With an average wing-span of over 3m, the Antipodean Albatross is one of the world’s most spectacular, but critically endangered birds. One of the main catalysts for their waning population is by-catch on commercial fishing vessels. Fisheries New Zealand has successfully tendered a company to develop the electronic automated reporting system (EARS) solution, which monitors and verifies compliance with mitigation tools, ensuring fishers are following the law and minimising the risk of harming seabirds.
The mitigation monitoring system uses robust sensor technology already tried and tested across a range of industries and applies it to the high seas in a new configuration, focusing mainly on night setting, streamer lines and line-weighting. Comparing this solution to pre-existing ones, William Gibson from Fisheries New Zealand explains the benefits of the EARS approach. “Other possible solutions researched in the past use a gigabyte worth of data and tell us less. This is megabytes and tells us more”. The current monitoring method used is human observers, however, the coverage is below 5% in international waters, this poses many health and safety risks as well as being cost heavy.
Department of Conservation Seabird Researcher Dr Igor Debski explains:
“The EARs solution could play a critical role in demonstrating mitigation compliance and would prove the industry is addressing the bigger problem of seabird mortality”. Using technology such as blockchain and GPS tracking, this development would not have been possible without applying new ways of solving problems pioneered by Creative HQ’s GovTech Accelerator programme.”
The initial concept for EARS was prototyped during the GovTech Accelerator, an innovation programme for the public sector run by Wellington company, Creative HQ. During the programme, the MVP was prototyped and tested to ensure it was fit-for-purpose and solving a real problem. Doing this process resulted in a successful RFP and reduced the cost to the tender by an estimated $360,000.
William Gibson from Fisheries New Zealand described the simplicity of the solution as key in determining its success. “The beauty of [EARS] is that it is simple, but the info that it creates is invaluable”.
Janice Molloy from Southern Seabird Solutions Trust explained that “consumers are increasingly wanting to know their fish has been caught without harming marine wildlife. So EARS will allow fishers to prove they are using the required fishing practices to keep albatrosses safe. The GovTech Accelerator provided the creative environment and support to come up with this innovative idea”.
It is hoped that the solution will be live by mid-2021.