Clearwater Fine Foods Inc., P.O.Box 459, 152 Montague Street, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, BOJ 2CO,Canada.
Abstract: In former times the Captain's logbook was accepted as the undisputed record of a ships activities at sea. In recent years however, depleting fisheries and tougher regulations have resulted in the need for new methods of vessel control and monitoring. On the East coast of Canada, the scallop industry and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have formed a partnership that has resulted in incredible gains for the industry, the scientific branch of the DFO and the environment. New demands have led to the introduction of computer and satellite technology in offices and on board vessels. Scallop stocks are better controlled, incomes are stable and environmental impact is being dramatically reduced.
Prior to 1993 mis-reporting of catch data and vessel position was an on going problem in the Canadian fishing industry. The problem was particularly prevalent in the East coast ground fishery, where many participants believed they had the most to gain from mis-reporting. As a result inaccurate information was entered into the computer models used for stock assessments, which lead to significant errors occurring when the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits were set. It is widely believed that this situation was not peculiar to Canada and the same situation existed, and perhaps continues to exist on a world-wide basis.
In the Canadian east coast, offshore, scallop fishery deliberate mis-reporting of the catch in the past was not nearly as widespread as elsewhere, for the simple reason that because of the way the fishery was managed there was not the same incentive to cheat. In addition, the number of vessels and companies involved was small, the fishing areas limited and the vessels landed at an easily identifiable number of ports. This permitted the DFO to easily monitor the unloading of the catch, and to check that vessels were complying with the regulations. Captains of scallop targeting vessels and fishing companies, however, took a cavalier attitude to completing and submitting the fishing logs to DFO. Many Captains often filled out their logbooks whenever it suited them, rather than as events happened, resulting in many reporting inaccuracies and a worthless "garbage in, garbage out." situation from a scientific viewpoint Inevitably, this caused serious distortions to the stock assessment models and contributed to inappropriate TACs being set for Georges Bank, the main fishing area in the early 1990's.
Relations between DFO and the fishing industry in the offshore scallop fishery on the east coast of Canada were always much better than in the ground fishery, and the management meetings were never characterised by the open hostility which was often present elsewhere. Despite this good relationship a gulf existed between DFO and the industry, with little two-way dialogue taking place. Whilst fishermen and the companies had a reasonable knowledge of what the real situation was on the fishing grounds, DFO scientific staff were out of touch with the fishery because they were not always getting correct information.
In 1991 the scallop industry was expecting a significant increase in the offshore scallop TAC, due to the high catch rates and the abundance of scallops of several year classes found all over the fishing grounds. Instead of the large increase in the TAC that the industry expected, however, the scientific branch of the DFO recommended a very conservative TAC. The significant discrepancy between the expectations of the industry and the recommendations of the DFO scientific section highlighted the existence of a major problem, which was upheld when it was subsequently established that the scallop TAC recommendations were indeed unrealistically low. This error would have realised a loss in revenue of between $40-50 million Canadian Dollars, with a resulting loss of earnings to fishermen and employment on shore.
The magnitude of the problem resulted in a detailed investigation into the cause. This lead to a recognition by both the DFO and the industry that the problem would only be solved through much greater co-operation, and that it was essential that a new era of trust and partnership be established.
The first step taken to correct the problem was a re- evaluation of the logbooks being used. These were changed to make them more user friendly so that the DFO scientific section was provided with more accurate catch and position data. Industry co-operated by improving the training given to Captains so that they understood the importance of completing their logbooks in a timely and accurate manner. This resulted in the Captains and Mates taking a more disciplined approach to record keeping. Representatives from the DFO scientific section also worked closely with the vessels and attended many of the landings, with the result that many of the former barriers were broken down.
In 1994, because of the better rapport that had developed between DFO and the industry, commercial scallop vessels started to be used to undertake the DFO research cruises to establish stock abundance. This was done in partnership, with DFO supplying the scientists and technicians and the industry providing and paying for both the vessel and the crew. Use of an industry vessel has formalised Industry/DFO co-operation, improved communication and enhanced scallop science as a consequence of industry insistence to expand research cruises to include more survey stations as well as grounds not previously studied. Most importantly, industry started to believe in the numbers flowing from DFO's annual stock assessment as they were now an active participant and financial contributor in the process.
With increased focus on the importance of accurate record keeping and position data, the industry began to investigate the application of satellite tracking systems for use on its vessels. Throughout 1992 and 1993, trials with various systems were carried out by the various vessel owners. In 1994 Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. adopted the Boat trac system, produced in San Diego and built by Qualcomm, the largest satellite mobile data communications provider in the world. The reason for this choice was that the system had been developed for use on trucks in the haulage industry, and at that time had 130,000 units in service. The equipment had proved itself to be robust in service, user friendly and highly reliable. Most importantly, Boat trac's personnel were easy to work with and were dedicated to developing user specific software and systems appropriate to the fishery, rather than insisting on the use of their truck based systems. The system that was adopted for use in the fishery provided tamper proof, satellite positioning for individual vessels or for the fleet on a 24-hour basis, using the global positioning system (GPS). Access to DGPS is in the process of being developed to increase the accuracy of positioning. Keyboard communications by satellite also allow the Captain and shore bases to have instant and secure communication. In addition, both DFO and company shore staff are able to track the position of individual vessels or the company fleet at any time. At this point DFO and Industry have the tools for real time data collection and position monitoring, all of which have been achieved at an economical cost.
