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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Here's a fantastic opportunity for a coder to participate in a worthy data mining project. In the pic is the An Wen Fa No. 22, a tuna longliner registered in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It is operated by Tsay Bao Jia and can hold over 54 tonnes of tuna. There are over 1900 similar vessels registered for Taiwan by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

I started to think about these boats after writing on the subject of sustainable tuna fishing and after reading an article in today's Courier-Mail about overfishing. The problem is with industrial-scale boats like the An Wen Fa No. 22, and with their numbers.

The WCPFC has an online register of all vessels approved to fish in the waters it regulates. Regulation like this is possible nowadays, but it means little if people do not understand the scope of the problem. The WCPFC was established in 2004 on the back of treaty talks that started in 1994. The trouble is that, despite treaties, quotas, and consensual agreements, the stocks of fish are shrinking alarmingly.

A dedicated reporter with several months free could trawl through the online database to find out things to write about that would make an impression on readers in countries like Australia. But I imagine the job would be vastly facilitated if the reporter had available a dedicated coder. There's a comprehensive CSV file as well as a PDF file as well as the online database (which looks like it was built using SharePoint).

Taiwan is not the only country where vessels registered with the WCPFC operate out of. Australia has about 300, and there are a similar number in China.

If anyone knows of a clever coder who wants to get involved in a potentially rewarding project, please contact me.

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