4.1 VMS use in MCS
4.2 What VMS Does Not Do
4.3 Application of VMS
4.4 VMS Components
4.5 Satellite Surveillance
4.6 Other Surveillance Systems
In order to discuss the use of satellite navigation and communications systems and their role in fishing vessel monitoring one has to first understand what VMS is. It is often assumed that VMS is a synonym for satellite surveillance. This is not true.
4.1.1 What VMS does
VMS provides another tool in the MCS kit. It will make many of the currently used conventional MCS measures more effective.
VMS provides monitoring agencies with accurate locations, of fishing vessels that are participating in the VMS. It informs the monitoring agency where a vessel is and where it was at periodic time intervals. The position information can be provided to the monitoring agency in near real time (less than 30 minutes) no matter where the vessel is located in the world. (Note that Inmarsat does not cover the Polar Regions north and south of 75 degrees latitude).
This is simple but powerful information. Prior to VMS, fisheries management agencies have had to rely on information provided by vessel operators, information which may not be reliable, since there are many reasons for the operators giving inaccurate information. Aside from the possibility of illegal fishing, location of successful fishing grounds can be highly valuable commercial information. That VMS can provide this information to a monitoring agency is often the major source of opposition to the use of VMS by the fishing industry.
VMS can also provide a vessels speed and heading in either of two ways:
From the vessel position and speed provided in a number of consecutive position reports, it is possible for the monitoring agency to draw conclusions about the activities of a vessel. A vessel travelling at speeds of less than 3 knots is one indicator of possible fishing activity. For particular types of fishing operations a vessel may show a pattern of positions which also indicate possible fishing activity. For example, in trawling a vessel may show multiple consecutive positions within a relatively small locality and tracks which intersect each other. In long-lining a vessel may show multiple positions in a particular direction for setting the line and the opposite direction for retrieval, or sometimes a circular pattern for setting and retrieving in a consistent direction.
VMS allows the transmission of catch and effort data from the fishing vessel to a monitoring agency in near real time. This information cannot be entered automatically by equipment on the vessel and must be input by the vessel operator. As such, it must assume a lesser degree of reliability. However, it can have a number of uses in the context of MCS.
The vessel operator can nominate commencement and cessation of fishing operations. This may make the task of interpreting the vessels activities easier for the monitoring agency and allow it to thoroughly investigate suspected fishing operations outside of the nominated operational fishing periods.
Catch data, entered and transmitted at sea immediately after each fishing operation, commits the vessel operator to a specific estimate of catch without the knowledge of whether the vessel will be subject to a boarding inspection at sea or at the landing port. This could be useful in a number of situations such as a quota fishery where more accurate declarations of catch are required.
VMS also allows the transmission of other data to a monitoring agency by the vessel operator. Any unformatted message could be transmitted for a variety of purposes. This could include notification of the vessels intentions such as entering a port or fishing zone, or could be information about the activity of other vessels. Of course such information could be transmitted by communication systems other than those provided by VMS but the VMS does provide an obvious, reliable, direct and relatively inexpensive means of communication between the vessel and the monitoring agency.
A VMS can also allow for the transmission of information which is not position information and which is not entered by the vessel operator. Such information could be derived from a variety of automatic sensors. Very little practical work has been done with sensors in the fisheries MCS context. The purpose and effectiveness of such sensors will emerge with further development of VMS. Some suggestions as to their purpose are to identify more specifically actual fishing activity through, for example, measuring the load of a trawlers engines or detecting the operation of its winches.
VMS does not replace or eliminate conventional MCS measures such as aerial surveillance, boarding at sea via patrol boats, landing inspections and documentary investigation. Many of these measures may need to be activated as a specific response to information received via the VMS.
VMS, by itself, does not provide evidence of a standard likely to satisfy most criminal courts of an offence that involved fishing activity. VMS indicates probable fishing activity and provides a good and sufficient basis for further investigation by one or more of the conventional MCS measures. In some jurisdictions such as in the USA, many fisheries matters are dealt with in civil rather than criminal courts. A level of credibility may be established for VMS over time, to the extent that VMS evidence may be accepted as prima facie evidence of fishing activity by the civil court.
