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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 make it possible to monitor the activities of fishing vessels and enable such vessels to 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 is a particularly effective tool for some developing countries that lack the financial and physical resources to support an effective conventional MCS capability. The publication discusses the cost of setting up and operating a national VMS system. For those countries that already have conventional MCS measures, VMS will make them more effective and possibly less costly. Attention is drawn to the need for recommendations on common data exchange formats and protocols which may eventually be adopted as international standards in VMS and in catch reporting. The future role of VMS in the implementation of the United Nations fish stocks agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is also addressed.

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