Electronic oversight

Cameras are increasingly recording activity aboard fishing vessels, but can they convince fishermen who are concerned over privacy?

Established in 2007, Snap Information Technologies (SnapIT) in Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island is developing artificial intelligence (AI) and high-definition cameras to capture and distribute images in real-time using automated tracking and monitoring systems. Designed to work on fishing vessels, data is collected, saved and transferred to onshore servers over a wireless connection.

‘We have our own custom-based AI hardware that captures data from multiple cameras on fishing vessels,’ said Chris Rodley, CEO of SnapIT. ‘We are now building up to analysing that data. The biggest cost of electronic monitoring programmes is reviewing the data, in other words people who are watching the footage. The next biggest costs are storage and data transmission so keeping things cost-effective is a real key. Usually, only about 2% of the footage is used but to ensure trust and transparency, everything needs to be captured. Our goal is to really reduce the amount of data that is transmitted by running AI on a vessel and cutting out unnecessary footage to reduce costs for fishermen.’

SnapIT's CEO Chris Rodley. Image: SnapIT

SnapIT’s cameras identify fish by species, type and size to help keep tabs on catches and detect by-catch. Exploratory work is also underway with satellite communications, while the company uses bespoke AI algorithms to enable fishermen to quickly and efficiently review significant quantities of video data, remove any thanks to removable storage and upload it to the cloud. Frequency Identification (RFID) integration also allows them to scan gear, which assists with a vessel’s electronic logbook.

‘It’s very important to us that fishermen can log in and review their own videos,’ Chris Rodley explained.

‘The fishermen are the customers and our goal is to reduce the cost of compliance and derive extra value to assist in their business. The cameras pick up an incredible amount of information and we can ask questions on it and find the answers, which is extremely rich in terms of deriving value for fishermen through technology.’

'Our goal is to really reduce the amount of data that is transmitted by running AI,' Chris Rodley said. Image: SnapIT

‘There are also small communities where fishermen are central as they bring in revenue,’ he continued.

‘If we can help that person to be more in control of their business, that produces a societal impact and also sustainability, in other words the durability of generations of fishermen being able to continue fishing. Depending on the way the compliances run, we are creating a data set for fishermen that they can refer to in order to derive more value.’

Footage from SnapIT’s cameras will offer examples of sustainable fishing and help fishermen improve their operations at sea. Chris Rodley and his team also hope that one day fish buyers, including restaurant owners and fishmongers, will be able to see the fish that they sell being caught in real time. Known as radical transparency, this may work well for certain types of fisheries, he explained, enabling fishermen to differentiate themselves and connect directly with buyers.

A SnapIT system mounted on board a fishing vessel. Image: SnapIT

SnapIT’s international clientele includes fisheries in the US, Hawaii, Canada, the Pacific and New Zealand as well as Australia, France and the UK where trials are underway. The cameras’ advantages have proven popular, providing the possibility of seeing precisely what is being caught and how can give fishermen the ability to prove their version of reported events and strengthen the social license to fish.

By combining location data with image recognition and other technologies, cameras would also allow authorities to watch a boat as it operates and spot any issues such as the dumping of catch.

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