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FAO Fishing Technology Service.
Fishing operations. 1. Vessel monitoring systems.
FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 1, Suppl. 1. Rome, FAO. 1998. 58p.


Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) have greatly increased the potential efficiency of Monitoring Control and Surveillance of fishing vessels (MCS). In the last few years several countries have introduced VMS which enable the activities of fishing vessels to be monitored and indeed for such vessels to actively report on catches to the fisheries management authority. This document summarizes the state of the art of VMS and gives guidance to fisheries administrators considering implementing VMS in their fisheries management systems and to all other personnel involved in fisheries MCS.

VMS provides another very effective tool for MCS, particularly for some developing countries that lack the financial and physical resources to support an effective conventional MCS capability. In this respect, indications are given for the cost of setting up and operating a national VMS system. For those countries which already have existing MCS, VMS will make those conventional MCS measures more effective and possibly less costly. Attention is drawn to the need for recommendations on common data exchange formats and protocols. This is seen as an immediate problem which needs urgent attention. Eventually these recommendations may be adopted as an international standard for a common international data exchange format in VMS and in catch reporting. Finally, the role VMS will have on the implementation of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement and the FAO Code of Conduct is also addressed.

Coastal States, which apply VMS to national and foreign fishing vessels licensed to fish in their EEZs, can monitor the activities of such vessels very effectively and economically, thereby increasing the effectiveness of their MCS. On the other hand, the implementation of VMS by Flag States, for vessels authorized to fish on the high seas, is the most effective means of ensuring that vessels flying their flag do not conduct unauthorized fishing within areas under the national jurisdiction of other States.

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