Replacing human observers

Their biggest advantage by far, according to SnapIT’s Chris Rodley, is replacing the need for human observers. Over the last year human observation on vessels has had to be cut back due to the pandemic, so this advantage is also particularly timely.

‘In the current climate it’s ridiculous for fishermen to take someone they have never met on board their vessel and be expected to share a bunk or living quarters with them,’ he said. ‘Not to mention the cost of human observers, which is about USD$850 a day. The adoption of digital technology is safer and more cost-effective. When you compare USD$850 a day against cameras, which might be USD$70 for a three-day trip, that’s a significant saving.’

But fishermen have expressed concerns about the roll-out of a technology that they say could end any pretence of privacy in the workplace. Some said that it felt invasive, making them feel observed and untrusted, while there may also be security concerns over access to the data and storage, or distrust in the effectiveness of the cameras themselves.

The New Zealand government aims to install cameras on 80% of its inshore fishing fleet. Image: SnapIT

Depending on the compliance environment and value of the fishery, there is also likely to be a pattern in the number of fisheries that welcome cameras and those that don’t. A fishery with a heavy compliance load and staff who can see a cost reduction by adopting cameras is likely to show interest, while cameras may be a harder sell among fisheries where there isn’t as heavy a compliance requirement.

Fishermen have expressed concerns about the roll-out of a technology that they say could end any pretence of privacy in the workplace. Image: SnapIT

The importance of protecting crew privacy cannot be underestimated, Chris Rodley added.

‘It’s a huge issue and it’s also vital that the fishermen own the video that they produce,’ he said.

‘It’s key that we respect their privacy and require legislation for them to submit their data to regulators if they need to. In order to rectify fishermen’s concerns, it is also important for us to only put the cameras where they need to be, so they are only looking at the things that they need to look at. Sometimes people can get carried away and want to capture every square centimetre of a boat. For some fishing operations this might be appropriate but in most cases it isn’t. It has to be done in a way that is considerate of a fishery’s business and operations and I believe that is possible.’

SnapIT is gearing up for a significant camera rollout which is expected in 2022, following plans announced by the New Zealand government to install cameras in 80% of its inshore fishing fleet, almost 430 vessels. Information gathered through the cameras will support fisheries management and compliance with fisheries rules.

By providing a low cost, low maintenance and innovative solution to fisheries, Chris Rodley and his team are aiming to ensure that fisheries resources can be managed sustainably into the future.

The SnapIT team. Image: SnapIT

‘What we are talking about is a dramatic shift in the way fisheries monitoring is done, and our work needs to be managed appropriately,” he said.

‘I believe electronic monitoring is going to be more accepted and eventually become the norm but it is a dramatic change. There are a lot of benefits for those who embrace this change and we want to really highlight those. We want to see a cost reduction for fishermen, we want them to be able to justify their fishing and not have to mess around with other problems and we want to allow some radical early adopters to look at ways in which they can differentiate themselves by utilising our tech.’