By: Anthony Q. Jiffan, Jr.
The Communities for Fisheries project will on today, Thursday, October 28, 2021 launch a smartphone application which will allow small-scale fishers to gather evidence against industrial vessels fishing illegally in the Liberian waters.
The app provides a simple, user-friendly program that can help fishing communities rid their waters of the illegal vessels that threaten their livelihoods.
The initiative is Co-funded by the European Union, the Communities for Fisheries project is led by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) in partnership with the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) of Liberia.
According to an Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) release, Eighty percent (80 %) of Liberians rely primarily on seafood for protein, and fishing communities rely solely on fishing for their livelihoods. Illegal fishing is considered one of the major threats not just to food security of the people in Liberia. It also threatens the very existence of fishing communities. Over the past years, the Liberian government has stepped up efforts to curtail illegal fishing, yet financial constraints have been a major impediment to monitoring and enforcement of laws, as a result, some trawlers have been evading the system.
The release noted that with the smart phone application, small-scale fishers can become part of the solution.
The EJF statement revealed that local fishers report a sharp decline in the quantity of fish over the last two years, with some varieties now completely absent from their catch, indicating that they spend over 12 hours fishing and come home with less than a kilogram of fish for their families.
“When a vessel is spotted illegally fishing, or damaging canoes or gear, the user simply opens the app – called Dase and based on the Collect software platform, takes a photo of the boat with its name or identification number showing, and records the location” the statement furthered.
The release said the app does the rest by uploading the report to a central database, where the evidence can be used by the government to arrest and sanction the perpetrators.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) noted that the app has been specially designed for small-scale fishers, the storage space needed on the phone is minimal, and, if the fishers are out of reach of internet connection, the evidence will be automatically uploaded as soon as connection is restored.
The application allows for additional information, such as videos, to be added to the entry, yet all that is required in the first stage is a photo and location, which can be logged quickly and easily at sea. The project also distributed waterproof pouches to protect fishers’ phones to ensure that the phones are not damaged in the process.