Fully exploited and over-exploited. This is how tuna stocks in our oceans are now classified.
Fully exploited means there’s no more room for fishery expansion. Over-exploited means that fish stocks are on the verge of collapse. More than 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to, or beyond, their limit, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In Vietnam, there are now 2,000 registered vessels fishing for yellowfin tuna in the waters off Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa provinces hauling in an estimated 14,000 tons in 2013.
A significant reason for this is technology. Because tuna remains among the most valuable fish in our oceans, methods for catching tuna have evolved at a much faster rate than have methods for their conservation and management.
However, there are organisations and companies investing resources to come up with solutions before it’s too late, including one in Vietnam.
On the Front Line
Enter legal firm Frontier Law & Advisory. They’re behind a competition now under way called the Targeted Innovation Challenge, which requires participants to build on an idea that Frontier has already come up with, to fix the problem of poor handling and preserving of handline tuna. Handline tuna fishing or handlining refers to small-scale fishing where a fisherman on a small boat holds a line in the hand while waiting for fish to take the bait.
“Although we do practice law, our two main focus areas are infrastructure and innovation,” says Marika Vilisaar, Frontier legal specialist and project manager for the challenge. “We’ve worked in various sustainable fishing projects before, including a project in the Philippines where we tried to find an economically viable and environmentally sustainable fishing model for their tuna industry.”
The challenge began on Oct. 3 when entrants gained online access to a ‘challenge package’ for 24 hours revealing Frontier’s idea and outlining task requirements. Teams then have eight weeks to innovate on that idea culminating in a Challenge Day in Danang in early December where they will get to pitch their plans to Frontier and key environmental and industry partners. The winners will receive $US1,000, with $US400 as second prize.
“If any of the innovations show the promise of being commercially viable, the winning team or teams will have the opportunity to prototype them with Frontier’s guidance and support,” explains Marika.
Attracting Young Talent
The Targeted Innovation Challenge has attracted entrants from universities in Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Danang and Hanoi, including some from the private sector. A total of 25 teams are vying to be shortlisted once their plans have been submitted on Nov. 25.
Winners will have to come up with an innovative idea to build on Frontier’s initial scheme for improved onboard handling and preserving of handline tuna. One key aspect is ease of use.
“It’s imperative that innovations are easily deployable by fishermen who typically catch tuna one at a time,” says Marika. “In this way, it will allow them to catch the best quality tuna, avoid down-grading and a loss of value from improper handling techniques.”
The contest doesn’t expect entrants to have an intimate knowledge of the tuna fishing industry or know how to catch a fish. In fact, Frontier targeted aspiring innovators from diverse backgrounds such as engineering, refrigeration, refrigeration, data collection, IoT and material science among others.
Danang as an Innovation Hotspot
Danang is close to the major tuna fishing ports in Vietnam, but another reason behind why the Challenge Day will be held there is because Frontier is excited by the potential of Vietnam’s third-largest city to become a centre of innovation.
“We really like the energy in Danang and we want to see it become an innovation hub. Tuna is fished along the central coast of Vietnam, so it makes perfect sense to do it in Danang,” says Marika.
The Targeted Innovation Challenge is about solving a problem that is global and not specific to Vietnam, but nevertheless important. Frontier’s initiative will at last draw positive publicity to the fishing industry in a country that has had to deal with so much negativity in recent times.
For more info on the competition, click on bit.ly/tic2016