13 October 2011

Using Fishermen to Catch Illegal Fishing

Sierra Leone and Liberia have two thought provoking methods of monitoring illegal fishing. The use of smart phones in Liberia is particularly interesting as it can give real time reports to the proper authorities. The question will be if they are used and what may come from such a system. Is there a chance that the fishermen will be paid off? Will they use on each other when doing small scale illegal fishing? Will they sell their phones for money in order to make a short term profit? Either way, the idea seems pretty neat and certainly something worth learning about.

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Sierra Leone has recently introduced a high-tech vessel monitoring system, or VMS, says Mr. Kabia, the fisheries minister. Once that system becomes fully operational, EJF’s community surveillance should be able to feed into it.

Similar work is underway in Liberia, where a World Bank-supported project has recently handed out smartphones to four communities along the coast. Snapping geo-tagged pictures with their new devices, the artisanal fishermen are able to send images in real time to government authorities, who can then dispatch vessels immediately or use the information to build a body of evidence against a particular ship.

Although governments here don’t always have the capacity to respond swiftly to such calls, there are signs that enforcement is getting better.

In July, for the first time ever, Liberia’s coast guard chased down and seized a vessel that had been fishing illegally in the waters off its coast. Owned by a Korean company called Inter-Burgo, the boat had been operating in in-shore areas, which are reserved for local fishermen. The government fined the company and suspended the vessel’s fishing license for six months.