Fisheries app to cross ocean divide

Fish Talk in use by fisheries officers from the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has launched a free app to help fisheries officials around the Pacific overcome the language barrier while inspecting foreign fishing vessels at sea and in port.

Senior Manager for Foreign Compliance Operations and AFMA spokesperson, Brendon Rayner elaborated on ‘Fish Talk’ during an interview with Islands Business.

Rayner said the Fish Talk app is a cutting-edge tool developed by fisheries officers for their colleagues to use when carrying out inspections, putting resources in one place, at their fingertips.

The app features almost 200 technical translations of key phrases that fisheries officers may use, both in written and spoken form, for five languages: Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish. And it translates these phrases from English into the user’s choice of language.

“The app also features many technical diagrams and reference images that can aid communication between the inspecting officer and the fishermen themselves,” Rayner said. “It also has a camera function, which we utilise to capture and store images that can be used later by the fishermen as part of the inspection process.”

Over the course of a year, some of AFMA’s most seasoned fisheries officers collaborated with the app’s developers on its planning, design, testing, enhancement, and overall distribution.

AFMA works with its regional neighbours to sustainably manage migratory fish stocks and deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

It aims to cooperate with other countries to combat IUU fishing and to sustainably manage shared fish stocks and non-target species.

“By more effectively combating illegal fishing and unsustainable fishing methods, we seek to safeguard the region’s priceless fisheries resources for future generations,” Rayner said.

To ensure the sustainable management of shared fisheries resources throughout the region, Australia collaborates closely with its counterparts in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. As a result, AFMA is also involved with international fisheries bodies and international fisheries management organisations such as the Pacific Island Foreign Fisheries Agency and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Meanwhile, the key phrases and functionality of the Fish Talk App were derived from the years of experience of AFMA’s fishery officials, who conducted inspections in domestic waterways and  on the high seas where there is no Internet connectivity.

“We wanted to have this ability for it to be used out at sea, where there is no Internet connectivity in remote locations, even ports that have poor Internet connectivity as well. So once the apps are downloaded onto any smartphone or tablet, Internet connectivity and data are not required,” he said.

According to Rayner, the Fish Talk visual aid can adapt communication styles to those that have been demonstrated to be appropriate for conveying the correct specifications of things like bycatch mitigation devices, which are used by fishers to minimise interactions with non-target species like sea birds, turtles, and cetaceans.

“These include the rules for managing sea turtles established by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission,” he said. “We thus provide illustrations that show the proper procedures for releasing sea turtles trapped in fishing gear, as well as other pertinent diagrams of that nature.”

Funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been vital to the app’s development, and has ultimately allowed AFMA to produce it for the benefit of inspecting offices across the Pacific and further abroad, said Rayner. The app was funded as a part of a project to tackle IUU fishing in the Pacific.

The funding goals included enhancing Pacific fisheries Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance—also known as MCS capabilities and responses to IUU fishing as well as helping to ensure that fishing, production, and consumption are sustainable for the region’s people and food supplies.

Fish Talk has also been incorporated into upcoming regional and in-country inspection training programmes. AMFA aims to create a community of fisheries officers and inspecting officers through Fish Talk, who are ultimately empowered to build shared capacity through their contributions to the functionality of the app.

“We’ll look to improve on this as we move forward. We’re also investigating the opportunity to incorporate more languages into the app and ultimately see that that functionality increases more broadly around the world and not just in the Pacific and Southeast Asia,” said Rayner.

Fish Talk is available to download for free from Google Play and the App Store.