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Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)

Logbooks and VMS

Logbooks are records of catch and effort registered at the time of the catch operation. The records can be in books or on electronic media. Data transmission to authorities can be at the time of landings or immediately after the fishing operation has been c

With the ever-growing amount of control being exercised in many fisheries, the provision of statistical information has become increasingly used or contemplated as a mandatory requirement for the granting of licenses or permits to fish. Even where no licensing system is in operation, but where monitoring of fishing activities forms an essential aspect of control, the need to maintain precise records of fishing operations in the form of logbooks is recognised and is frequently a mandatory requirement.

Logbooks records data in fresh weight and where these data are of sufficient quality dependent on the available weighing technology on board these data can replace the use of 'Conversion factors'.

The requirement for the use of logbooks should be based primarily on the size of the vessel. For example, the European Union requires that all vessels over 10 metres in length should use logbooks, except when absent from port for less than 24 hours.

Logbooks may be considered as having two main functions:

  1. surveillance-orientated objectives, as a tool in the enforcement of fishing regulations and to ensure compliance with resource management controls.
  2. data-orientated objectives, as a method of collecting primary fishery statistics and as a principal source of information on fishing inputs and outputs.

Logbooks have the important role as vehicles for data collection, resulting in logbooks being used by several rather different users. Two distinct major groups of users are identified as being:

  1. biologist-economist (fishery activity data, catch and effort data).
  2. Control and enforcement authorities (especially under licensed fisheries schemes).

In most situations for the compilation of fisheries data, logbooks should not be considered in isolation, but as an integrated system including other documentation, such as landings declarations and sales notes. The quantities of fish recorded in logbooks are, in most cases, not accurate values, but estimates. Due to adverse working conditions on fishing vessels, the first opportunity to accurately record the quantity of fish is usually at the time of landing. The value of the logbooks from the point of view of the quantity of fish caught is in situations where on a single trip a vessel fishes in two or more fishing areas or uses two or more types of fishing gear. In such circumstances the quantities recorded in the logbooks may be used to allocate the quantities landed between the different fishing areas and/or methods. The other essential statistical information obtained from logbooks is the fishing effort responsible for the catches.

The recording of data on a haul-to-haul basis may not be essential and practicable. In such cases day-to-day records may be sufficient. However, separate records should be kept for each change of fishing gear or method and for each change of fishing area.

The most representative position of the haul should be recorded, indicating latitude and longitude (degrees and minutes). This is often the position when the haul begins or when hauling after fishing begins. It should be mandatory to record the retained catch by species while recording of discarded catch separately is strongly recommended.
Essential requirements to the entries at the head of a logbook page, irrespective of the tailoring to different circumstances, should be:

  1. Vessel name
  2. Vessel nationality
  3. Vessel registration number
  4. Radio call sign
  5. Trip number (where appropriate)
  6. Master's name
  7. Name of partner vessels (where applicable)
  8. Nationality of partner vessel
  9. Registration number of partner vessel
  10. Type of gear (a separate page to be used for each gear)
  11. Gear specifications (e.g. mesh size)
  12. Port of landing (or name, nationality and registration number of vessel to which catch is trans-shipped)
  13. Quantity of fish trans-shipped
  14. Date of landing

Days not fishing, due to bad weather, loading, unloading, repairs, steaming, etc., should be recorded on the page in chronological order.

Vessel Transmitted Information (VTI) and E-logbooks

VTI includes catch and vessel monitoring system (VMS) information submitted by a fishing vessel at a specified interval. VTI includes entry and exit reporting of catches on-board. VMS documents the position of the fishing vessel through automatic transmitting of the vessel position via satellite, telephone or radio to a land-based station. The frequency of this transmission varies between every 6 hours to every few minutes. VTI and VMS are mainly used for control and enforcement purposes; however, recently VTI is proving useful in aiding scientists with modelling the impact of fishing effort. For further information about application and standards see here.

Merging logbook and VMS information sometimes adjusted by landings data provide maps of fishing activities. Technologies that allows the catch data to be transmitted to a shore station shortly after the fishing operation has been completed and are being introduced (e-logbooks).


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Caddy, J.F. and Bazigos, G.P."Practical guidelines for statistical monitoring of fisheires in manpower limited situations". FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 257. Rome, FAO.1985. 86p.

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FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 1, Suppl. 1. Rome, FAO. 1998. 58p.