Tech so­lu­tions to tackle over­fish­ing, abuse at sea

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Fish­ing boats used high-tech sys­tems to find vast schools of fish for decades, de­plet­ing stocks of some species and lead­ing to the com­plete col­lapse of others. Now more than a dozen apps, de­vices and mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems aimed at track­ing un­scrupu­lous ves­sels and the seafood they catch are be­ing rolled out - high­tech so­lu­tions some say could also help pre­vent la­bor abuse at sea.

Il­le­gal fish­ing, which in­cludes catch­ing un­der­sized fish, ex­ceed­ing quo­tas and cast­ing nets in pro­tected ar­eas, leads to an es­ti­mated $23 bil­lion in an­nual losses, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions. Mean­while, over­fish­ing close to shore has pushed boats far­ther out, where there are few laws and even less en­force­ment to pro­tect work­ers from abuse. Slav­ery has been doc­u­mented in the fish­ing sec­tors of more than 50 coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to US State De­part­ment re­ports.

Ear­lier this year, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said us­ing tech­nol­ogy at sea could even­tu­ally mean “there is not one square mile of ocean where we can­not pros­e­cute and hold peo­ple ac­count­able...”

How­ever, Phil Robert­son, deputy Asia di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, cau­tions that catch­ing hu­man traf­fick­ers goes be­yond find­ing boats. “Tech­nol­ogy is all about know­ing where the fish­ing boats are on the ocean, but that does pre­cious lit­tle for crews be­ing phys­i­cally abused and worked to the bone on those ves­sels,” he said.

Here are some emerg­ing tech so­lu­tions:


Non­profit anti-traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion Pro­ject Is­sara is tap­ping into near-ubiq­ui­tous smart­phones with an app that al­lows Burmese and Cam­bo­dian mi­grant work­ers around the world to share in­for­ma­tion about their work­ing con­di­tions. Their re­views reach non­prof­its, gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses which can mon­i­tor and learn from the feed­back. Com­bined with a new mul­ti­lin­gual hot­line, victims of la­bor abuses have a safer, dis­creet way of seek­ing help.


A worker runs a gad­get over a fish just af­ter it’s pulled from the boat, giv­ing it a bar code that cre­ates a per­ma­nent record of where it was caught. It’s a sim­ple swipe with pro­found po­ten­tial. Thomas Kraft at Nor­pac Fish­eries Ex­port es­tab­lished one of the in­dus­try’s first bar-code sys­tems that give each fish a tag that can pro­vide de­tails about lo­ca­tion, boat, species, and weight. He’s been us­ing the tech­nol­ogy in lo­ca­tions world­wide and says it could eas­ily be ex­panded to in­clude crews on in­di­vid­ual boats to help fight against la­bor abuse. —AP

In this Sept 28, 2016 photo re­leased by the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy, a long­line tuna boat pre­pares for their next fish­ing trip in Palau. Cam­eras are record­ing ev­ery­thing that comes over the rail and onto the deck of a few dozen tuna boats loaded with mo­tion sen­sors and GPS sys­tems in the western Pa­cific Ocean. — AP

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