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Testing the waters

Testing the waters

Smartphone apps for recreational fishers bags an international award for Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Free smartphone apps and YouTube video to guide recreational fishers across New Zealand waters have bagged a FutureGov award in Malaysia. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry project, ‘4 Million Guardians’, is a free service that provides important fishing rules information such as catch limits or fish size limits to mobile phones.

The project won the Wireless Government award at the fifth FutureGov awards in Malaysia last Friday.

Fishers with smartphones can download the app from Apple’s online app store or the Android market. The application notes the user’s location through GPS positioning and links them to a range of information including fishing rules for the area and local notices. Fishers can also view short video clips within the app featuring fishing hints such as how to return undersized fish safely to the water. The text service will cover some 150 species (currently around 100 are registered).

MAF director general Wayne McNee said people who do not have their fishing handbook with them when they go fishing can now access the most current information for the geographical area by phone no matter where they are in New Zealand. “The fishing rules app is one of the government sector’s first uses of smartphone technology to deliver information in a convenient way to consumers. It is certain to have great potential in other areas like border control and biosecurity,” said McNee.

A second service allows those with standard mobile phones to text the species they are fishing for to a free text number. They will then get a return text detailing the relevant rules for that species. The text messages are free.

“The possibilities for adaptation seem limitless,” said McNee.

McNee said the full suite of rules will be available online in time for the summer fishing season. “You won’t have any reason not to know the rules,” he said.

Helping hand from Christchurch

Channa Jayasinha, CIO, Ministry of Fisheries, said the project took four months to complete and is part of the ministry’s information services strategy for new media channels.

Fisheries (which merged with MAF) worked with Mogeo, a mobile development company in Christchurch whose managing director, Adam Hutchinson, is a keen recreational fisher and diver.

Jayasinha said Hutchinson contacted the ministry when he learned they were working on new channels to communicate with the public. Jayasinha described the process as an “interactive development” involving technology experts and the field operation team.

The apps were initially spread through “word of mouth”, and were downloaded around 300 times during the first month alone, Jayasinha said. There were also 300 downloads on YouTube during the same period.

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