Once real time, economical communication with the company fleet became a reality it was quickly realised that there was a need for an improved plotter for on-board fishing applications, which had a large database capability for recording fishing data. It was recognised that the key to getting full co-operation from fishermen was to make record keeping easier than filling out the traditional logbook, through the computerisation of data entry and the training of Captains and Mates.
In 1996 after investigating several systems Clearwater was introduced, through the Canadian Hydrographic Service, to the Ocean Vision system, which is now produced in Vancouver, B.C., but which originates from Australia. This Electronic Charting System (ECS), with plotting capability and a massive data storage capability was quickly recognised that as the ideal system for company use in the scallop fishery As with Boat tracs, Ocean Vision quickly proved their willingness to work with the end user to provide software and other functions tailored to the requirements of company vessels. When the tracking system (Boat trac) was combined with the electronic charting system (Ocean Vision) it provided Captains and Industry management with a user friendly, fully integrated, monitoring, data collection, data recording, fishing plotter and chart display with communication equipment capabilities. The system had the added advantage that all of these features were incorporated into one display unit, controlled by a computer and keyboard.
Clearwater recognised early on that there was an urgent need to upgrade the educational and professional level of our fishermen to meet the requirements of the future. In 1989 it became a requirement that all officers attended upgrading courses arranged by the company. Initially this took the form of upgrading certification but then was expanded to include courses of a professional nature. These courses included such topics as, supervision and leadership, negotiation and dispute settlement, fishing biology, stock assessment techniques and quality assurance.
Naturally when on board computer technology was contemplated almost all of the fleet Captains and Mates felt under great pressure and many indicated their perceived inability to cope with the new technology. This was countered by gradually introducing these personnel to computer concepts and then by arranging for each of them to take a minimum of six weeks of hands-on computer training at courses designed specifically for their needs, and arranged locally. These courses proved to be very successful and all Captains and Mates graduated successfully. This proved to be an absolutely essential requirement to getting full co-operation from the Captains and Mates for the successful introduction of the Boat tracks/Ocean Vision systems, particularly with reference to the data-recording component.
At the same time that Boat Tracs and Ocean Vision equipment was being introduced to our fleet, the capability of a new generation of charting became available, producing 3D bottom images, using multi-beam and side scan sonar technology. This represented an opportunity for a tremendous advance in fishing capability, which could be married to the Boat tracs/Ocean Vision system to form a fully integrated user friendly system. Such a system would allow tracking, communication, data collection and storage and charting with options for a 3D display to be combined into one interactive unit.
It was also apparent that with the equipment capability available, it would be possible to have real time electronic logbooks transmitting directly from the vessel to the DFO scientific section, providing day-to-day catch data in association with enhanced images of seabed type, if required.
Working with the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Clearwater provided funding to complete the 3D imaging of Brown's Bank on the Scotian Shelf, which developed into a major scallop fishing area for the offshore fleet during the 1990's. This survey was carried out to bring the advantages of 3D fishing technology to the attention of all operators in the scallop fishery, and to attract co-operative funding from them in order that other major scallop fishing areas could be charted to give 3D capability. This is now an on-going process and it is hoped that all the major offshore scallop fishing grounds will be charted by the end of 1999. Work is progressing on the development of software needed for the introduction of electronic logbooks.
Today, the Nova Scotia scallop fishing industry and all three branches of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Science, Enforcement and Management) have recognised the importance of the industry programme and how working co-operatively together can meet everyone's needs. Some of the results and benefits identified in the course of this co-operation include;
- The ability to micro-manage selected fishing grounds with integrity (e.g. subdivision of fishing banks to allow scallops with different growth patterns to be harvested under appropriate conservation rules);
- In 1998 the integrated management approach adopted in this fishery gave industry an additional 900 t of scallop quota. This additional quota was harvested consistent with good scientific advice and gave additional revenues of $8 million Canadian Dollars. In real terms this meant significant additional income to each fisherman on board and to the vessel owner. In 1999 this will increase to 1600 t giving additional revenues of $14 million Canadian Dollars. Without reliable monitoring, 3D mapping capability and information exchange between the industry and the DFO, these increases in revenues would not have been possible;
- Fishing effort has been diversified from heavily fished traditional areas to new areas of controlled exploitation;
- Concentrations of juvenile scallops have been identified and recorded. Industry has voluntarily agreed, as part of the management plan, to declare those areas as 'No Go Zones' (NGZ's);
- Equipping fleets with electronic monitoring devices permitted the development of a fishery for Icelandic scallops on the Banquereau grounds of Nova Scotia. In 1998 this was granted a new experimental quota of 100 t. The outlook in this fishery is promising with quota expected to increase to 200 t in 1999;
- This fishery has demonstrated that 3D charting gives the capability to fish areas never fished before, with the overall result that total effort is dispersed;
- The integrated approach allows data to be accumulated on precise tows made and size of scallops caught by position. Information is shared with all Captains resulting in the ability to harvest scallops of mature size throughout the fishery, and
- More precise information about the location of scallop beds and classification of the sea bottom through 3D imaging, results in scallop gear spending less time on the bottom, reducing both operating costs and disturbance to scallop habitat.