4.3.1 Suitable applications
4.3.3 Probable cause and targeted investigations
4.3.4 Targeting landing and at sea inspections
4.3.5 Increasing efficiency of surveillance patrols
4.3.6 Increasing risk for under declaration of catch
As has been identified above there are clearly functions which a VMS can perform and those which it cannot. The essential components of VMS function are tracking vessel locations, identifying possible fishing activity and providing a means of communication. For effective application of VMS to a fisheries management objective it is obvious that the management rules to achieve that objective must relate to VMS capabilities. Examples of management rules where VMS could be effective will probably include restrictions related to geographic areas. These might include but not be limited to:
The above, or combinations of the above, are quite common in fisheries management practice. VMS may be applied quite simply and effectively in most of these situations. For example, in monitoring whether a vessel conducts fishing activity in a closed area. In other situations, particularly where quota or catch restrictions apply, it may be necessary to modify the management rules to enable VMS to be fully effective in achieving the management objective. For example, in monitoring a catch restriction on a particular area, it may be necessary to restrict vessel operations to that single area for a given voyage (it is easier for VMS to show no fishing in other areas and port inspections to confirm the size of a catch). This may cause some inconvenience to vessel operations and may not be practical as a result. However, in many situations it will be practical to use VMS with some modification of management rules and this should not be overlooked.
One of the major impacts of VMS in MCS usage is its deterrent effect. This has been observed and reported on through practical experience in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. It has been demonstrated that if fishing vessel operators know that they are being monitored and that a credible enforcement action will result from illegal activity, then the likelihood of that illegal activity occurring is significantly diminished. In this context, VMS is a preventive measure rather than a cure.
The VMS must maintain its credibility in the eyes of the vessel operators and its use must be kept at the forefront of their minds if the deterrent effect is to be maintained. The credibility of the system can only be maintained if all operational issues are followed up, particularly those which effect a vessel such as failure of the vessel to report on schedule. The presence of the VMS equipment on the vessel will be a reminder to operators of its monitoring operation. Use of the system for direct communication between vessel and monitoring agency further strengthens the presence of the monitoring function.
In an active sense VMS will potentially show monitoring officers many possible breaches of fishing rules. The types of breaches may be fishing in a closed area, fishing in an area for which the vessel is not licensed, or fishing in an area subject to quota restrictions with insufficient quota.
For these types of breaches, VMS can show officers those vessels which are following the rules as well those which are not. In doing so it makes the activities of investigating officers much more cost effective since less time will be spent pursuing false trails and fishing operators who are following the rules.
In many jurisdictions, it may also be a requirement to have established probable cause before pursuing some types of investigations, for example, in obtaining a search warrant. VMS may be of assistance in this situation because while not being evidence of sufficient significance by itself to obtain a conviction, it could provide sufficient evidence to lead an officer to believe that an illegal act had occurred.
In many fisheries management cases, monitoring officers will have particular vessels or particular situations for which they may wish to conduct an at sea or landing inspection, sometimes without warning to the vessel operator. Prior to VMS it was extremely difficult to determine where a vessel was located at sea or where, and at what time, it might enter port. VMS provides a good and reliable means of achieving this with potential savings in time and other expense in moving officers, aircraft or patrol vessels to the correct location at the appropriate time.
Patrols by both sea and air will still be necessary for fully effective MCS even with an effective VMS. Unlicensed vessels must be detected and these may not be participating in a VMS or the VMS position data for some vessels may not be available to a particular nations monitoring agency. A patrolling aircraft or vessel can spend considerable time and fuel investigating legitimate fishing vessels that will appear on their radar. Providing access to VMS data to these patrol craft can minimise the effort spent confirming radar contacts of vessels fishing legitimately. Further, identifying legitimate fishing vessels to patrol craft via VMS may help them choose particular contacts for more productive investigation when several contacts are made by radar.
In some fisheries management scenarios catch restrictions or quotas may apply against particular species in particular areas. Operators may under-declare catches for particular areas or misreport catches for areas other than where they were caught. A random inspection system may be part of the MCS regime for such a fishery but often it will be too late to detect the misreporting, or may allow the vessel operators to declare catch accurately in those few situations where an inspection takes place. The communications capability of VMS can be of assistance by assuring that vessel operators declare each catch as it is made. Misreporting catch by this means places the operator at greater risk of detection during the random inspections since the vessel may not have left the area of the reported catch and there will be no opportunity to change the declared catch if the vessel is subject to an inspection.
At the current state of the art VMS is a co-operative system where only participating vessels are monitored. It is a co-operative system because each participating vessel must carry an operating transmitter or transceiver (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a transponder) which is capable of fixing a position, (in most cases, calculating its own position and thus the position of the vessel carrying it). An automated reporting system then controls the transmission of the position data and possibly other data via a communications system to a fisheries monitoring station.
