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3.1 Compliance with Fisheries Management Rules
3.2 Collection of Fishing Catch and Effort Data, or Other Fishing Activity

Advances in electronic, computing and satellite technologies have been moving at an extremely rapid rate over the past 20 years. Tracking of vehicles and animals via H.F. radio and radar became increasingly common during this period. However tracking of fishing vessels did not attract much attention until the mid 1980s when satellite technology became commercially viable for tracking purposes. Applications of this type, and interest in them, continued to be relatively limited until about 1991 when a number of fisheries agencies began investigations and trials.

Subsequent to these trials, a number of countries have implemented VMS on small to medium scales of between 30 to 150 vessels. Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and the USA have all reported on successful implementations of VMS for MCS purposes. Many other countries have conducted trials and most have plans for the introduction of VMS in at least some fisheries as a mandatory legal requirement such as in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. It is of particular note is that the countries of the European Union, where large scale trials have been conducted during 1996 and 1997, are now moving to introduce the mandatory use of VMS on a wider scale, covering all fishing vessels of particular sizes or modes of operation.

In countries where VMS has proven successful there are plans to expand its use. This success has also led to plans to implement systems on a broader regional or sub regional basis. The success of VMS in the Pacific has resulted in the South Pacific Forum deciding to develop a sub regional system which, through the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), will serve the interests of the 16 member countries including many which are small, relatively poorly resourced and are classified as developing countries. This system will cover more than 1000 vessels and implementation is scheduled to commence in 1997.

Many other countries have VMS programmes at varying levels of advancement. These include, but are not limited to, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Morocco, China and Japan.

The implementation of VMS is dependent on the availability of the technology at an affordable price. The availability of the Inmarsat and Argos satellite communications systems globally, and the Euteltracs and Boatracs systems in Europe and the USA respectively, has created a competitive market for tracking vehicles of many types. This has led to improvements in services, software, hardware and reductions in the pricing of all these items. The availability of the Global Positioning System (GPS) has added a new dimension to positioning accuracy and this technology is now pervasive in its use, with hand held GPS now within the economic reach of many individuals.

However, the real motivation to implement VMS comes not from the technology itself but from the benefits it provides for managing fisheries. Variations in global fish catches since 1988, mentioned above, have been well documented. The reasons for these variations are less well understood but it is clear that in many areas there has been a large increase in fishing effort and a decrease in fish stocks. A point of interest so far as this document is concerned, is that the increase in fishing effort has been brought about not only by the fishing technologies used, but also by the use of electronic, computing and satellite technologies. These same technologies are now being seen as one of the tools available to fisheries managers for achieving sustainable harvesting of fish.

VMS technology is seen as meeting two basic functions for the management of fish stocks.

3.1 Compliance with Fisheries Management Rules

Typically, fisheries management rules are designed to achieve sustainable, harmonious and profitable fishing through a variety of methods. This usually includes some form of licensed vessel access to particular areas, restrictions on gear types, restrictions on fishing time, quotas on the amounts of particular species which may be caught, etc. An effective MCS regime must be in place to enable these rules to be a viable management tool. It is this application for which VMS has been targeted mostly through providing information on the position of vessels. Position information is sent from equipment on board licensed vessels to fisheries monitoring agencies at relatively frequent time intervals so that information is available on the activities of those vessels.

3.2 Collection of Fishing Catch and Effort Data, or Other Fishing Activity

Catch and effort data is a primary source of information relating to the status of fisheries. Considerable benefits exist in collecting catch and effort data via VMS. Benefits are derived from improvements in timeliness of delivery of data to the monitoring agency. Reductions in cost of data entry and improvements in accuracy can be achieved through minimising data handling and direct interaction between the vessel operator and the data entry/editing program.

Catch data and other fishing activity data such as reports about a vessel’s intentions, may also have a compliance related function. For example, catch reports may be used to monitor a catch quota.

Catch and effort reporting has not been a major focus of VMS implementation to date, the major exception being the VMS implemented by Japan. Further catch and effort reporting via VMS can be expected to develop around the world but this document will only deal with catch and effort reporting as it relates to MCS in keeping with the purpose of the document.

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