The management crisis in the Canadian East coast scallop fishery in 1991 focused the attention of both the industry and the DFO on the need for closer co-operation. This lead to the voluntary introduction of electronic satellite monitoring equipment and accelerated the introduction of advanced computer technology to the fleet. These developments have enabled both the industry and DFO to build up a very complete database on exactly where and how scallops are caught, information that previously was the most secret possession of fishing Captains. The information is so complete that it has enabled parts of the fishery to be managed selectively by size of scallops caught, allowing juveniles to grow and become fully mature prior to harvest. To a very large extent the whole programme has been willingly funded by the fishing industry working in partnership with DFO.
Once trained fishermen have quickly adapted to the use of computer technology and this has opened up the real possibility of producing electronic logbooks so that fishing information is received by the scientific branch of the DFO in real time, which will considerably improve the management of the fishery. The experience gained in this fishery has shown the importance of providing training prior to the introduction of new technology and the provision of on-going support thereafter.
The use of this vessel monitoring system by the Canadian offshore scallop fleet, in addition to providing reliable, cost effective vessel positioning information, has created a range of very valuable unanticipated benefits to the industry and the management and scientific branches of the DFO. Introduction of monitoring technology encouraged vessel operators to install computer systems with powerful communication, data collection and recording capabilities which are increasing fishing efficiency and lowering operating costs. Satellite tracking of vessels has enabled the industry and DFO to implement new management units with new conservation rules tailored to meet actual scallop growth rates. Improved data collection is already enhancing DFO's scallop science effort and work continues to jointly develop an electronic logbook. Work is ongoing to integrate monitoring systems with 3D seabed maps which will further improve operating efficiency and help reduce the amount of bottom towed, through more selective fishing. The benefits have already begun to flow back to the industry through selective increases in the fishing TAC's and a significant increase in revenues.
The realisation of this system and its benefits to all parties would not have been possible if the differences separating Industry from DFO (Scientific and Management branches) had not been resolved. Integration of technology and professionalism has dispelled the mistrust and misunderstanding which formerly existed and a successful partnership has emerged with the common objective to build a sustainable offshore scallop fishery in eastern Canada. Successful achievement of this goal should be assured given the positive attitude, understanding and mutual respect generated by all involved in this fishery to date.
Alejandro Mejias, Jr.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Enforcement, 9721 Executive Centre Drive North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702,U.S.A.
The Congress of the United States of America, in Public Laws 99-659, 101-627 and 102-251, established a framework for fishery management in the United States, in order "to take immediate action to conserve and manage the fishery resources found off the coasts of the United States, and the anadromous species and Continental Shelf fishery resources of the United States, by exercising (A) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing all fish within the exclusive economic zone established by Presidential Proclamation 5030, dated March 10, 1983, and (B) exclusive fishery management authority beyond the exclusive economic zone over such anadromous species and Continental Shelf fishery resources, and fishery resources in special areas. That framework was designed to provide the preparation and implementation, in accordance with national standards, of fishery management plans which will achieve and maintain, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery. The framework was also designed "to assure that the national fishery conservation and management programme utilises, and is based upon, the best scientific information available; involves, and is responsive to the needs of, interested and affected States and citizens; considers efficiency; draws upon Federal, State, and academic capabilities in carrying out research, administration, management, and enforcement; considers the effects of fishing on immature fish and encourages development of practical measures that minimise bycatch and avoid unnecessary waste of fish; and is workable and effective."
United States fishery management legislation also established eight Regional Fishery Management Councils (New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf, Pacific, North Pacific and Western Pacific), each reflecting the expertise and interest of the several constituent States in the ocean area over which such Council is granted authority. The Councils are given the responsibility of preparing and submitting to the Secretary of Commerce fishery management plans (and amendments to such plans that may be necessary from time to time), and of conducting public hearings so as to allow all interested persons an opportunity to be heard in the development of fishery management plans and amendments to such plans. Fishery management plans contain the conservation and management measures necessary and appropriate for the conservation and management of the fishery to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks.
Each fishery management plan is also required to describe and identify essential fish habitat for the fishery, based on the guidelines established by the Secretary of Commerce, including fishery impact statements and specify objectives and measurable criteria for identifying when the fishery, to which the plan applies, is overfished, and any conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing or end overfishing and rebuild the fishery. To the extent that rebuilding plans or other conservation and management measures which reduce the overall harvest in a fishery are necessary, the management plan allocates any harvest restrictions or recovery benefits fairly and equitably among the commercial, recreational, and charter fishing sectors in the fishery.
