Oyster Bag Tagging App

Funding: This project was completed as part of the SAFER project, an Atlantic area EU funded Interreg project which aims to aid in the adoption of technological solutions in the fishing industry.

The Loughs Agency

The Loughs Agency is a cross-border organisation who aim to provide sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits through the effective conservation, management, promotion and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford Areas.

Problem to be Solved

Fisherman who work the native oysters in the Lough Foyle must procure tags from the Loughs Agency. Each tag allows a fisherman to catch a 25kg bag of oysters. This procedure allows the Lough’s Agency to monitor the number of oysters harvested from the lough, enabling officials to determine the quantity of oysters that can be sustainably fished.

Each tag is single use with a unique code identifier allowing Loughs Agency officials to perform periodic inspections to find fraudulent use. This inspection process is currently done manually with inspectors writing down tag codes on paper at the shore, or on boats, a system that is time consuming and prone to error in transcription and legibility.

Inspection records are retained in the Loughs Agency where analysis of the tag numbers is performed manually.  Consequently, it may take many months before an issue is discovered, such as re-use of tags, making it very difficult for the Loughs Agency to timely identify potential abuse.

WiSAR Solution

Working with the Loughs Agency, WiSAR researchers began to investigate solutions to make the tag inspection process more efficient and effective. The first step involved the development of barcodes which were added to the tags. A phone app was then developed to process and record the information contained in each the tag barcode. This record is stored locally on the phone and replicated on a cloud server when an internet connection is available. The server keeps a detailed record of all tags that have been issued and which tags have been recorded by an inspector as having been used. Upon scanning a barcode, the app alerts the inspector if the tag has been scanned before or if the tag is missing from the system, identifying any abuse quickly and effectively.

By removing the manual, hand-written aspect of the inspection procedure, the potential for human error has been significantly reduced from the inspection process, enabling more timely and accurate records. Furthermore, the new phone app notification system quickly alerts inspectors to any potential abuses as digital records are now maintained of all tags issued, eliminating the need to keep handwritten records that are refutable and prone to error. In addition, digitisation makes data available to for the generation of various reports, allowing for greater accessibility of information and further insights.

The technology solution applied by WiSAR researchers greatly improves the efficiency of the inspection processes for Loughs Agency officials, facilitating greater analysis and insight, which can help inform future sustainable fishing practice around the lough.