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Observer trip onboard FV Seaquence

Last month one of our team members – Steven Lee – went onboard the FV Seaquence for a 19 day trip from 12th–30th March to observe longline fishing firsthand and learn how integrate tagging into the crew’s operation.

Here is a brief account of his trip:

We departed the Muaiwalu Wharf around 2250 h after loading provisions for 13 crew and 20 days of fishing. According to the Captain conditions closer to Fiji’s main islands weren’t ideal for fishing our target species – Albacore and Yellowfin tuna – so we steamed straight to the one spot with reasonable conditions. This spot happened to be 12nm from the Fiji-Tonga border.

It took roughly 36 hrs to steam to our first fishing ground, the crew spent the first day onboard making branch lines and untangling this big mess of mainline from the last trip. One of the deckhands had a speaker which would constantly be blasting a mix of dancehall, reggaeton, Celine Dion, and Fijian church hymns (all in the same playlist) while the boys worked on-deck. I thought this was grand for the first few days, once day four came I realised it was the only music they had and I’d have to listen to it every.single.day. for another two and a half weeks. Needless to say this trip tested my mental stability.

Day three we started fishing.

A typical day of fishing went like this:

0500–1000 hrs: Setting the line. This involved baiting hooks, attaching branch and float lines to the mainline and casting it out.

1000–1600 hrs: Crew rest

1600–0300 hrs: Hauling the mainline. The haul commences by locating the end of the line by homing in on the attached radio beacon. The line is tied to the small amount of line remaining on the reel and wound in. The general idea of hauling is to remove all appendages (branch lines, float lines, and radio buoys) from the main line without slowing down the winding process. The work is dangerous. The man unclipping the branch lines risks having his hands injured in the block while unclipping as the line rapidly passes through, as well as the danger from flinging hooks and jellyfish that come up on the line.

Hauling the entire line would take roughly 10 h if everything went smoothly.
Things never went smoothly.
During every haul the mainline would snap multiple times, which required the crew to search for the next buoy and haul the line in sections until you had the entire length of the line that had snapped off onboard and had reattached the remaining mainline.

The crew worked in shifts and would constantly rotate to give everyone a bit of a rest. However way you frame it longline fishing is a tough job, and the trip definitely gave me new found respect for these guys. There is a lot of work that goes into getting that tuna onto your plate.

My job was to report on the fishing operation, and workout how to integrate tagging and data collection into their workflows. The solution may seem obvious and indeed that is what we though, until first hand experience on a boat injected a healthy dose of reality into our idyllic plans. What is proving to be difficult is dealing with multiple fish onboard in a short space of time, and how to keep track of them before tagging, what data to collect and how, and how can we do all this without slowing the crew down to a point where it affects their fishing operation or becomes a distraction that may put crew and the boat at risk.

On a personal note, I generally enjoyed the trip – real character building stuff and I’ve came home with a few good stories too, food was good, crew were a friendly bunch and all had their own little personality quirks (the Chief Mate was straight out of a Popeye comic) which were funny to pick up on. So, before I sign off I’d just like to say a big vinaka vakalevu to all the crew onboard the Seaquence for making the trip a very enjoyable experience and SeaQuest for allowing me on one of their boats!

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Waqa casting a baited branch line during setting/shooting. Photo: Steven Lee
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Hauling around golden hour. Photo: Steven Lee
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Yellowfin tuna about to be landed on the foam pad – the pad is there to prevent any unnecessary damage to the fish. Photo: Steven Lee
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Yellowfin, tagged and ready to be bagged. While albacore and bigeye tend to be spread out along the mainline, yellowfin tend to come all at once. Photo: Steven Lee
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Peni on the look out for a float after the mainline snapped. Photo: Steven Lee

 

The Blue Economy and Traceability

What is the Blue Economy?

According to the World Bank, Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health. For a more bare-bones definition, the Blue Economy or Blue Growth as it is also known, can be thought of as any economic activity in the maritime sector.