Following a Council's transmittal of a fishery management plan or plan amendment to the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary shall immediately commence a review and publish in the Federal Register a notice stating that the plan or amendment is available and that written information, views or comments of interested persons may be submitted. At the end of the comment period, the Secretary shall approve, disapprove, or partially approve a plan or amendment. If the Secretary approves the plan, proposed regulations are prepared and evaluated to determine whether they are consistent with the fishery management plan, plan amendment and the Act.
The Secretary reviews any fishery management plan, amendment or regulation at routine intervals that may not exceed two years. If the Secretary finds that an emergency or overfishing situation exists or that interim measures are needed to reduce overfishing for any fishery, he may promulgate emergency regulations or interim measures necessary to address the emergency or overfishing, without regard to whether a fishery management plan exists for such fishery.
Interim measures or emergency regulations may remain in effect for not more than 180 days after the date of publication, and may be extended for one additional period of not more than 180 days, provided the public has had an opportunity to comment on the emergency regulation or interim measure.
Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) and shrimp occupy the same ecological niche in the Gulf of Mexico. Shrimp basically remain on soft bottoms throughout their life cycle. Red snapper inhabit a similar environment during the juvenile phase (age 0 and age 1), before they move to different structures where they exist for the rest of their life. It is during the juvenile stage, that red snapper are vulnerable to shrimp trawlers, and shrimp boats have an unavoidable incidental catch of juvenile red snapper in their shrimp trawls.
The directed fishery for red snapper consists of fishermen who target the species with hook and line on hard bottom reefs and around oilrigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico. These user groups consist of commercial fishermen and private anglers, and the anglers that hire vessels to take them fishing (charter vessels). These boats have a carrying capacity of up to six passengers whereas head boats or party boats generally carry more than six people.
On May 19, 1998, the Secretary published an interim data collection measure for the shrimp fishery of the Gulf of Mexico, in order to evaluate the impact of the shrimp fishery on the red snapper fishery. This interim rule required vessels in the shrimp fishery to maintain and submit fishing records, to carry a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved observer, and/or to carry a vessel monitoring system (VMS) unit if selected by NMFS to do so. The rule was effective from May 14, 1998, to November 16, 1998. The VMS units aboard vessels would be used to transmit vessel position, course, and speed in encrypted form via satellite or cellular phone to a land-based data acquisition system. That information would be used to evaluate the accuracy of logbook reports.
Prior to beginning any data collection, the number and distribution of fishermen working in the fishery was required to provide the necessary information to develop a cost effective sampling scheme for red snapper and shrimp species. Additionally, the data collected by such a scheme was designed to assist in the determination of the effectiveness of regulations, and the assessment of impacts on the stocks, fishermen, fishery and the rest of the country. The ideal integrated data collection system utilises a nested (stratified) sampling design. This approach involves determining the number and distribution of fishermen and generating a random sample that will provide the necessary data. Acceptable sampling tools are vessel monitoring devices, logbooks, and observers.
VMS systems can provide real time information on vessel location and, in some fisheries, a very good indication of the vessel's activity, based on the vessel's "signature" or track-line pattern (i.e. whether the vessel is fishing, transiting, or stopped). However, in some fisheries, this "signature" or pattern information may not unambiguously identify the vessel's activity, unless augmented in some manner. The question, then, becomes one of identifying, building or modifying a system that would be useful in providing information as to the amount of time a trawl is on the bottom and engaged in fishing, or the amount of cable has been released, or the number of rotations on the winches.
Logbook data collection affords the most cost-effective means of data collection for certain types of data (e.g. catch, effort, location, environmental conditions and type of gear). These data on the red snapper fishery are used for commercial quota monitoring, stock assessments and allocation decisions. For the shrimp fishery, such data are used for stock assessment, monitoring of the fisheries and the allocation of bycatch (red snapper). Both data sets are used in assessing impacts on fishermen and the fishery and the rest of the nation.
This type of data is submitted by the fishermen on a trip-by-trip-basis to the Regional Science Center for review and editing and eventual compilation into the regional database for scientific research. Fishery managers eventually use the data to develop regulations involving shrimp and red snapper fisheries.
From the fishermen's point of view, these logbooks provide a history of where they were at particular times, as well as providing a basis for planning for future trips. In the event that fishery mangers set up criteria for inclusion into or exclusion from particular fisheries, these logbooks become the primary source to show whether the fisherman has met the criteria for inclusion into the fishery. Fishermen may also buy and sell their logbooks (records) when they want to enter or exit a fishery.
Observers provide information that is independent of fishermen and obtained during actual fishing conditions. Such data consists of catch composition by species, effort, location, environmental conditions, type of gear and condition and fate of the bycatch. It is the most expensive way to collect data, as it requires a scientist to be onboard who does not perform any function on the vessel other than to collect data. Expenditures include per diem remuneration, insurance, safety equipment, and scientific equipment costs.
This type of data is most useful for scientific purposes due to its independence (compared to logbook data). However, the costs associated with its collection makes it necessary to restrict the observer coverage to a random sample of the fleet.
