EU FUNDS INNOVATIVE DIGITAL SOLUTIONS FOR SUPPORTING SMALL SCALE FISHERS
EU funds innovative digital solutions for supporting small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean, STARFISH 4.0
Yet very little is known about how much fish SSF catch, which species and where, and this creates significant challenges for sustainable resource management; moreover the measures used to regulate and monitor large-scale industrial fisheries simply will not work for local and traditional SSF. In this context, the EU supports fisheries to adopt more sustainable practices and actively seeks innovative ideas that aim at modernising the fisheries control and management system. One such promising idea has surfaced with the STARFISH project.
STARFISH 4.0 is an EU-funded 2-year project (2020-2021), proposing new technologies for the safety of small scale fishers and sustainable marine resource management. This project empowers local, small-scale fishers, increasing their opportunity to fish further offshore for higher value species and actively engage in the management of their marine protected areas, while ensuring traceability, which improves marketability of catches. The resilience built in SSF through this project might help their recovery after the global COVID pandemic. The STARFISH project also is actively supporting the digital transformation, a key EU priority, and accelerates the sustainable development of the Blue Economy through innovative means.
At the core of the STARFISH 4.0 there is the NEMO system: a solar-powered Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) terminal with a call for assistance button, and a fisheries monitoring software with Big Data capabilities, that handles information gathered from large numbers of traditional vessels. In addition to that, some integrated apps have been specifically developed to support SSF fishers, such as GPS navigation maps, VMS track visualisation, real-time positioning on a sea map and the possibility to mark ‘point of interest’ as specific fishing zones or places to avoid. Other apps provide comprehensive catch reporting, noting species, size and where caught: this helps demonstrating to authorities, fisheries managers and export markets that the fish was not caught in illegal zones or marine protected areas. Reporting enables fishers to market their catch as ‘locally sourced’, offering a degree of traceability, and ensuring the characteristics of the catch handling on the vessel from a food safety perspective/cold chain integrity. Further apps are in development and will be refined according to the fisher’s feedback, to include weather bulletins, marketplace information or even reporting for invasive species.
The overall objective is to refine the system through fishers’ feedback and improve stakeholder engagement. Michel Dejean, Head of CLS Fisheries Division, one of the partners in the STARFISH consortium, says: “It’s increasingly recognised that fisheries around the world – of any size – need to adopt sustainable practices if they are to have any sort of long-term future. Small-scale fishers are incredibly diverse, they need systems, which will empower the traditional communities, few traditional fishers can afford the technical equipment used by industrial fisheries and most have been fishing in the same way for generations. Any attempt to monitor their activities must be collaborative, offering clear benefits to gain their support and buy in.”
Small scale fisheries are incredibly diverse, and the STARFISH consortium has been designed to obtain a comprehensive user feedback in two very different yet very important fisheries countries: Greece, which counts the largest number of small-scale vessels in Europe (approximately 15,000 SSF vessels working with nets, long lines, and traps), and Mauritania, a primary fisheries exporter to Europe and representative of West African fisheries. Collecte Localisation Satellites (France) brings its expertise in design, engineering, and the fisheries data chain, while local partners Advanced Planning & Consulting (Greece) and Entreprise de Commerce et de Représentation (Mauritania) have unique local knowledge and contacts with artisanal fisheries, port authorities, and local fisheries managers. 100 Greek fishers in the Mediterranean and 50 in Mauritania are testing the product at sea. Various characteristics of the product such as robustness, battery life, ease of use, and data accuracy are under examination. Nikos Anagnopoulos, head of Advanced Planning & Consulting and fisheries consultant to the EU, adds: “The Greek SSF fleet is the biggest of the EU. With the user feedback collected, the project partners can further refine the system to the needs of these fishermen”. Overall, the project is showing with the help of the fishers that 4.0 digital technologies in a data-poor sector can add value to their business operations, based on local and sustainably sourced seafood supply chains and direct or short-circuit sales.