The transmitter or transceiver must have an integrated means of fixing a position and hence calculating speed and course. The Global Positioning System (GPS) used so successfully by the fishing industry, is the method generally preferred because of its high level of accuracy, availability and relatively low equipment cost.
The automated reporting system achieves its purpose through a combination of computerised instructions in the transmitter and functions available in the communications system. The automated reporting system is capable of being programmed to send position reports at specified time intervals.
The communications system moves data between the transmitter/transceiver on the vessels and the monitoring agency. This may or may not involve the use of a satellite. Many tracking applications for land based vehicles use cellular phone and H.F. radio. China is trialing a VMS which uses Single Side Band radio as part of the communications system.
However, for MCS of fishing vessels, satellite based communications systems are considered the most suitable since they have the advantages of global coverage and high reliability.
In a satellite based communications system, data is transferred from the vessel to a satellite and then to an earth station. The earth station then forwards the data to the monitoring agency via a secure public data network or the telephone network using an international standard data communications protocol such as X25.
Within a fisheries monitoring agency there must be a computerised monitoring station capable of collecting the data received from the earth station, storing that data for subsequent review, analysing the data to detect and highlight exceptional conditions of interest to monitoring officers, and displaying that data in a meaningful way, typically against a background map. A specialised Geographical Information System (GIS) is also a highly desirable element of the monitoring station particularly for historical and statistical analysis of both position and catch data.
Within this document VMS does not mean by definition satellite surveillance. It is quite possible. however, that satellite surveillance technology will be used for MCS of fishing vessels in the future. In fact this is already beginning to occur.
Satellite surveillance has a connotation of a non-cooperating target, i.e. the vessel being monitored will not actively be part of the system. The satellite will detect and observe vessels either visually or by radar. Such technology has been typically the preserve of military intelligence agencies. However, satellite imagery has become more accessible and is used now for a variety of commercial and governmental purposes. There are two main types of satellite imagery, optical/infrared such as is provided by Spot and Landsat satellites, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Satellites with SAR capability include ERS-1, Radarsat and JERS-1. SAR appears to have more potential for fisheries MCS because it is less affected by cloud cover and darkness. Service providers are now offering software packages that take SAR data, analyse that data, highlighting vessels at geographical locations within the SAR image.
Exploiting satellite surveillance technology for large-scale fisheries MCS purposes has not begun as yet. Some countries, notably Norway and Canada, are trialing the technology but it is still not clear what role it will play in fisheries MCS. It is also uncertain as to whether such technology will be economically viable for fisheries MCS, especially as a broad based fishery management tool.
Satellite surveillance, through technology such as SAR, has the principal advantage that it can detect non-licensed vessels or vessels which are not participating in a VMS. It also has a number of disadvantages for MCS in fisheries.
In the light of this information, it is clear that SAR is currently somewhat limited in its usefulness as a MCS tool as much activity of fishing vessels will not be observed. However, SAR equipped satellites provide considerable potential as an MCS tool despite their disadvantages. They could be quite useful at monitoring particular areas for illegal activity where weather conditions or remoteness makes conventional surveillance impossible or non cost effective.
The combination of VMS and a SAR satellite surveillance system would be most effective since the systems complement each other in their functional capabilities. A VMS can identify and track licensed fishing vessels where a SAR system simply detects the presence of vessels. Having input from both systems would enable a monitoring agency to focus its attention much more productively on the vessels that may be in breach of management rules. This situation is still a few years away as further development is required before SAR will be fully effective and affordable.
Satellite MCS initiatives will focus on VMS because it is further developed for commercial availability and enables countries to monitor their licensed fishing fleet more cost effectively.
There are a variety of means of monitoring fishing vessels in a non-cooperative manner apart from satellite surveillance and the traditional patrol boats and aircraft. Systems are available which involve use of land based radar or sea based sonar. Such systems tend to be localised in their coverage. They sit at a fixed location and monitor the area in the immediate vicinity. The range can vary greatly from a few kilometres up to more than 300 kilometres for some sophisticated and expensive over the horizon radars.
Fixed surveillance systems can serve a valuable purpose, which will however be limited by their range and in some cases by their expense. They are not an alternative to VMS and the remainder of this document will therefore focus on VMS.