All the data necessary to issue the documents should be entered into the electronic information system “Latvian Integrated Fisheries and Control System,” commonly known as the Latvian Fisheries Data System, by the local government authority which will then be able to print the necessary documents directly from the system. The system brings all the data related to fisheries management together into a single repository. The fisheries control and management institutions, including the State Environmental Service, Nature Protection Board, Ministry of Agriculture, and the local government authority, have direct access to all the information stored in the system on legal fishing activities in Latvian waters. One significant advantage of this digitalisation is that it eliminates the need for paper circulation. The changes were part of a reform of the fishing license issuing procedure and were supported both by municipalities and fishers’ associations.
Inland water fishers can provide catch data electronically if they desire
The changes also called for amendments to the relevant Cabinet of Ministers regulations. The amendments confer on local government authorities the right to issue fishing licenses and paper fishing logbooks (in cases where fishing data are not reported electronically) for fishing in inland (including private waters) and in Baltic Sea coastal waters. The amendments also oblige coastal fishers to enter their catch data electronically into the Latvian Fisheries Data System. From 1 January 2021, the requirement is mandatory for commercial fishermen, but it will be also mandatory for self-consumption fishers from 1 January 2023. The option to provide catch data electronically also exists for inland water fishers but is voluntary. Many fishers use the system because they find it very convenient, user friendly, and believe that it is quicker than filling in a paper logbook. They need just to connect to the Latvian Fisheries Data System and enter the catch for a specific day. Fishing logbook information other than catch volumes are automatically taken from the fisher’s data entered into the system when the fishing license was processed.
Before implementing the electronic catch data reporting, the Ministry of Agriculture organised several training sessions for local government authorities and fishers on how to use the Latvian Fisheries Data System. A manual was also developed and published on the ministry website and ministry experts are available to assist in the case of any technical problem.
Training and information activities should continue for self-consumption fishers
In the beginning the Latvian Fisheries Data System struggled with teething problems that had to be rapidly solved. Fishers had a long period when they were requested to use electronic catch data reporting in a test environment, but only very few fishers responded. As a result, unforeseen problems cropped up when the system became operational. However, IT specialists, fisheries experts, and the fishers themselves cooperated to address these challenges. More than a year has passed since the introduction of electronic catch data reporting. While the technical issues have been successfully overcome, new challenges loom. For example, the mandatory electronic catch data reporting by self-consumption fishers which enters into force on 1 January 2023. If the introduction of the system for commercial fishers is any guide, training and outreach work for fishers should continue, and the use of a test environment should be encouraged to smoothen the transition process.
Electronic reporting benefits both fishers and authorities
Electronic catch data reporting assists the competent authorities to carry out their control functions, and also saves fishers time when registering catches and when processing fishing documents. All the relevant documents and catch data are available in the Latvian Fisheries Data System at any time, so paperwork is reduced, and the system ensures catch data reporting conforms to the European Union’s fisheries Control Regulation. Moreover, use of the system is free of charge. Fishers benefit additionally from the system as it maintains a records of their past catches too. They can thus use the system for their own needs, for example, to develop business plans for their company, to prepare various reports using system data, to gather ready insight into their activities, and to facilitate their submissions to public
Work on improving the Latvian Fisheries Data System to make it even more user friendly continues in cooperation with local government authorities and fishers.