During the late summer of 1997, a modest engineering investigation was initiated, aimed at establishing the feasibility of near-real-time fishing vessel monitoring. The system selected comprised of a global positioning system (GPS) receiver, a cellular telephone-based system, a microprocessor-based controller and associated antennas. The system afforded the opportunity to study the limits of the cellular telephone coverage, the interface of timers, delays and switches and it also allowed for the testing of independent security programming (encryption), and sensor activation. Once tested this cellular telephone system would then be developed into a more robust system, which would include satellite coverage and a more powerful transceiver.
These were the challenges faced in the development of a system suitable for inshore and offshore fisheries that could be useful both to the scientific and enforcement community, and that would be flexible enough to adapt to the specific fisheries (e.g. scallop, inshore shrimping, offshore shrimping, stone crab, fish trapping, etc.).
On May 19, 1998, the NMFS implemented a research programme to determine the operational effectiveness of NMFS-certified Bycatch Reduction Devices in the shrimp trawl fishery and to improve the data used for assessing the status of the red snapper stock. As part of the programme, bycatch reduction device performance was to be measured by observers placed on as many as 100 shrimp vessels during the period May 14, 1998 to August 15, 1998. Furthermore, the research programme would also focus on improving the estimates of shrimp fishing effort to be used in calculating the shrimp fishery's total red snapper bycatch. To do this, NMFS would involve the use of interviews, logbooks, and VMS units in the shrimp fleet.
Pursuant to this regulation, steps were initiated to determine the best approach to accomplish the goals set forth. This approach was based on the technology at hand, current experimental knowledge, experiences and goals already achieved within the organisation, and insight into the fisheries.
- system had to have the following capabilities:
- To separate steaming, transiting and gear cleaning time from actual fishing effort;
- To determine fishing effort per vessel, per red snapper statistical zone;
- To determine precise location (with the normal GPS differential); and
- To distinguish tri-net from trawl net deployment.
One hundred vessels were randomly selected by NMFS to participate in the programme, as outlined in the regulations. These vessels operated in the Gulf of Mexico and were devoted to shrimping.
Selection of a VMS system was based on prior working knowledge and experience of existing or developing VMS systems. The Galaxy Inmarsat-C system, monitoring the pacific fleet operating in the Southwest region was considered an appropriate unit to obtain positions, course, speed and other information within the allowable specifications. Although the Northeast region had been utilising a "Cellular Messenger" communications unit, this proved incompatible with units under experiment (limited to cellular telephone range) and was considered not to be a viable option for use in the fishery.
A VMS unit was required which took into account the qualities of the "Cellular Messenger", but was not restricted by the limitations of cellular range, or cellular coverage. Ideally a compatible and robust "off the shelf" system with similar design could be modified and improved, utilising the RS-232 serial port.
The system would be required to track the vessel over its range of operation at all times, be precise in reporting locations, track speed and course, within differential limitations. The system would also have either internal security features or have the facility of independent security feature programming and be able to independently monitor trawl winch activation, for both port and starboard sides and power take-offs, and be capable of zone programming, so as to specifically monitor closed areas.
The decision was made to utilise the Galaxy Inmarsat-C GPS marine transceiver TNL7001, manufactured by Trimble Navigation, which had been previously used with positive results. The VMS hardware installed on vessels fitted with the gear consisted of an event sensor to monitor trawl winch activity, a location device to track the vessel's movement, a data transmitter to relay the data to a central processing facility, and an interface to tie the sensor, locator and transmitter into an integrated system. Power to operate the system was supplied by the vessel.
The Galaxy is an Inmarsat-C transmitter combined with an integral GPS receiver and a fibreglass housing contains both the GPS and Inmarsat antennas. The vessel's location is determined to an accuracy of approximately 100 meters by the GPS and is available to the transmitter at all times. The transmitter can then send a location report based on a preset time interval or as a result of sensor activity. Data reports are also automatically generated as a result of tampering or accidental interference with the system. An antenna blockage or power interruption is reported as soon as the system is able to re-establish communications. Inmarsat is a space based communications system using four geosynchronous satellites to achieve world-wide coverage.
Inmarsat-C is a moderate cost service offered by Inmarsat providing data-only communications (no voice capability). Data is relayed from the Galaxy via satellite to a terrestrial receiving station, where it is stored until a processing facility initiates data retrieval. The sensor packages installed use "Hall effect" magnetic sensors to detect rotation of the trawl winches. The sensor consists of a magnet mounted to the winch drum flange and an encapsulated package containing the Hall sensors mounted to the winch base. Both port and starboard winches were equipped with sensors. The sensor detects the direction of rotation and number of revolutions to determine the amount of tow cable deployed. Magnetic sensors were chosen for this application because they were immune to the detrimental effects a dirty and wet environment. An interface between the Galaxy and the sensors is used to initiate data reports based on pre-programmed criteria. The sensor data is fed into the interface and when approximately 100 feet of cable is deployed from a winch, a payout message is initiated indicating the responsible position (port or starboard). Position and time information is automatically added to the report. A lockout timer is engaged when the 100-foot payout criteria are met which disables and resets the payout counter. The lockout time allows many multiples of 100-foot sections to be deployed without generating a report for every segment while still detecting and reporting the first segment. This allows trawl activity detection in a wide range of operating depths without overwhelming the system with redundant data. Retrieving cable also initiates a data report in the same manner as cable deployment. The sensor data therefore records one of the following winch operations: starboard out, port out, starboard in, or port in. The interface also initiates a transmission every 6 hours containing data from an internal timer that is used to detect tampering.
