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.)  

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