Caribbean Billfish Project to improve data collection
Grenada was one of 2 countries select to pilot the project
In 2016 over 900 tonnes of fresh tuna was exported to the USA
Deficiencies in data collection of pelagic fish landed in Grenada is now a thing of the past thanks to the Caribbean Billfish Project, a pilot project executed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The project, financed by the World Bank through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is aimed at reducing the billfish mortality and increase billfish stocks in the Caribbean through the development of business models for long-term sustainable management of fisheries.
As part of a series of actions implemented to protect these pelagic species from unsustainable harvests, the FAO from its assessment has identified that inefficient and archaic landings data collection methods of pelagic fish must be addressed in order to ensure their overall protection and conservation under the mandates of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Grenada became a member of ICCAT in 2017.
Grenada was one of 2 countries selected to pilot the project and with the assistance of consultant Keith Flett, a new technological system has been installed in 3 major fish landing sites on the island to ensure traceability and quality assurance in the fish supply chain.
The Southern Fishermen Association has benefitted from the installation of Insite Solution, before which data collection methods were largely paper-based.
Flett has spent the last few days in Grenada training fisheries officers and fishermen on how to operate the system which allows for a complete collection and integration of information on real-time landings.
Flett indicated that this technology would revolutionise the way information on fish landings are collected and utilised for fishery management and policy development. “This system allows better information to be collected at the point of landing, effectively and efficiently shared with buyers of the actual product, as well as the government to be able to look at what real-time production from the fishing vessels in Grenada looks like.”
Flett said traceability of fish landings is also very important in ensuring a sustainable fisheries sector in developing states. “What the system also does is that it integrates into supply chain traceability where countries like Europe and the United States have import laws which need to know exactly what vessels harvested what catch when the fish are being exported to them. So, this allows that process to happen more effectively and seamlessly.”
According to official statistics, in 2016 over 900 tonnes of fresh tuna was exported to the USA. However, over the years, fish export facilities such as the Southern Fishermen’s Association have lamented that bad fishing practices of fishermen have resulted in some landings unable to be exported due to quality controls issues.
Flett said this dilemma should be a thing of the past with this new system. “In a perfect system this information is then communicated to buyers in the US and the EU and for them to understand what’s coming in so that they can buy it faster and fill their supply chains. It also looks at the ice used on the boat to be able to get a good idea of the quality, and it also looks at what the condition of the product actually was when it was received to know if it is export quality.”
Comparing the old method of collecting data on fish landings, Flett said the system would improve the data system of the fisheries division to help guide policy decision within the marine sector. “With the old process, people will come in and land their fish, that fish will then be received, and then there will be reports that the government will fill out by hand where they will now have to type that data into the computer system. Now what happens is that information is now digitally recorded at the point of landing which can be collected by the fisheries division much faster.”
Roy Bealey, coordinator of the Caribbean Billfish Project, is particularly pleased with the outcome of the project in Grenada. “The ultimate aim of the project was to develop business cases that we can propose back to the World Bank, these business cases would have to have billfish conservation implications, and they have to be financially viable so that they can repay an investor. We are very excited over what we have achieved in Grenada. Through all the research we have done and the assessments, it seems we can decrease the billfish catch to match the quotas of ICCAT which is the ocean wide authority that Grenada is now a member of. So it seems we can comply with all of these regulations and at the same time make more money from the tuna overall.”
Acting Chief Fisheries Officer, Crafton Isaac along with Senior Fisheries Officer, Moran Mitchell were given a demonstration of the capabilities of the computerised system, and it has received their approval. “We have a similar system installed at Gouyave and at Grenville, what it does is that it digitises data collection and recording system, and as you are aware Grenada became a member of ICCAT and they have very strict demands for data, so this enhancement of our data system will allow us to become compliant with the data demands.”
ICCAT compiles fishery statistics from its members and all entities fishing for these species in the Atlantic Ocean, coordinates research, including stock assessment, on behalf of its members, develops scientific-based management advice, provides a mechanism for contracting parties to agree on management measures, and produces relevant publications.