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June 2014 Issue

Safeguarding Inshore Fisheries with Mobile Data Collection
Ruby Gates

Ninety-seven percent of Earth's water is in the ocean, a resource that delivers about $3 trillion in value. For instance, wild fisheries' products are the world's most widely traded foods, delivering $230 billion to the global economy and serving as the primary protein source for 1 billion people.

Although the environmental movement was taking hold 40 years ago, the oceans were largely overlooked, and vast stretches of abuse, overuse and neglect continue. In the Solomon Islands, for example, many of the fishermen recognize that the fish they rely on are growing smaller in size and number. Fishermen must now stay out longer, use more hooks, and harvest undersize or spawning fish that would have previously been off limits.

Desiring sustainability, the Solomon Island Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) began working in cooperation with the Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to understand the effort, costs and management options of inshore fisheries, including supply-chain efficiencies.

To gather the data, surveyors initially used a cumbersome paper reporting system. They visited the markets, observed the types and sizes of reef fish being sold, and asked vendors everything from where the fish came from to what gear was used, and the asking price for their catch.

MFMR began investigating mobile technology for faster and more reliable systems. Through the CTSP program, MFMR partnered with marine technology company Point 97 to build 'Hapi Fis, Hapi Pipol,' a mobile app and Web-based platform built on Point 97's mobile data management technology.

Pronounced 'Happy Fish, Happy People,' near-to-real time data provided by the app enables fisheries managers to track harvest trends over time and assess the socioeconomic and biological impacts of any changes or fluctuations in fish populations.

Compared to an error-prone and inefficient paper-based system, the app optimizes processing time, improves accuracy for data entry, and minimizes resources and related costs to process data, creating cost efficiencies across the board. The app's search and query features enable instant access to data on both current and long-term trends.

With the app, fisheries managers are able to streamline the workflow of collecting, reviewing, aggregating and visualizing fisheries data to better inform decision making. The Hapi Fis interface can be accessed via mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer, enabling market surveyors to collect data from a variety of devices.

Point 97 provided app training and customization, empowering MFMR administrators to create and install data management tools. As their needs change, MFMR Hapi Fis administrators can add, edit, rearrange or group questions in different ways. Any changes in questions are immediately available to data collectors in the field. Information collected in the field is instantaneously transmitted back to managers via cellular or wireless connections, allowing the agency to analyze and generate useful, up-to-date reports on demand.

Taking a start-to-finish approach, Point 97 collaborated with USAID's government partners, assisted with mobile phone procurement, installed the software, and negotiated a public-private partnership with the Solomon Islands' telecom provider to host a virtual server supporting Point 97's mobile data management platform.

Through ongoing surveying, MFMR is able to learn more about market vendors, track harvest trends over time, and assess the socioeconomic and biological impacts of changes or fluctuations in fish populations.

The Hapi Fis program won the 2013 USAID Pioneers Prize in Science and Technology for design and application. It's also catching the attention of other Pacific Island and African nations keen to build more sustainable fisheries.

Even after USAID funding ends, government officials at MFMR can use the app as a long-term data collection and analysis tool, better informing decisions on how to decrease fishing in overly exploited areas, or enforcing seasonal closures during spawning.

The customizable Hapi Fis app provides an exciting example of how to develop and apply user-friendly mobile technology to conduct, capture and analyze survey data for use by decision makers. Point 97's mobile data management platform takes widely available technologies and bundles them into a system that automatically transmits, compiles and analyzes data for management decisions. The design of the mobile app architecture, surveys, database, and server requirements removes excessive research and development costs. It is designed to minimize maintenance costs and maximize the value for countries deploying the system. By providing near-to-real-time data to fisheries managers, Point 97 helps drive more strategic economic development and resource management worldwide.

Point 97 technologies are at work around the world. In the U.S. Mid-Atlantic, a multiuse Ocean Data Portal is providing a suite of customized technologies and services that allow stakeholders and decision makers to better understand regional ocean-planning priorities. In the U.S. West Coast, Point 97 is assisting tribes in assuming leadership roles in marine spatial planning efforts. In the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Digital Deck is replacing paper-based catch reports with fast, easy and accurate mobile data entry that enables real-time reporting and access to historical catch reports.

These digital data management tools show how technology can significantly inform marine planning decisions, while balancing biological, social and economic priorities. Visit pointnineseven.com to learn more.

Ruby Gates, CEO of Point 97, has more than 25 years of experience fusing thought leadership, creative analysis and technology to evolve unconventional solutions driving new-era business strategies. A serial entrepreneur, she charts new growth opportunities for Point 97, delivering strategies that impact ocean management efforts in conservation and marine spatial planning.


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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.