The United States Agency for International Development Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (Usaid Oceans) and UK satellite operator Inmarsat have signed a partnership agreement to improve traceability and promote sustainable fishing in Southeast Asia with the use of satellite communications.
By making use of enhanced communication technology, the partnership will advance catch documentation and traceability (CDT) to promote legal, reported and regulated fishing in a region where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is rife.
Angela Hogg, Usaid's Regional Environment Office Director for Asia, said the CDT system will support the capture and validation of key data on seafood products from the point of harvest all the way to the end consumer.
"This technology can help fishing fleets to locate fish faster, improve voyage planning and reduce operational costs. Better ship-to-shore communication will enable captains to instantly track weather forecasts, thereby ensuring safer sailing and quality of life at sea," she said.
Crew members on medium and large vessels will be able to integrate existing monitoring systems and CDT data with Inmarsat's Fleet One and IsatData Pro technology, a global two-way messaging service for tracking and monitoring ports and vessels.
Usaid Oceans will pilot this technology in Bitung of Indonesia and Songkhla of Thailand, where CDT system development and testing has already been undertaken. Successful pilot tests demonstrating effective communications between vessels and ports will enable further CDT system development in the region.
In Indonesia, Inmarsat will equip fishing vessels from participating companies with onboard satellite systems for real-time electronic voice and data exchange while at sea, consistent with Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reporting requirements.
In Thailand, Inmarsat, in partnership with the world's largest producer of canned tuna products, Thai Union Group, is providing satellite communications to help crews maintain at-sea connectivity for quicker and easier digital catch reporting and fleet management.
"Activities in Indonesia and Thailand will support expansion to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to use similar systems," Ms Hogg said.
Moreover, she believed that this implementation would also support Thailand in its efforts to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made a priority on the national agenda.
Thailand received a yellow card from the European Union (EU) in April 2015, a warning sign that the Thai government's efforts to combat the IUU problems were still below EU standards.