This encompasses many activities such as renewable energy, waste management, mineral resources, biotechnology, fisheries, maritime transport, tourism, and even climate change. Collectively the activities within the Blue Economy represent roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates goods and services valued at almost USD620 billion. Needless to say, the Blue Economy is a considerable force and with the rapid pace of scientific, technological, and engineering advances societies are better able to utilize all that the oceans have to offer.

How does traceability fit into it?

Where transactions occur there is the potential for disruption – malicious or otherwise. Unfortunately, these disruptions erode trust between producers, retailers, consumers, and particularly the regulatory bodies. Traceability systems allow us to better keep track of the what, where, when, and how regarding the products and services, we have become accustomed to. This system becomes even more effective (trustworthy) when it is transparent.

Blockchain technology shows a lot of promise when it comes to improving transparency, and its decentralized nature allows for high levels of trust and efficiency. The kind of trust and efficiency that has organisations like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) looking into it for carbon asset transactions, clean energy trading, and improving climate financing.

Here at TraSeable Solutions our primary concern is fisheries. Fisheries are the economic and cultural backbone for many Pacific Island countries. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines the systems put in place to manage fisheries and contributes to unsustainable and unsafe practices. As more export markets demand non-IUU fish it is essential to prove traceability or risk losing market access.

Consumers paying a premium for a product for reasons of quality and sustainability need to be assured they are getting what they paid for. Producers and processors that go the extra mile to provide such a product need to be assured that they are not getting cheated by sub-par products under a guise – undermining their extra effort. Finally, regulatory bodies need to verify that the information they receive is factual.

For the Blue Economy to work for the benefit of everyone a system of assurance is required. Transparent traceability is at the core of such an assurance system.

We here at TraSeable Solutions aren’t the first to realise this; last year at the UN Ocean Conference industry, government, and civil society came together and announced the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration. In a nutshell the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration aims to stop illegal tuna from coming to market [through the use of a robust traceability system] working towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 through the actions of the Tuna 2020 Commitments.

As the year goes on we look forward to working with various stakeholders in the industry and beyond to realize the full potential of a sustainable blue economy.

[Featured image credit: WWF]

Wishing you Season’s Greetings!

We’d like to take this time to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

It’s been a hectic last few months for our little startup with so many firsts and an exciting 2018 ahead of us!

Here’s a few things that have happened in the last few weeks:

We’ve grown!

We’ve welcomed three very bright and talented members to the TraSeable Solutions team – Jasha joins us as a Traceability Support Officer in a part-time capacity and Leba and Shaazreen have joined us as interns.

Jasha and Leba have backgrounds in Marine Science and Marine Affairs together with experience in Fiji’s coastal fisheries while Shaaz is a final year Software Engineering student at the University of the South Pacific.

It’s finally out!

Viant

We’ve been very fortunate to be supporting the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Sea Quest (Fiji) Ltd in the beta program for the Viant platform built by the folks at ConsenSys.  We’re using Viant for a “bait to plate” use case for seafood traceability on the blockchain and are very excited to be one of the few companies in the world to be part of this program and to have an early play with Viant.

We’ll write more on this in the near future.

Read more about Viant here:

Our first Fish labels are in!

Tags v1

Looking forward to getting these fish labels on individual fish exported from Fiji in early 2018.  Scan the QR code or visit the website address to see what type of information you can look forward to getting about your fish.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on these labels and the story.

We expect to go through several iterations of these to refine the design and materials used so your input now can help shape where this goes.

More to come in 2018

And don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten that we’ll be posting on the use of blockchain as one part of the solution to global fisheries transparency.  That will come out as a 2 part post in January 2018.

Until 2018, stay safe out there folks!

Bula, we’re finally operational!

Having gone through the many small hurdles for registering a business in Fiji we’re very excited to be operational now!

Our blog will be the best place to keep informed on what we’re doing and our insights on the industry and the technologies shaping it.

So, why a traceability startup?

