The Pacific region has invested in technology and research for many years to help keep the tuna populations healthy. The Pacific Islands Countries and Territories (PICTs) continue to benefit from technological innovations, such as improving the quality of Fisheries catch data and getting it quickly, which are both very important.
Starting in 2016, Pacific Community (SPC) members worked together to make mobile-friendly apps like OLLO, which stands for “Offline LongLine Observer.” The app lets fisheries observers track what ships catch and help them do it sustainably.
So, what’s OLLO all about?
OLLO is an app for fisheries observers who are on board vessel. Onboard observers are like fish forensic experts because they get on the boats and write down every fish caught, how big it was, where it was caught, and what happened.
This helps collect information about the types and sizes of fish caught, which countries can use to decide how to manage fishing stocks. Observations gather much information during each fishing trip, which can last 10 to 60 days.
With OLLO, they can quickly record all the information and then go back to watching the fishing. It’s like a fishy version of “CSI,” but the technology might be better. When the observer returns to the port, these data are sent to a regional database for oceanic fisheries called TUFMAN2.
How it all started
The New Caledonia Observer Programme tested early versions of OLLO before it went on sale in 2020. (NCOB). An observer’s main job is to record catch data for each tuna caught (whether landed or thrown back). To do this, they use a form called the LL-4.
This form has been improved over the years so that the observer can record high-quality catch data quickly and easily. Even though the LL-4 form format in OLLO was made with care, the feedback from the first test version was simple: “This will never work.” The feedback from that observer trial asked for specific changes to make it easier and faster to use. SPC developers jumped at the chance to make those changes: “The LL-4 is now shown in a table format where data fields can be filled out quickly and don’t have to be done in order, just like on the paper form.”
OLLO also improves data quality by using built-in data-checking processes during data entry. This speeds up the data transmission process, which takes 38 days for paper forms but only 6 days with OLLO.
The rise of OLLO
It hasn’t been easy to get OLLO up and to run. Because of the pandemic, training was done online, which isn’t always easy because the internet isn’t always good, and there are often time delays.
But 23 brave observers from three national observer programs have used it on 61 ships for almost 3,000 days at sea. Between 2021 and 2022, 38% of longline observers used OLLO to record their data.
The New Caledonia Observer Program has given up on paper forms and only uses OLLO. And if that wasn’t already a big deal, French Polynesia has also joined. But watch out because Tonga is right behind them! In the meantime, the Pacific Community is ready and willing to help other member countries that want to use this cutting-edge app.
Overall, OLLO is a big deal for the longline tuna fishery in the Pacific. The app makes monitoring more accessible and improves the quality of data, which is vital for figuring out how to keep the world’s most significant tuna fishery going.
It’s encouraging to see the region embrace technology in this way, and we can’t wait to see what other innovations come out of this effort. Cheers to moving forward!