Operating power is derived from the vessel's power system which generally varies from vessel to vessel. Some boats are equipped with a 120 volt AC generator along with a 12-volt DC supply. In this case the VMS is supplied directly by the boat's 12-volt DC supply. A back up battery charged by the AC generator is used to buffer the current drawn from the primary 12-volt supply when the primary is operating at near capacity. On boats equipped with 32 volt DC only, a battery is used to buffer the current drawn from the boat's 32-volt converter. A variety of methods for powering the VMS are used based on the vessel configuration and are usually determined only when the installation team performs its initial inspection.
An encryption system is employed which allows the inclusion of an encrypted code into the data stream. This is accomplished using a microprocessor (Microchip PIC 17C44 programmed with standard software) which develops a data encryption standard in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This ensures that the data received from the unit could not have come from any other source or system.
Due to the bycatch of juvenile red snapper taken during shrimping activities the fishing pressure of the shrimp fleet was considered to be a major contributing factor to the decline of the red snapper fishery. In an attempt to accurately assess the fishing effort by the shrimp fleet VMS units were placed aboard randomly selected shrimp vessels.
Data, consisting of time based geographic positions and fishing winch activity for each vessel was transmitted to the NMFS Enforcement Data Center, at the Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Region, in St. Petersburg, Florida. These data reports, provided accurate information on the vessel's location, course and speed, use of port and/or starboard winches and the release or retrieval of at least 300 feet of trawl cable. Fishing effort was determined as the time between the sensor release activation and its subsequent retrieval. Data collected on shrimp vessel fishing effort was correlated with total fishing effort within red snapper statistical zones allowing an independent means of measuring the total fishing effort within each statistical zone area.
Of the 100 vessels selected for the experiment, 50 were targeted for installation and, 11 units physically installed. The low number of installations was due to problems regarding the programme being generated by vessel owners and/or Captains.
The owners of vessels selected for the experiment were notified via certified mail, informing them of their selection and advising them of the steps to follow in order to have the units installed aboard their vessels. The majority of vessel owners responded with great hesitation and some were uncertain as to the programme's applicability. Others felt the system was unwanted and represented an unnecessary intrusion on the governments part, and the remainder did not know enough about the programme to feel comfortable. A few responded indicating that their vessels would not cooperate and of these, some failed to adhere to the instructions issued and either turned the units off or obstructed the unit's operation. Punitive action is pending on these owners/captains.
Once owners and/or Captains were notified of the intention to install the VMS units, they were given a period of time to respond to the notification. In turn, the Office of Enforcement had a specific amount of time in which to have the units installed, with minimum disturbance to the fishing operations of the vessel and inconvenience to the owners and/or Captains.
A private contractor was hired to install the VMS units. Once the vessel was available, the contractor installed the unit, its antenna and respective sensors.
Once the unit was installed on board the vessel by the contractor, all retrieval, management and analysis of the data as well as insuring the integrity of its interface was handled by the Office of Enforcement and Stennis Space Center Fishery Laboratory engineering personnel.
Units to be utilised aboard fishing vessels require commissioning. This commissioning process entails the submission of paperwork via the United States Land Earth Station (LES) representatives, COMSAT and takes from three to five days. The result of this procedures is the issue of a Standard-C Inmarsat Mobile Number (IMN) for the vessel. Once an IMN has been issued, different land earth stations may be used to retrieve data reports once an account is established with an appropriate LES provider. In this study, COMSAT commissioned the units and British Telecom (UK) provided the LES in Goonhilly, Scotland. British Telecom, provided a Data Network Identification (DNID) accounts number and each vessel, in turn was assigned a unique "member number."
Each unit was then programmed via satellite with the unit's unique DNID/member number combination and the internal timer set to provide hourly reports and sensor events (i.e., port out/starboard out, and port in/starboard in).
Hardware for managing the study included one dedicated, high speed computer which served as the Local Area Network, and one smaller computer ("dialler computer") which served the sole function of calling the LES to retrieve the data reports. Both computers were located within a secure facility. Entry to the facility was code protected and limited to the Computer Specialist (LAN Manager), the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Administration, who heads VMS in the Southeast Region, and one employee dedicated to VMS maintenance.
Computers in the LAN room as well as the two computers assigned to VMS staff with access to the data for analysis, were equipped with ProComm-Plus (For downloading the DNID/member number and retrieving the packed data reports (LAN room only)); NMFS Custom-written Code (For unpacking the raw data retrieved (LAN room only)); MapInfo (Used to plot data reports and track-lines); MapBasic (The user interface for MapInfo); Digitised NOAA Navigational Charts and Blue Marble Graphics Geographic Transformer (For the conversion of chart formats).
