The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) introduced electronic monitoring (also known as e-monitoring) in a number of fisheries from July 2015. E-monitoring comprises a series of digital video cameras and sensors on fishing boats designed to monitor fishing activities. In both the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (WTBF) and the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF), most boats have four cameras and sensors on hydraulic lines and line-drums. The sensors determine when fishing activity is taking place and trigger the cameras to start filming the fishing activity.

In previous BlueWater articles, AFMA has explained how the introduction of e-monitoring has improved the quality of self-reported logbook information. In this article, we will explore a report from an Australian National University (ANU) student who recently completed an internship at AFMA to study how e-monitoring has changed fisher behaviour and allowed AFMA to verify industry compliance with fishing rules.

ETBF e-monitoring review

The review of the first four years of e-monitoring implementation in the ETBF from 2015 found that there had been a substantial improvement in logbook reporting and improvement in compliance with various fishing regulations. It found that the logistical and technical aspects of the program face some challenges and could be improved. Overall, the report concluded that e-monitoring is a net improvement over the previous program of placing AFMA Observers on five per cent of fishing trips.

The review recommended that the e-monitoring program be modified to create incentives, such as reduced fees, for compliant fishers. It also recommended that AFMA more clearly articulate the goals of the program and provide more guidance to fishers to maximise video footage quality. The report also noted that advances in automatic recognition should continue to be investigated to count and identify fish caught by Commonwealth commercial fishers.

Overall, the review found that e-monitoring had improved confidence in data and enabled AFMA to make better informed management decisions, more consistently enforce regulations and provide individualised feedback to fishers. The review recommended to continue the program in the ETBF and consider expanding it to other fisheries. AFMA already uses e-monitoring in three other fisheries, including the Small Pelagic Fishery, and is intending to expand its use into several other fisheries in the near future.

The full report is on AFMA’s website.

AFMA is also making electronic logbooks (e-logs) compulsory in the ETBF during 2019. The current e-log software largely replicates the information collected in paper logbooks, but reduces data entry costs and increases timeliness.

Using technology in gamefishing data

Nowadays, nearly every mobile phone has a high quality camera capable of taking great videos. There is huge potential to utilise this technology to improve data collection in gamefishing. Video can be used to verify species identification.  It can also be used to document the life status of fish that are tagged and released, and potentially ensure tagging is conducted with best practice procedures.

With rapid advances in image recognition technology, the potential for video data to be used in the management of both commercial and recreational fishing is huge. Historically, data for recreational fishing outside of organised game tournaments has been difficult and expensive to collect. Going forward, mobile phone applications and cameras could record much more data about recreational catches than previously possible. For commercial fisheries with e-monitoring, it is likely that more video footage will be able to be reviewed in less time. AFMA is already working with CSIRO and others to develop this technology.

Technology should mean that much more data on commercial and recreational fisheries can be collected and analysed in the future. Better and timelier data should mean that fisheries managers have the information they need to make the decisions to ensure fisheries resources are managed sustainably into the future.

View the article printed in issue 140 of BlueWater Magazine.