7. The Consultation noted that fishing vessel monitoring systems (VMS) typically report in one, or a combination, of three scenarios:
a) domestic fishing (vessels reporting to their national authority and normally fishing within their own flag States EEZ);
b) distant water fishing (foreign vessels within the EEZ of a coastal State and reporting to that State); or
c) high seas fishing (vessels reporting to regional fisheries management bodies).
8. The experts noted that VMS control centres are usually located within a national fisheries agencys fisheries monitoring centre (FMC). The VMS control centre validates and stores the data reports, and facilitates their display and analyses. The VMS is essentially a specialized geographical information system (GIS) for the historical and statistical analysis of the positions of fishing vessels. Vessel Monitoring Systems are increasingly being used to collect, collate and interpret catch, effort data and other fisheries information.
9. For suitable fisheries, VMS programmes have been widely used in developed countries to complement other management measures. In many developing countries such systems are gradually being introduced, often through pilot projects.
10. VMS programmes have been implemented for a variety of strategic objectives. In Iceland, all fishing vessels are obliged to be equipped, primarily for safety reasons. In other European countries, VMS has been progressively deployed on fishing vessels according to size classes, starting with the larger industrial vessels of 24 meters and subsequently to vessels of 15 meters. In the USA, VMS has been introduced on a fishery-by-fishery basis to enforce underlying regulations, such as those relating to restricted areas or time quota (effort limitations).
11. In some countries the VMS architecture has been "open". This means that multiple communications systems, for example, using different satellites, are used to communicate with fisheries monitoring centres. Other VMS programmes mandate the use of a single type of shipboard equipment and means of communication. The improved communications and availability of vessel position information through VMS also provides significant benefits to fishers in the event of emergencies at sea.
12. The Consultation noted that in some countries, mandating a certain type of equipment may be contrary to national policy, because such mandates are perceived as inhibiting product development and innovation. The VMS legislation may set out the functional specification for the on-board VMS equipment, rather than specifying the type of equipment. It was pointed out, however, that by dissuading proprietary formats, the standardization of data formats could in some cases provide an incentive to promote technological development.
13. The Consultation stressed that the fundamental differences between a position report that could be generated automatically and a message report that would require manual input from the originator. A further distinction was drawn between data that had to be reported in near real time and catch and effort data that could be delayed until the fishing vessel had landed its catch.
14. In some cases, the data in VMS position reports are packaged in a manner that is sub-optimal in terms of message size and cost. Concern was expressed that, as the volume of VMS reports has increased, so has the volume of lost messages. The possibility was discussed of approaching the service providers to request that they establish a dedicated VMS format for position reports. The format should be non-proprietary and freely available for use by all. The VMS position report should include, as a minimum, a unique identifier for the originator of the report, date, time, longitude, latitude, speed and course.
15. The Consultation noted the detailed and well-established vessel position and catch reporting formats and standards agreed at international level in the North Atlantic and used by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and several bilateral agreements in the area. These standards and formats are known as the "North Atlantic Format" (NAF). Similar formats and standards have recently been proposed for adoption by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The NAF is computer readable and can be imported into databases. The messages are short and compact, which reduces communication costs. The NAF ensures that most critical information required for MCS is effectively transmitted and facilitates exchange of information between VMS programmes. The possible evolution of the NAF to an XML format was noted.
16. The Consultation considered whether or not the design, concepts and codes used in the NAF could be adopted as an international standard for VMS position, catch and activity reporting, and it was agreed that the suitability of the NAF for such purposes be brought to the attention of the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP).
 Also see section on the
mission and activities of the CWP later in this report.|