Fish Catch Assessment (CAS) data is required to guide sustainable management of fisheries resources. It monitors removals and changes in fishing effort, abundance of major commercial species and is used to estimate fishing efforts to guide fishery managers in controlling overfishing. The collection of fisheries data in AGL has been very costly leading to inconsistency and gaps in capturing data across years and seasons as well as restrictions in geographical coverage. However, Catch Assessment Survey data has been collected on paper forms in Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika all along. Such recording system is time consuming and labor intensive. It involves a long chain of processes whereby paper sheets need to be distributed to the landing sites and collected, manually filled in, logged, cleaned, analyzed and reported. As such, reports were rarely produced timely and accurately. To address these challenges, an electronic data collection technology has been developed for small scale fisheries.
The increasing use of mobile phones and internet in economic sectors including the fisheries has opened opportunities and increased speed in data collection and dissemination. The introduction of the electronic Catch Assessment Survey (eCAS) involving fisher communities for data collection cuts the costs significantly and therefore makes it possible to avoid data gaps while ensuring timely reporting. By the fact that the electronic system is rich in intelligence features it ensures reliable and accurate fisheries catch data, which is key to achieving sustainable utilization and management of fisheries resources.
e-CAS was first developed for AGLR with pilot trials on Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, in Tanzania. Initial funding was secured from TNC under the project titled “Development and use of an electronic fish catch assessment system for the African Great Lakes (AGL)”. With funds from a GIZ funded project titled ‘Responsible Fisheries Business Chains’ (RFBC) project hosted by LVFO, the system was upscaled to cover the other LVFO partner states (Kenya and Uganda).
eCAS has a mobile application for data capture in the field and a web portal for data analysis and reporting. The mobile application runs on Android mobile phones to collect fish catch and related data in a participatory manner by fisher communities particularly BMUs. The data is then sent from the mobile phones to a central/cloud computer system for processing, report preparation and utilization. This increases the speed and frequency of data collection, reporting and lowers operational costs. Furthermore, e-CAS is designed as a multi-module system with potential to accommodate other datasets such as: Hydro-acoustic surveys, Socio-economics, Aquaculture, Marketing etc in different water bodies.