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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Apologies for the long silence. I've been on leave, back home in Scotland, and when I'm on leave I try to avoid thinking about fish as much as possible. (A bit difficult when you live in an ex-fishing village near two of the biggest remaining fishing ports on the Scottish east coast, but it can be achieved by putting your fingers in your ears and singing very loudly). Trouble is, I don't know much about British fisheries. My entire fisheries career has been spent in the Pacific, and I left Scotland with a degree in botany of all things. However, having spent the last 20 years trying to encourage Pacific Island governments to bring fishing communities into the management process, it is always a shock to go back home and find that the European Union has been doing the exact opposite. Its only recently that even regional consultative systems have been set up.

It reminds me of the days when I was managing a UK government-funded project to help Pacific Island countries set up integrated coastal fishery management planning frameworks, and I asked our SPC UK representative to see if London would send us some UK examples, to see if they could be used as models for Pacific processes, given that many Pacific Island countries legal systems are ultimately British in origin. The word came back that, sorry, but the UK hadn't actually got any coastal fishery plans up and running yet. I can foresee a time, in the not too distant future, when the Pacific Islands will be providing development assistance to the UK :-) Unfortunately the UK has withdrawn from membership of SPC to concentrate on needier parts of the world. Apparently we're doing pretty well here by comparison, not only in fisheries.

But this blog is not about international one-upmanship. It's about oneFish.

I'm not going to describe oneFish to you because it describes itself well enough on the website (http://www.onefish.org/), just draw it to your attention, because oneFish is coming to a crossroads in its career. This multi-user web-portal aims to become THE global repository for, or reference to, all research relating to fisheries, and it is making a fair fist of the job, despite a few hiccups in the early stages. But a donor funding cycle has come to an end and FAO now has to decide if it can afford to provide basic financial support to continue it.

You might think of oneFish as being a bit like Wikipedia - it depends mainly on the people who use it for its content - as well as having some dedicated staff feeding it and weeding it. And like any wiki project (I've been involved in one or two) it requires a certain "critical mass" of contributions to become sustainable.

I reckon it's there now though, and personally I consider it has become an invaluable resource. It is patchy, like any user-supported knowledge-base - some users are more dedicated than others. But it is worth it even if only for the areas that it does cover well, like IIFET, and archives of various email discussion groups. And the other areas will fill out as its popularity increases. For fisheries organisations and projects that don't already have their own websites, oneFish provides a "virtual office" facility. For others, like SPC, there will be no point in duplicating existing websites by trying to port everything to oneFish, and we simply provide links to our own websites. But, if we needed to publicise our work a bit more widely we could register each document, event & project individually.

I have one or two complaints about the interface - it always takes me a while to figure out exactly where the area that I'm supposed to be responsible for is located. Is it under "virtual offices" or under "stakeholder organisations"? And the URLs for individual topics are not exactly intuitive. The SPC page, for example, is located at http://www.onefish.org/servlet/CDSServlet?status=ND0yODEyNyY2PWVuJjMzPWRvY3VtZW50cyYzNz1rb3M. And everything entered has to be approved by a topic editor before it appears, even within your own "virtual office". But then I have complaints about every unfamiliar interface.

So please take a look at the oneFish portal. It needs all the support it can get right now, and I reckon it is well worth supporting because it is useful resource - and getting more and more useful every day.
P.S. No pretty pictures today because I can't get blogger's graphics to work.

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