Two forces are driving the development of digital logbooks: government regulations and fishermen’s empowerment. On Nov. 11, 2021, NOAA begins requiring all federally permitted vessels in the Greater Atlantic Region — North Carolina to the Hague Line — to file trip reports electronically. “The data gets in quicker,” says NOAA’s Allison Ferreira. “It reduces the potential for error.”

Along with NOAA, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the fisheries management agencies of many other countries are also moving toward electronic trip reports, which normally include catch and bycatch statistics. But there is often much more information in a logbook that is of inestimable value to fishermen. Once on a boat I crewed on, the captain’s logbooks were stolen. Someone wanted the map to our fishing grounds, and it was there in those books.

“It’s all about the beast, and the beast is data,” says Lange Solberg, a former skipper of a Bristol Bay salmon boat and now the head of business development North America for Real Time Data, which developed Deckhand, a digital logbook.

While Deckhand is being tested in the Bering Sea opilio crab fishery, Solberg is currently focused on developing the app to meet the needs of fishermen forced to move to electronic trip reports. According to Solberg, Deckhand is being designed to allow fishermen in the Atlantic to feed data to NOAA.

“The issue is the cost of developing the software,” he says. “It’s nearly impossible to customize this for every fishery.”

To resolve that issue, Solberg is rolling out a software customizing engine called Catch Flow.

“Anyone with some programming skill can learn the  language, design their own program, and snap it onto our core,” Solberg says. “We had a woman here, and we asked her to try it. She learned it in a week.”

Solberg believes fishermen will be able to do a lot more with electronic logbooks. Real Time Data is based in Australia, where fishermen were faced with Marine Protected Areas without acceptable documentation of their use of those areas.

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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