Data was automatically retrieved via a script by the "dialler computer", then unpacked by the custom programme. The "dialler" then supplied the VMS LAN with a copy of the unpacked data, keeping the raw and unpacked data intact. The connection between the LAN and the "dialler" was maintained as one way, preventing any connection or file access to be made from the VMS computers on the LAN to the "dialler".
As indicated previously, the raw data retrieved from the LES is processed through NMFS developed software. The first programme, LES_DATA.EXE, converts the binary data to ASCII, converts vessel IDs to vessel names, confirms the report's firing date, and generates a composite of the data by day. This daily composite includes: vessel name, latitude, longitude, date, time, event id, course, speed, and Galaxy unit registration numbers. This data is subsequently separated by a second programme, "ISOLATE.EXE", into files by vessels. Each vessel file is then edited to ensure no gaps are present in the data. This data is then plotted using MapInfo.
Pursuant to the regulations, once the time that covered the experimental period had elapsed, the units were removed from the vessels. The time period that the vessels had the units on board varied from vessel to vessel, as installation was greatly dependent on the vessel's availability. Hence, the data represented in the experimental period and the "fishing effort" time reported varies greatly from vessel to vessel.
VMS equipment was not onboard selected vessels during the entire "experimental period" due to either the owners and/or the Captains turning off the units, or delaying the installation of the unit to minimise disruption to their working environment. This being the case it was not possible to compare an overall observer data summary for a given vessel with an overall VMS data summary.
In order to appropriately analyse the data, it was necessary to identify missing data in the reporting periods. Of the 11 units installed, one unit never went operational, and two units delivered fragmented information due to the unit power being turned off repeatedly.
The remaining eight units are represented in this study and their data provide an accurate insight into sensor technology and its possible applications.
A total of 62 trips, ranging from 32 to 47 days, were completed during the period of June 3 to October 26, 1998. During the same period 30 NMFS observers sampled 33 unique vessels and collected data during a total of 1,029 days at sea, sampling approximately 2,000 tows. Phone-in data from 52 trips was used in a preliminary analysis, and the following is extracted from the Red Snapper/Shrimp Research Programme Final Status Report (November 6, 1998).
Two vessels had both an observer onboard, as well as VMS equipment installed. At the time the information for this report was collected, observer data had been submitted from only one vessel.
Comparison of the data over a 3-day period revealed a number of minor differences between data sets and on a single occasion the VMS system recorded an early morning deployment and recovery of the gear missed by the observer.
Several gaps exist in the data due to a number of problems encountered in retrieving data from the LES. On one occasion the "dialler computer" crashed, when the excessive size of the retrieved data impeded further processing, and on other occasions problems connecting to the local Packet-Assembler-Disassembler port (busy signals) would cause the "dialler computer" to hang due to a bug in the "dialler computer" script.
In the analysis of fishing effort the "Port out" winch sensor was used as the key data record field. The use of the "Starboard out" was generally for verification and to diagnose sensor misalignments. Similarly the position and statistical zone fished by the vessel was determined via the "Port out" winch sensor on deployment of the gear
In a number of cases VMS revealed that several vessels conducted fishing operations in various statistical areas, while others restricted their operations to more exclusive areas (Fig. 1). In each case vessels appeared to concentrate most of their effort in discrete generalised areas within the area of their fishing operations. The identification of these areas, and the total amount of effort exerted in each one, will provide a focus of attention for fisheries management personnel in the sustainable management of this fishery.
Sensor-equipped VMS units recorded numerous firings of the port and starboard winch sensors, recorded at an interval of 100 feet of cable release from the vessel. During the period of the study, VMS equipment recorded a total of 1,728.6 hours of "fishing effort" within the red snapper statistical zones by all vessels carrying VMS and operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The VMS equipment also recorded some 1,450 minutes of actual "fishing effort" by one of the vessels operating outside of the "zones".
Figure 1. VMS recorded activity of eight vessels in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery; 01 August 1998 to 30 September 1998. Statistical areas boxed.
The representative sample of days involving installed and operational VMS equipment was too small to serve as a means of corroborating observer data. However, the fact that sensor technology works is not disputed. The VMS unit is inconspicuous thereby causing little or no distraction or infringement on fishing operations and once operational the data stream from the vessel is continuous.
This experimental project encompassed technology gathered from prior "Cellular Messenger" experiments, as well as ideas generated by engineering personnel from the Stennis Space Center in the state of Mississippi, USA. We know that upon availability of a usable external port, programming of the unit to interface with the hardware of both the "Galaxy" and "Cellular Messenger" from Trimble Navigation is possible.
It is also possible to monitor the oil pressure exerted on the winch trawls, power or electrical units to show activation or de-activation of levers, pulleys and gears. Rotations of one or multiple wheels or drums may be counted to determine the cable length deployed and positions can be easily charted to monitor a vessel's activity within an area.
