Monitoring Community Based Fisheries Management goes digital

Monitoring Community Based Fisheries Management goes digital

Gathering accurate information about the different species of fish and seafood that communities in Pacific nations rely upon has been a challenge for many years.

For the past three years, the community-based fisheries management (CBFM) unit at Vanuatu Fisheries Department (VFD) has been trialling a catch monitoring survey protocol in 5 communities across Malampa, Shefa, Sanma and Tafea provinces. These surveys were done on paper format to capture data on fish caught by men and women fishers in communities. Starting from this year, VFD is advancing this to a digital format of monitoring.

“Identification and measurement of a fish were done manually, however, this new protocol has been digitised to cater for providing real time data,” VFD’s Community-Based Fisheries Management Data Coordinator, Abel Sami said.

This year VFD has been working together with the South Pacific Community (SPC) and the University of Wollongong through the Australian government funded Pathways project. This collaboration is improving ways to survey community fisheries and return that information to the communities so that they can assess and adjust the way they management their fisheries.

“This new catch monitoring tool uses a digital tablets to take photos and collect information on community catches. Each fish that is photographed using the tablet, is uploaded and then automatically identified and measured by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system coordinated through the SPC,” Sami said.

There is great interest in integrating the digital catch monitoring tool into VFD operations, and the VFD Research Unit is co-funding catch monitoring operations alongside the CBFM unit. “The output of these surveys will help further understand community-fisheries and showcases species of importance that these communities rely on daily. Hence, the monitoring system will aid VFD to understand performance of coastal resources at community level, area council level and provincial level and feed into national policy,” said Pita Neihapi, CBFM unit leader. From the 9 th to the 11 th of August, a total of 18 data collectors, made up of 7 community representatives and 12 VFD observers, were trained on how to use this monitoring tool. They will be deployed for two weeks from 14th of August to conduct the first ever trials of this new technology.

As part of the training, the team visited Takara community to trial out the new tool, drawing much local enthusiasm.

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Vanuatu Fisheries Department
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