technical and scientific organisation that provides technical, scientific, research, policy and training support.
Williams says funding was sought from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation to help cover the costs of employing e-reporting officers.
“The Foundation was keen to push this programme forward because we know that science that looks at the status of fish stocks in a timely manner is critical for fisheries management.”
The Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are also currently running trials under the e-reporting programme.
SPC has already employed a regional electronic reporting coordinator for the vessel and observer e-reporting trials.
The programme aims to improve quality and timeliness of the data available for science, compliance, and management, and to enhance and streamline reporting obligations.
MMR director of offshore fisheries Andrew Jones says the trial will enable the ministry to speed up the transfer of catch data from the port in Pago Pago to Rarotonga, reduce the labour-intensive data input process, and build capacity for the CIFFO.
“One of the smaller fishing fleets has agreed to start trialling the e-log system and the new officer will be training the captains of the vessels in its use.”
Each vessel will have an electronic monitoring programme installed which contains a log sheet that can be filled out by the captain each day.
“Initially the data will be downloaded at the end of each trip and transmitted to the appropriate authorities who can then automatically input the data packages into our existing databases.”
In future captains will likely be required to send the data to the authority while the vessel is at sea providing for real-time data collection.
The proposed QMS for the longline fleets will rely on real-time data to monitor catch limits, making e-reporting an important step in improving fisheries management measures.
Jones says because CIFFO is a sub-regional field office, other countries they work with may also benefit from the training and resources that will be available through the e-reporting programme.