Ministry Of Fisheries

At Sea Observer Programme

The Ministry is responsible for the sustainable utilisation of fisheries. This involves conserving, using, enhancing and developing New Zealand’s fisheries resources to enable New Zealanders to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being. More specifically, the Ministry:

  • Advises Government on the development of fisheries policies;
  • Develops laws to manage fisheries;
  • Administers the Quota Management System that regulates New Zealand’s commercial fishing activity;
  • Manages compliance with fisheries laws;
  • Gives effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as they relate to fisheries.

An observer may collect any information on fisheries resources, fishing (including catch and effort information), the effect of fishing on the aquatic environment, and the transportation of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed, including:

  1. The species, quantity, size, age, and condition of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed taken;
  2. The methods by which, the areas in which, and the depths at which, fish, aquatic life, or seaweed are taken;
  3. The effects of fishing methods on fish, aquatic life, seaweed, and the aquatic environment (including seabirds and protected species);
  4. All aspects of the operation of any vessel;
  5. Processing, transportation, transhipment, storage, or disposal of any fish, aquatic life, or seaweed;
  6. Any other matter that may assist the chief executive or the Minister to obtain, analyse, or verify information for the purposes of fisheries research, fisheries management, and fisheries enforcement.

All of this information was being recorded “manually” on paper forms, which was not an efficient method, in particular because several of the report forms required the same data to be entered thus forcing the observers to duplicate much of their work again and again. This, combined with the usual problems associated with manual data capture (e.g. poor and varied hand writing, introduced mistakes, re-entry of data back at head office, etc.) led project leader Andrew France to look for a better solution.

In 2005 MFish issued a tender for a solution that would address these problems and make way for better, more efficient data collection out on the ocean. Pocket Solutions won the tender for both custom-built software and hardware (XPlore Technologies rugged tablet computers).

“The project is progressing very well.  The Ministry and Pocket Solutions have developed a very good working relationship and the initial software developed for use on trawlers has been very well received by the observers in the field. The software continues to be enhanced and additional development will be undertaken for use on other fishing methods. Pocket Solutions have performed very well providing effective solutions to the problems encountered when delivering an electronic at-sea data capture capability”.

Andrew France, Development Officer – Observer Services