On-Board Observers Can Be Robotized?

The Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) require all tuna fishing vessels to carry observers on-board to watch their fishing operations.  In Sept., the Association of Professional Observers (APO, headquartered in the U.S.A.) and an environmental conservation group jointly called on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), urging to take the measures to improve working conditions and to secure safety of observers.

Fisheries observers play a critical role in ensuring the sustainability of fisheries resources for the future generations through the extensive information they collect on the harvest of fish stocks, including impacts on marine habitat and sensitive bycatch species,” the APO said. 

The APO further stated as a concrete example that “They also perform an extremely important monitoring function that helps deter and prosecute IUU fishing. Six tuna purse-seiners operated in the Pacific Ocean were charged for violation of regulations imposed by the WCPFC.  The evidence provided by the observers was the decisive factor that helped to conclude the final judgments and heavy fines against the vessel owners, and the fishing masters of the vessels were imposed.”

The observers involved in the recent prosecution should be commended for their courage and commitment to the resource. However, coming forward to testify against the IUU fishing vessels they were working on could have been a great personal risk,” APO said.  “Faced with deployments on board of fishing vessels that last weeks or even months, these observers are potentially subject to bribes, harassment, threats, intimidation, and even injury or death at the hands of captains and crew who fail to appreciate and to respect the observers monitoring and oversight role.”

To utilize finite resource sustainably, it is necessary for fishing managers to properly control the fishery and to work to prevent illegal fishing activities.  It also highlights the necessity of monitoring by observers.  Along with it, it may be unavoidable to increase the costs.  However, it should also be unavoidable to eliminate conflicts and emotional entanglement between crews and observers because an observer is also a human being.

Is it appropriate to keep depending on observers for monitoring?  I cannot help but doubt it. We may have to start developing new technology to robotize monitoring operations instead of by human being.  Such thoughts came up to me when I read about the earnest request forwarded by the APO.

Actually, new technology is being developed for a vehicle to travel to destinations by itself without any human touch.  It should also be possible to develop a robot observer.  In addition, limiting the monitoring function of the robot observers and combining it to catch reports which each vessel submits, effects of monitoring can actually be more improved.
(This is a translation from Minato Fisheries Daily of Japan.)  
Seafood Ecolabel and Tuna

Seafood Eco-label aims to ensure the sustainability of seafood through consumers' purchase decision. Many eco-labels compete with one another, asserting their own advantages.

It is an acceptable intent to promote sustainably managed fisheries through eco-label scheme, but it is inappropriate to apply the scheme to all fisheries. It is quite clear if we take tuna as an example. Highly migratory tuna is caught in many countries through various fishing methods. Even if a specific tuna fishery is certified as an eco-label candidate, the sustainability of this specific tuna resource can not be secured if other tuna fisheries do not observe the required international management measures for the specific tuna.

To conser ve and manage tuna resources for sustainability, all related countries and industries utilizing the resources need to cooperate to implement managing measures, and only by doing so, effective result should be attained. The sustainability is not attained through partial efforts by a single tuna fishing country or tuna fishing industry. This is why the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) is established in each ocean and takes responsibility on conservation and management of tuna resources.

Furthermore, tuna caught by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisher y should be kept out from all markets of the world all together. IUU fishery undermines the management measures implemented by the RFMOs and disturbs stock sustainability. Even if only a part of markets in the world keep out such illegal products, IUU fisher y can use the markets without any regulations to eliminate IUU products. Then, it is impossible to eliminate IUU fishery completely.

The use of seafood eco-label is left in the hands of distributors; therefore it is impossible to keep out all IUU tuna out of the world markets all together by the ecolabel. On the other hand, the RFMO identifies an IUU fishing nation when such country does not implement the management measures adopted by the RFMO. Then, the harvests by such country can be kept out of the markets of the world. If this mechanism is definitely functional, the sustainability of tuna resources can be secured.

The problem occurs when the RFMO loses or weakens its management capacity. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was once held in doubt with regard to its capability to manage Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, but it has successfully recovered its capability by implementing strict management measures.

Currently, the management capability of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is in question. Due to the difference of opinions between the distant water fishing countries and coastal island countries, the WCPFC has failed to stop overfishing of bigeye tuna stock.

At the upcoming annual meeting in December, the WCPFC needs to adopt an effective management plan to secure sustainable tuna resources in the areas it manages, while overcoming the difference of opinions among member countries. (This is an excerpt from the article in
Minato Fisheries Daily.)