Case Studies of Social Innovation and Social Finance in Canada
Due to growing concerns over the sustainability of global fisheries, the fishing industry faces increasing regulation. There is the global recognition that most, if not all, fisheries should move towards some level of monitoring and auditable reporting. The increased costs that come with effective monitoring threaten the livelihoods of fishermen and the economies of fishing communities. Teem Fish provides affordable state of the art electronic monitoring technology and expert program design to allow for cost effective and accurate fisheries monitoring and reporting.
Headquarters: Prince Rupert, B.C.
Electronic monitoring systems (EM) use onboard computers to record data from video cameras, GPS units and other activity sensors that allow for the collection of different types of fisheries data – from catch and discard accounting to compliance monitoring. While they offer reliable data and are effective tools, EM systems are often cost-prohibitive for smaller fishing operations. In addition, it can be difficult to maintain systems over time if users are not included in overall program design or do not understand the value of the data being collected. In 2010, Ecotrust Canada, a registered charity, used its deep expertise in sustainable fisheries management to respond to a request from the Area A Crab Association in Prince Rupert, B.C. to innovate and develop an EM service that was fisherman-focused, affordable and accessible to different fleets.
By building its own technology, Ecotrust Canada was able to develop an EM system that was cost effective and could be adapted for almost any fishery. The charity’s goal was to improve the ability of coastal communities to pursue environmentally and economically sustainable livelihoods. After the introduction of its EM system in the Prince Rupert Area A Dungeness crab fishery, the Ecotrust Canada EM program expanded by fostering partnerships with local organizations to pilot programs across Canada and the U.S. To ensure that it continued to offer state of the art technology, in 2018 Ecotrust Canada formed a partnership with New Zealand based Snap Information Technologies Ltd., a world leader in image capture innovation and a company that shares the same values-based business model.
Recognizing that EM markets were expanding globally as regulators and industry leaders began piloting and implementing new EM systems or updating existing monitoring programs, Ecotrust Canada decided that it was time to launch a social enterprise to monetize the value of its expertise and experience and expand its impact. In 2019, Ecotrust Canada launched Teem Fish Monitoring, Inc., a new for profit social enterprise with a focus on the design and delivery of efficient and effective electronic fisheries monitoring programs across the globe.
UN sustainable Development Goal(s): Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources; Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations estimates that almost 35% of the world’s fish stocks are being fished at a biologically unsustainable level.1 The main threats to fish stocks include overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing.
Fish stocks are further threatened by climate change. As the oceans warm some species cannot survive and others must move to cooler areas to find food and to thrive. This shift in location can cause conflict among fishermen who have historically fished specific geographies.
As the cost of fishing has increased and commercial fishing operations have consolidated, working conditions for fishermen have worsened. Operating costs have escalated and as a result in some countries fishing boat owners have resorted to slave labour.
SOLUTION & INNOVATION
In partnership with Snap IT, Teem Fish has developed an affordable technological solution that enables commercial fleets and recreational harvesters to meet their regulatory requirements. Designed to meet the needs of harvesters and fishery managers, Teem Fish EM technology is easy to use and when installed and used correctly requires little maintenance. In order to ensure buy-in from all parties, Teem Fish also works with regulators and delivery partners to design programs where data collected from individual vessels is accessible to the harvester as well as regulators, and where secure databases can be established that not only delivery all required data to fisheries managers, but also allow for data use by industry and any approved researchers.
Teem Fish currently holds contracts in Canada and the U. S. and provides services to a mix of fish harvester associations and sectors, First Nation fisheries, and federal government agencies. As one of only a handful of EM companies in the world, Teem Fish is now competing for additional contracts in the global seafood market.
Teem fish was launched by Ecotrust Canada in June of 2019. It is a startup social enterprise pioneering new technology designed to provide more affordable and more accurate monitoring of fisheries. Its services fill data gaps that increase overall fishery and ecosystem understanding and lead to better fishery management.
While it is too early to have meaningful impact measurement, just over 100 fish harvesters in 8 different commercial and recreational fisheries currently use Teem Fish EM systems and have benefited from cost savings and more inclusive data collection, analysis and reporting. Regulators, researchers and harvesters in Canada, the U.S., and Indigenous Nations receive data from Teem Fish EM systems and use it to monitor and quantify the impacts of their fisheries on fish stocks. Teem Fish EM data collection contributes to improved sustainability for fisheries by recognizing, addressing and helping fill the data gaps that exist for many global fisheries.
Small boat seafood harvesters face numerous challenges in trying to make a good livelihood. Always a dangerous and unpredictable industry, climate change has added additional complications as shifting weather patterns and warming oceans have threatened the survival of some species of fish. Other species are migrating to cooler waters which disrupts traditional geographical patterns for fisheries.
Small boat fish harvesters do not have the resources of large seafood companies and additional expenses hit hard. They appreciate the need to regulate fishing to avoid overfishing and illegal fishing but struggle with the cost of monitoring and regulation.
Fishing is an ancient industry and one that does not adopt to change quickly or easily. Many fish harvesters and fisheries management are not eager to bring in new technologies, particularly when the first year installation price is high.