Using Technology to Sustainably Manage Fisheries in Asia-Pacific

Enhancing ecosystem productivity and restoring profitability of fisheries in eight key marine biodiversity areas in the Philippines
Apr 18, 2018 8:00 AM ET

The fisheries sector is vital to the economy of the Philippines, particularly for the population whose livelihoods depend on small-scale fisheries. Excessive and unsustainable fishing, population growth, uncontrolled development, and the effects of climate change have degraded fish populations in recent decades.

Tetra Tech is supporting enhanced fisheries management through the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We are using innovative interventions and technological solutions to conserve marine biodiversity, enhance ecosystem productivity, and restore profitability of fisheries in key marine bio-diverse areas.

Tetra Tech, as part of the ECOFISH project team, promotes the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) as the foundation of fisheries management and biodiversity conservation in eight marine key biodiversity areas (MKBAs) in the Philippines. EAFM strikes a balance between human and ecological well-being through good governance. It builds on the strength of the participatory, decentralized, and multi-sectoral approach that the Philippines has practiced for decades.

The Philippines loses about USD$1 billion yearly due to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF), which benefits a few in the short-term, but robs the society in the long-term. With IUUF removed, restored fisheries productivity is, in most cases, sufficient to support livelihoods of all fishers. Governments are challenged to find the balance in allocating fishing efforts that sustains the fish stocks, while providing gainful employment, especially for the poor. The ECOFISH experience has shown that simple, straightforward management interventions can effectively restore damaged habitats and fisheries productivity.

By providing innovative solutions, the ECOFISH team has developed Marine Protected Area Networks, conservation enterprises, right sizing fishing effort in key areas, tools and technologies to enforce fisheries management, and incentive schemes to train and employ fishermen in other sectors.

Through a public-private partnership between USAID, Microsoft, and the Government of the Philippines Department of Science and Technology (DOST), ECOFISH and DOST created the FishRonline fisherfolk registration system and database. To make FishR more widely available, the ECOFISH Project team paired it with TV White Space, which brings reliable, high-speed “Super Wi-Fi” to five pilot sites in the Central Philippines. Tetra Tech helped implement this new technology, which employs unused television frequencies to provide high-speed wireless internet access over broad areas, which has enabled the Government to reach and register fishermen and boats in extremely remote areas.
Between March and July 2014, the number of registered fisherfolk in TV White Space pilot sites increased by 500 percent, with the millionth fisherfolk registered on the FishR database in September 2014. When an earthquake and the largest typhoon ever struck the region, the TV White Space network also provided emergency communications between villages and played a critical role in supporting major disaster response and relief efforts.

Through ECOFISH, Tetra Tech helps stakeholders make the decision to properly manage fishing stocks in their municipal waters through consensus-building workshops where they evaluate the ecosystem effects of fishing and explore management policy options. The project also has catalyzed community partnerships to start conservation enterprises to increase incomes and diversify options for livelihoods, and as a result, reduced fishing pressure.

The project also created an SMS-based anonymous reporting system for illegal fishing practices called 700DALOY. SMS technology is simple and popular in fishing communities. 700DALOY provides the hotline to crowdsource detection of illegal fishing and improves coordination among law and fishery enforcement units. It promotes transparency, accountability, and public participation, which has increased public trust of the police force. This reporting system has led to more than 3,000 reports and 25 arrests, helping protect valuable marine resources.