A very exciting project is underway involving a review of the current Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) demersal catch systems to incorporate the use of electronic logbooks. This project seeks to streamline the capture of fisheries data used to assist and inform stock assessments for key marine species in South Africa.
The current method involves skippers who fill in paper logbooks at sea during a fishing trip. DAFF data capturers then digitally record each logbook submitted at the end of each month, which usually occurs up to 59 days after landing. In the years 2000 to 2016, 3,402 trips were made on 146 active vessels, where the total numbers of drags were 58,904. All this data, which is captured for the hake trawl (deep sea and inshore), midwater trawl and hake longline fisheries, is captured by four data capturers. Additionally, often paper logbooks are incorrectly completed and some are also illegible because of poor handwriting.
The RFA, through I&J, together with DAFF are in the process of trialling an electronic logbook system, which is comprised of 3 parts:
- Software to record the data electronically while at sea: Through the in-house I&J system, all data is recorded at the push of a button with the start and again at the end of each trawl. Catch estimates are captured into a form on the screen. I&J are trialling this system and have received very positive feedback from their skippers.
- Specifications on the format of a text file used to submit data via email: This is already agreed and being tested with I&J. Once successful, the opportunity will be offered to other industry members to also provide electronic data in this format.
- An upload tool to populate the front end of the database with data: This upload tool has already been developed and once the last permissions are obtained will be trialled in this pilot.
During the pilot, the following is envisaged:
- I&J will submit a manually completed paper logbook in addition to a printed hard copy version of the electronically populated data as well as email a text file containing the data for each trip;
- The manually completed logbook will be captured into the database as is currently done while the electronic data will be uploaded into a test database; and
- Direct comparisons between the two can be made to confirm the benefits of the project.
The long-term benefits of this project are expected to be as follows:
- More accurate and efficient data capture;
- Reduced physical storage space requirements for paper logbooks;
- Allowing data capturers to further validate and perhaps start basic analyses of the data; and
- Providing closer to ‘real time’ data for management and stakeholders.
This is novel in this industry, especially as the increasing move away from paper and into the digital space becomes largely important to remain relevant, collaborative and progressive. On conclusion of the pilot project with I&J, the RFA will look at ways to promote the broader rollout of electronic logbook system.