Tech Companies, Academics, and Management Experts Convene to Develop Technological Solutions to Improve Fisheries Management in Southeast Asia

March 4, 2020 — In 2019, the Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) awarded two grants to organizations in Indonesia and the Philippines to develop innovative digital solutions to inform an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM). On March 4, 2020, USAID Oceans held the Second Joint Meeting of the EAFM Technical Advisory Team and Grantees. The meeting was an opportunity for USAID Oceans grantees—Mindanao State University Naawan Foundation for Science and Technology Development, Inc. (MSUNFSTDI) in the Philippines and Masyarakat Dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI)—to present updates regarding the development and testing of their digital solutions and for the EAFM Technical Advisers to share feedback to guide finalization of the software, analytical features, dashboards, and visualization tools. Attendees identified opportunities and next steps for EAFM Technical Advisers to support both grantees during the final stages of developing, testing, and launching their solutions. 

Representative from MDPI presents the their updated digital eCDT tool. Credit: USAID/JParks
Representative from MSUNFSTDI presents the their updated digital eCDT tool. Credit: USAID/JParks

To ensure the digital tools capture data and include features relevant to end users, both grantees developed digital platforms based on stakeholder consultations and the existing electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) systems in their respective countries. These informal meetings and face-to-face user testing with fishery managers helped the teams understand user needs and tailor their platforms accordingly.

The consultation workshops convened government fisheries management agencies, academic experts in fisheries management, USAID Oceans EAFM Technical Working Group members, and commercial fishing companies and small-scale fishers that have agreed to test the tools. “[We] reached out directly or met the fishery managers to solicit inputs from them,” said Mr. Wildan, lead developer from MDPI, during his presentation.

At the March meeting, the grantees presented  updates made to the digital solutions based on feedback received from Technical Advisors during the previous meeting held on November 5, 2019. The updates included improved analytic visualization, incorporation of additional key data elements, features showing time series production data, clearer platform architecture, and layered Fisheries Management Areas in dashboards. 

Sample of visualization developed by MSUNFSTDI.
Sample of visualization developed by MDPI.

Mr. Arcelio Fetizanan, CEO of Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprises (FAME), gave a brief presentation on FAME’s ongoing work with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) to scale eCDT tools piloted under USAID Oceans throughout the Philippines. FAME and WWF-Philippines are continuing to install on-board transponders to capture critical eCDT data on vessels in Occidental Mindoro and Lagonoy Gulf. These efforts are in line with local government interest in scaling up eCDT implementation in their jurisdictions. 

FAME CEO, Mr. Arcelio Fetizanan, presenting on FAME’s work with WWF-Philippines to scale up eCDT technologies.

EAFM Technical Advisers also identified specific issues and opportunities for the grantee’s digital solutions to better combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. These included the need to set different levels of user access for the platforms, to incorporate data validation features, to integrate the grantees’ eCDT tools with other existing databases and systems, and to explore mechanisms to incorporate data from unregistered fishers into their systems. In terms of management considerations, Technical Advisors underscored the need to plan for scale-up and further explore ways fisheries managers can use the data collected to inform management decisions.

Mr. Rene Acosta, a USAID consultant and fisheries expert, raised a number of questions to guide grantees’ way forward: “How do we do this in support of a transboundary fisheries management approach? What are the commonalities and differences between Indonesia and Philippines within the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape? This could be the basis of cooperation on what areas to work on in advancing the implementation of the sub-regional EAFM plan.” 

USAID Oceans Chief of Party, Mr. John Parks, concluded the meeting by recognizing the broad-scale importance of the innovative solutions being developed by grantees. He acknowledged that these tools improve safety at sea, expand market access, help secure necessary certifications, and enhance and digitize data collection. Mr. Parks emphasized that, after the grant period ends in April 2020, USAID Oceans “looks to grantees, BFAR, and MMAF to continue engaging with each other and to continue engaging experts from government and academe to further develop and scale-up innovative data solutions and to integrate these powerful tools with existing national eCDT systems.”