The Pew Charitable Trusts
Management bodies are developing standards to improve and harmonize oversight
Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) are collectively responsible for managing most of the world’s highly migratory fish populations, including tunas, which are worth US$40 billion a year at the final point of sale. To ensure that these international fisheries are sustainable, RFMOs need reliable data on catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and compliance with regulations. Although human observers on board vessels have been the main source of key independent fisheries data, many fisheries still don’t have sufficient observer coverage to generate the data that scientists need to make informed recommendations to RFMOs.
COVID-19 has further complicated these efforts, as many RFMOs barred observers from vessels to protect worker health and slow the spread of the virus. Fortunately, this change has catalyzed efforts to fill those data gaps with electronic monitoring (EM) programs. EM systems—usually a central computer connected to onboard gear sensors and video cameras—allow authorities to monitor and record a vessel’s activity remotely. And properly designed EM programs ensure that the collected information can be effectively transmitted, analyzed, stored, and shared.
As fisheries managers, scientists, and other stakeholders increasingly recognize the need to gain a more comprehensive look at fishing activity, EM offers a cost-effective solution to scale up monitoring coverage and ensure that future disruptions to observer coverage do not erode oversight and management of international fisheries.
Photo courtesy Pew Charitable Trusts