New App Helps Fishermen Comply with Reporting Requirements

Boothbay Harbor - Commercial fishermen now have access to a free app that simplifies required harvest reporting for both state and federally licensed fishermen.

Developed by technology company Bluefin Data under a contract with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the app, called VESL, is the result of a required increase in the percentage of lobster harvesters who must submit reports.

Currently only 10 percent of state licensed lobster harvesters in Maine must report their harvest. However, as part of an update to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plan for lobster, 100 percent of state licensed commercial lobstermen will have to report their harvest information, including location of fishing activity and pounds landed.

The reporting requirement, which will be implemented in Maine in 2023, is intended to provide regulators and researchers with more detail about where fishing activity takes place.

"We decided to develop a new app to make it easier for lobstermen to comply with the new reporting requirement," said Maine Department of Marine Resource Commissioner Patrick Keliher. "Better data about fishing activity will help managers sustain Maine's important marine resources and will help ensure informed decisions are made around issues that impact fishermen like whale regulations and offshore wind development."

A request for proposals issued by the department required developers to not only produce an app that would work for lobstermen, but also for other state and federal fisheries that require harvester reports.

"This app was developed with fisherman input. It is easy to use, and allows harvesters to file reports quickly and efficiently," said Keliher. "Our goal with this product was to develop something that reduces the burden of reporting and lets fishermen focus on catching fish."

VESL personalizes the interface, depending on the requirements of the fishery. For example, fields required will be customized based on the license, permits and gear type used.

Data can be entered while at sea and uploaded when an internet connection is established, making the submission of accurate and timely reports easy.

VESL is compatible with mobile devices and will work across multiple platforms including IOS and Android (tablet and phone). The app has also been approved by NOAA for use by federally permitted harvesters, and is now available for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

"I'm very impressed with the new app," said DMR Landings Program Manager Rob Watts, who worked with the developer. "We wanted a product that would simplify the task of reporting for fishermen and provide the data regulators and researchers need to more effectively manage, monitor and sustain our commercial fisheries. This product does just that."

For information on the new reporting app, contact Rob Watts at rob.watts@maine.gov or 207-633-9412.