Estonia’s fishing sector bears the hallmarks of a digital nation

by Thomas Jensen
Estonian PERK system

A system benefiting fishers and managers alike

This article was featured in Eurofish Magazine 6 2023.

An electronic reporting system for fishers will replace the hybrid digital and paper approach from next year. The system allows fishers to concentrate on fishing rather than paperwork, while fisheries managers will be better able to analyse the data.

From 2024, Estonia wants to switch completely to electronic data submission for all commercial fishing activities in Estonian waters. Until now a hybrid system had been used for submitting data related to commercial fishing in Estonia, where part of the data was received in electronic form and part on ­paper. The new system will make the electronic transmission of
data mandatory.

Faster delivery of more uniform data


The main goal of the new arrangement is to make the receipt of data more operative, relevant, and up-to-date, and would enable faster, more uniform, and more compact presentation, processing, and analysis of data. Electronic data presentation has been used for many years by fishing vessels, where fishing activity messages are sent to the commercial fishing register through the ship‘s Electronic Reporting System (ERS). Similar to fishing vessels, from 2024, Estonian professional fishers would go fishing with a smart device—smartphone or tablet—and record a fishing trip in the PERK (a digital declaration system developed by the Estonian fisheries) application and submit all the required data regarding fishing activities during the fishing trip.
Presenting data on paper, which has been used so far, is an out-of-date solution in a digitizing world. It does not allow targeted monitoring nor an operational overview of the use of fish stocks as a natural resource. Since ­Estonia has continuously developed PERK which, since 2018, has been necessary for the submission of coastal fishing data, the entire professional fishing community will soon be directed to use it. PERK can be used with any web browser, and in case of fluctuating or non-existent internet coverage, PERK stores the data provided in a buffer and sends it when the coverage improves. In this way, fishers can focus on their daily work and business—fishing—and do not have to worry about possible reporting problems. Through PERK the data reaches the register of commercial fishing, where it is processed and analysed.

Data-based analysis will help the individual fisher too

The advantage of using PERK is that the data can be provided immediately when the fishing activity takes place, and the fisher does not have to worry about it later. Fishers can also submit data simultaneously to multiple agencies that collect or monitor commercial fishing data. In addition, the state can also offer advantages to the fishing community based on the electronic data received: for example, to provide statistics and an overview of the fisher‘s economic activities—where and when the best catches have been, where there are fishing resources in the area, etc. There is a lot of potential to develop this further and the fishers have also made several suggestions about what and how they would
like information.

The state offers support to fishers to purchase the first smart device necessary for the ­electronic ­submission of fishing data. The fisher chooses the device and the state pays a proportion of the cost. The transition to electronic data submission is one part of the overall digitization of the field of commercial fishing, the larger goal of which is to make the services offered by the state towards the fishing community digital and to the greatest extent possible self-managed by the commercial fishing community through the customer gateway portal.

Kristi Ilves &, Eduard Koitmaa
Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture
of the Republic of Estonia

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