Philippines fishermen app can help Regent’s Canal residents

Canal boat resident Simon Hodgkinson has launched an app to fight wildlife crime and anti-social beh

Canal boat resident Simon Hodgkinson has launched an app to fight wildlife crime and anti-social behaviour along the Regent's Canal. Pictured with assistants on the project Ed Blackshe and Sarah Labrasca - Credit: Archant

A boat-dweller on the Regent’s Canal has developed an app to make it easier to report anti-social behaviour and crimes against wildlife.

The Dugong app is currently being trialled in the Philippines

The Dugong app is currently being trialled in the Philippines - Credit: Archant

The new app is similar to one currently being used by artisanal fishermen to track the population of the dugong sea cow in the Philippines.

Simon Hodgkinson, 62, who has a background in environmental consultancy and telecommunications, produced his original version for the conservation charity C-3 (community-centred conservation).

Named “Dugong”, this app is being trialled by tourists and 40 local fishermen in the Philippines.

“The app tracks a boat as it goes out to sea,” Mr Hodgkinson explained. “When the fishermen see a dugong sea cow, they take a photo and the app logs the location and sends it to a central database.

“The fisherman don’t read or write, so all they have to do is press the app icon and take a photo.”

Now Mr Hodgkinson, who lives in a boat by Islington Tunnel, and his social enterprise Smart Earth Network, has adapted the app for other uses. He has also teamed up with police, who want to use it as part of their Wildlife and Crime Watch scheme.

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Launched two weeks ago, the scheme aims to get canal-boat users, residents and local businesses to work together to combat anti-social behaviour and wildlife crime.

According to reports, people have used sling shots to shoot birds along the canal, and unwittingly destroyed swan nests in an attempt to “tidy up” the tow path. Boat users also sometimes separate ducklings from their flocks when operating the locks.

Mr Hodgkinson says: “When Wildlife Crime Officer Tracey Parker described the borough’s wildlife crime programme, and said she wanted to get people to report crime along the canal, I said : ‘Why not use this app? It’s absolutely made for this.’”

The benefits of using an app, he claims, is that it can pinpoint the exact location of an incident and involves less hassle.

“The alternative is that people get a telephone number and call the police,” he says. “But the problem with that is that it’s difficult to get through, someone has to take information down, the location is a problem – and there is no photo.”

Mr Hodgkinson, who is passionate about the wildlife along the canal, hopes the app will help protect many animals and birds.

“It’s a wonderful place to live because you see the wildlife evolving around you,” he says. “The most magnificent thing this year was when a swan gave birth to eight cygnets.

“But they’ve been disappearing one by one, and now there are just four left. I don’t quite know what’s happened – perhaps they have been crushed by boats.”

The app, he says, could also be used to report anti-social behaviour in the area.

“At the tunnel, there is a cul de sac where people gather and do drugs, and it can get very loud there at night. It’s a beautiful location, but there is a hidden side to it.

“When people want to dump weapons, they think of the canal. Or if someone wants to escape a police chase, they use the tow path because they can’t be followed by a vehicle.”

With the provisional name of “Community and Wildlife Watch”, Mr Hodgkinson’s app is set to launch this week.

He also has plans to develop the app to facilitate trading between people who live in canal boats and the suppliers of diesel, gas and coal.