FREDERICTON (GNB) – An electronic system developed by the Department of Natural Resources to collect and improve the use of fisheries-related data is a finalist for the 2012 KIRA Awards.

"The e-Fish system allows us to use technology to improve collecting and storing fisheries data and to use that data for better fisheries management,'' said Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup. "The department has always generated large amounts of fisheries-related data, but now we have a system that can more easily turn raw data into information that will better inform our decision-making.''

The e-Fish data system is a finalist in the KIRA Awards in the category of Technological Advancement / Innovation in the public sector. The awards, which recognize excellence in the knowledge industry in New Brunswick, will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre on May 3.

The system was developed by the department’s Fish and Wildlife and Information Services and Systems branches. It uses data from sources such as electrofishing and the annual angler survey as well as habitat and fish stocking information.

Previously, data were collected on paper and held in regional offices of the department. Data were then manually transferred to an electronic format, which was labour intensive and prone to data entry errors; furthermore, this task often occurred well after the data had been collected.

"Now, our fisheries biologists and technicians are entering the data themselves at streamside, using rugged and waterproof tablet computers equipped with global positioning satellite and geographical information system technology,'' said Northrup. "The software developed by our staff provides us with an integrated system that we think is unique, at least in eastern Canada and the United States.''

The e-Fish system was recently demonstrated to the Atlantic International chapter of the American Fisheries Society, representing fisheries biologists from Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

"It was received with great interest as few jurisdictions have a system that allows electronic, geographical information system-referenced data collection and integration for so many fisheries activities,'' said Northrup. "This reaction from peers in other jurisdictions is rewarding for our staff, and I am proud of what they have accomplished with the new e-Fish data system.''