Artisanal fishery vessels, especially those in developing countries or remote areas, are too small to accommodate a traditional observer.
Monitoring bycatch in small scale coastal gillnet fisheries, is notoriously challenging, due to the inability to place observers on small vessels, and the difficulty of verifying information provided by fishers during interviews.
For them, resources can be scarce and new technologies difficult to implement.
Artisanal fishers and their families are often excluded from many seafood markets, and they often lack the tools to demonstrate sustainable fishing practices.
Support and assistance to artisanal fisher focus on improving practices and management, but often ignores commercial viability and profitability.
A high proportion of small scale coastal fisheries revolve around the use of large-mesh gillnets, which can be set from small vessels with small crews in a wide variety of water depths and marine and coastal habitats.
Currently, a high proportion of these fisheries, particularly those in developing countries – use gillnets, a gear known to be associated with high levels of bycatch of non-target, high conservation value species like marine mammals and turtles.
Gillnets are one of the least discriminating types of fishing gear, and are the gear most often associated with marine mammal bycatch 8-10.
Existing technologies are focused on vessel monitoring and not on verifying the origin of seafood products.
Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) systems have been developed in the US and Europe, and have had moderate success in using recorded video to monitor the volumes of non-target fish bycatch as fish are sorted on board.
However, these systems were deemed less successful for monitoring cetacean by-catch due to their positioning, and less suited to artisanal fisheries in developing countries due to their high cost and the need to have dry space on board for computers and battery backs and computers, and high-speed 3G-4G networks for transmission of real-time data 11.
While not suitable for artisanal fisheries, where stakeholders have worked together to reduce bycatch in largescale commercial fisheries, there have been many success stories.
The placement of observers on tuna purse seine vessels operating in the Eastern Tropical Pacific was critical to the process of accurately describing, monitoring, and ultimately reducing dolphin bycatch in that fishery5,6.
Similarly – marine turtle bycatch has been effectively reduced in shrimp fisheries around the world through the use of observers, and the implementation of turtle-excluder devices on shrimp trawlers7.