Very simply – the seafood traceability space is ripe for disruption through technology innovation.

There are so many exciting technological advances now that when combined have the potential to make things previously impossible, now possible.  Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are just a few technologies that are now being applied to multiple domains.

So, why not seafood traceability?

Within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) there are many worthy regional and national initiatives being taken to address different fisheries management issues.  Lead regional agencies include the likes of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).  And they are supported by national fisheries administrations.

While these agencies are doing an admirable job with the resources they have, together with their own domains of expertise including the application of ICT to fisheries, they can’t be expected to solve all the problems for everyone in our region.

It’s just not going to happen.

We strongly believe in working actively and collaboratively to find solutions to fisheries challenges in our region and we’re focusing on seafood traceability, for several reasons:

  1. Market demand – fish export markets are demanding non Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fish and proving traceability is essential.  The EU market has been demanding this for some time and on January 1, 2018 the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) comes into effect.
  2. Regulators are struggling – the current national systems of verifying and validating fishing catch and determining traceability are too long, paper-intensive, and fraught with numerous other challenges that make them almost ineffective.  This is a significant risk, especially for countries exporting to the EU if they cannot prove their traceability systems and processes work.
  3. Too many labour-intensive paper-based processes – despite a lot of good work recently in the region within in this space, there is still too much reliance on fisheries data recorded on paper and not enough effort to leverage electronic data and systems.
  4. Expectations of different stakeholders are not being met – it is not uncommon for regulators to think the fishing companies are always trying to sneak one by them and the fishing companies to think that regulators want to get access to all their information.  This is where an independent technical solutions provider like us fits in to work with all parties.
  5. Interoperability of existing systems – there are numerous electronic systems collecting different aspects of fisheries data but many of these are not interoperable. Work on standards for different fisheries data is being progressed by regional fisheries agencies which should help with interoperability but there is no timeframe set to see any type of concrete standards in place.  Here’s a good article from the Journal of Food Science on the Current Barriers to Large-scale Interoperability of Traceability Technology in the Seafood Sector.
  6. No collaborative electronic traceability solutions – there is no electronic traceability solution built from the ground up to cater specifically for seafood traceability in the Pacific that allows all actors along the seafood supply chain to participate in.

We believe we have a simple solution to these.

Who are we?

Our founders, Ken and Shauna, are a husband and wife team with over a decade of combined Pacific regional experience in ICT and fisheries.  Both are Pacific Islanders, Ken from Fiji and Shauna from Samoa.

Until recently, Ken was the Manager IT at FFA in Honiara, Solomon Islands where he served 5.5 years and Shauna was a Compliance Officer with Samoa Fisheries.  They both now reside in Suva, Fiji where the company is based.

As TraSeable Solutions grows as a company, we intend to employ more Pacific Islanders who are interested in technology and fisheries.  Our first jobs have been advertised and we look forward to getting more people onboard in the near future.

What are we doing now?

MVP

We’re coming to the end of our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) build and will be going into trials in December 2017 with stakeholders who have been involved in the development of our solution.  The trials will help refine our product further and we expect this to take up to 3 months before we release our product.

Engaging Partners

As a startup, we’ve been heavily involved in building relationships with other local companies with whom we can collaborate with.

Our local stakeholders include several fishing companies and fish processors and we have also engaged with the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Health Competent Authority (CA).

Blockchain Technology

Our founder, Ken, is also consulting on an exciting local project on seafood traceability using blockchain technology with international partners.  This is a first in the region and more on this will be made public soon.

We were also very lucky to be invited to the Hack4Climate hackathon in Bonn, Germany which brought together 100 blockchain developers and climate experts to develop innovative solutions to climate change challenges using blockchain technology.  Ken and his “evoke” team were placed in the Top 5 solutions at the hackathon and “won” the chance to make their solution pitch at the Talanoa space at COP23Video of #Hack4Climate winners pitch

What’s next?

Look out for our next post on the application of blockchain technology to fisheries.