By Tom Bicknell
South Australia’s Southern Rock Lobster fishers are the first to go fully digital for their government reporting requirements, with all 168 vessels in the fishery’s southern zone opting to submit data electronically for the 2016-17 season.
It is a voluntary decision by the fishers, made possible by two crucial elements: a software program they feel confident using, and the compatibility of that software with the state government’s data systems.
The Deckhand app has been developed by South Australian commercial Pipi fisher Tom Robinson, who is also a director of Real Time Data, a software company he founded with business partner Simon Dick.
Deckhand received FRDC funding in the early development phase and runs on Apple iOS devices. It allows fishers to capture data electronically even while out of range of the mobile phone network. It can record all the details of a fishing session, from path and pots to catch, time and location.
The first step in connecting the app to government reporting requirements began in 2012, when 22 boats in the Southern Zone of the South Australian Rock Lobster fishery began trials to refine the app.
In the following years the number of boats involved in the trial expanded, with fishers using both Deckhand and paper reporting simultaneously. The data submitted through the app was then used to test a new ‘back-end’ data system developed by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), known as eCatch, which has been launched this year.
PIRSA has also developed the Fisheries and Aquaculture Commercial Reporting app, as a free web-based connection to eCatch, which can be used by any of the state’s fishers and aquaculture producers as an alternative to paper-based reporting.
Electronic reporting – and the choice of app – remains voluntary, but executive officer of the South Eastern Professional Fishermen’s Association, Justin Phillips, says the Southern Zone rock lobster fishers plan to stick with Deckhand.
“The main advantage of electronic reporting is time,” he says. After fishers lodge paper reports, it can take up to a month for the information to appear on a consolidated database. Justin Phillips says all catch information will now be available almost instantly for use in fisheries modelling and management decisions.
He says the close working relationship between the developers and industry is behind Deckhand’s high adoption rate.
“There’s buy-in within the industry for this software because we’ve been closely involved,” says Justin Phillips. “We’ve invested not only the industry’s financial resources, but also fishers’ knowledge and their operational practices into tailoring the app and getting it right for our fishery.”
Tom Robinson says the app was initially developed for the Pipi fishery, but the trials in the Rock Lobster fishery have demonstrated its flexibility. “The way we’ve set the system up you’re recording a fish coming out of a net, or out of a pot, or off a long line. It’s all the same logic, it’s just that the interface needs to change to reflect the different fishing types.”
This adaptability has sparked the interest of other fisheries. Real Time Data has had interest from interstate and internationally, and is working closely with South Australia’s Northern Zone Rock Lobster fishers to adapt the app to their needs, particularly for multi-day fishing trips.
The universal adoption of an electronic data capture system in South Australia’s Southern Zone Rock Lobster fishery has also revealed opportunities to begin layering additional data. This could include record keeping for pre-start checklists for occupational health and safety, as well as capturing data from new technology such as Bluetooth callipers for measuring catch or ‘smart’ lobster pots that record environmental conditions.
FRDC Research Code: 2011-250
Tom Robinson, Real Time Data,
0427 262 553