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Electronic catch reporting could save fishermen up to $2m

The introduction of a new electronic catch reporting system will save the industry plenty of time and money, according to Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley.

The change, which comes into effect on October 1, will allow the fishing industry to use computer technology to report their catch directly to the government electronically.

“In these tight economic times, it’s crucial that while we work towards more sustainable fisheries we also get more efficient and look at ways to cut costs and increase flexibility,” Mr Heatley said.

All commercial fishermen are legally required to report the fish they catch to the government.

This catch reporting provides important information for monitoring catch levels and the health of fish stocks as well as ensuring that fishermen do not exceed their catch entitlements under the Quota Management System.

Currently each of the 170,000 catch reports completed each year must be filled out by hand on paper forms, mailed in, manually data entered and then scanned for filing.

Around 27,000 forms a year have to be returned and resubmitted due to errors and problems interpreting handwriting.

“This is a laborious, manual process that costs the fishing industry over $2 million a year in levies to administer. These changes should reduce the industry’s annual costs significantly,” Mr Heatley said.

New rules will allow fishermen to use computerised reporting systems that will capture catch information and electronically report accurate data directly to Fish Serve (a fishing industry owned company that administers the catch reporting regime under contract to the Ministry of Fisheries).

Industry leaders have proposed this system for many years.

After the completion of a pilot scheme, scheduled to start in early 2010, electronic reporting will be rolled out on all foreign charter fishing vessels and New Zealand fishing vessels fishing on the high seas.

The system will then be available to all fishermen who wish to use it.

“Electronic catch reporting will make better use of the technology we have and will bring significant cost savings to the industry and government” Mr Heatley said.

“This is good news for the fishing industry and good news for Government. I am very pleased to see the new system being developed.”

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