Finally, it has been possible to encrypt a portion of the data stream in order to ascertain the accuracy and validity of the information being received and also to encrypt the entire data buffer if required.
Two problem areas have been identified in the use of the current VMS system that will require further research and development attention;
- Unit lock-ups were noted while the units' "send" lamp was on, thereby causing loss of data. This problem was corrected by turning the unit off and then back on every 24-hour period. Special code was written to have the unit conduct routine maintenance daily.
- Some units went to sleep for no apparent reason, and refused to transmit data reports. The reason for this malfunction is still unknown but was eliminated by eliminating the units' built in password. It has not yet been determined if the problem has been corrected with the new released version of Galaxy firmware.
The approximate cost of a single installation and operation of a Galaxy unit during this study excluding the costs of data analysis personnel and computer hardware (computers, monitors, keyboards, modem lines and related equipment) was determined as follows ;
|Installation, labour and travel (airline required)||830|
|Communications costs (monthly)||$125/month|
In theory, the monitoring of stack temperature to provide additional information relevant to the determination of fishing effort is feasible. Research and development is planned in this area and if successful future VMS units will allow a means of determining the type of pressure exerted while the cable is being deployed or retrieved along with the range of parameters currently recorded.
General Manager, Strategy and Planning, Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Box 7051, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.
Abstract: This paper reviews the status of electronic monitoring in fisheries management especially satellite-based vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and the role of information technology in maintaining monitoring data such as logbook records. The future development and use of this technology as well as key success factors are proposed, drawing on the Australian Fisheries Management Authority's (AFMA) experience and current plans to implement an Integrated Electronic Data Management System (IEDMS). AFMA has successfully used VMS for five years to track the positions of fishing vessels and achieve more cost effective compliance. Numerous other fisheries agencies have also implemented VMS effectively and more implementations are in progress. VMS requires further development to achieve its full potential but is no longer an emerging technology. Logbooks continue to play an important role in providing information for assessment of fish stocks and for compliance purposes. Logbook data are collected via traditional paper based systems but are recorded electronically in computerised databases for subsequent scientific evaluation. Catch data are similarly collected and stored and used to decrement electronic quota database records. In a fisheries management environment constrained by limited funds and increasing pressure on fish stocks, the importance of both the effective scientific assessment of fish stocks and the implementation of effective compliance arrangements is considerably heightened. Development of electronic logbooks and electronic catch monitoring systems are proposed as part of a solution to cost effective fisheries management. Integrating these systems with a dockside presence, at sea observers and VMS complete the picture for IEDMS. In the development of electronic logbooks and catch monitoring systems AFMA's experience has highlighted some potential problems, particularly if these technologies are to be implemented on an international scale. Prerequisite generic requirements of these systems are proposed along with areas where international standardisation may be a benefit.
This paper aims to provide a high level view of the role of VMS, computerised databases and electronic measuring devices in monitoring for both scientific and compliance purposes. The paper attempts to take stock of the progress to date and looks at potential areas for the further development for these tools. The views expressed herein are obviously influenced to some extent by the author's experience with electronic monitoring, particularly with VMS, in Australia. The future developments discussed are to some extent speculation by the author but much of what is proposed is moving through the planning phase to implementation by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and other fisheries agencies.
AFMA has been monitoring deep-sea trawlers using VMS for more than five years. This has been a highly successful implementation of VMS, raising the level of compliance within a zone based quota system to a high level and achieving a high degree of approval from the fishing industry. The VMS was extended to 128 trawlers operating in the Northern Prawn Fishery on 1 April 1998 and to a further 80 vessels operating in the Bass Strait Scallop Fishery in July 1998. In both these fisheries, improving compliance with area closures and providing a means of measuring the level of compliance, are primary objectives for the VMS. At the end of 1998, AFMA was monitoring approximately 300 vessels via VMS. Further additions to the coverage of the VMS are expected.
While AFMA monitors those fisheries under Commonwealth Government jurisdiction, several Australian States have also implemented VMS to monitor vessels operating in their fisheries. Both Queensland and Western Australian have implemented systems. Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria have expressed interest in VMS and sought AFMA assistance with the use of VMS. There are now approximately 700 vessels monitored via VMS in Australia and it is quite realistic to expect that as many as 1000 Australian vessels will be monitored by VMS by the year 2000. Use of Inmarsat C equipment, approved via the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency testing process, will be a common feature of both Commonwealth and State VMS and near real-time position tracking is the primary purpose in all cases.
New Zealand has been using VMS for position tracking of approximately 150 deep-sea trawlers for close to five years. The Ministry of Fisheries has reported on the success of the system on numerous occasions and is examining ways of extending and improving its use. VMS is primarily used a compliance tool in New Zealand.
The successful use of VMS in Hawaiian waters has been well documented. The system has been used to monitor closed waters of ecologically sensitivity and the National Marine and Fisheries Service has reported on numerous successful interceptions and prosecutions. The system's primary purpose has been to track positions and the equipment used is the same type as the Inmarsat C equipment used in Australia and New Zealand. The USA is in the process of implementing VMS in other fisheries on its east coast with a pilot implementation in a scallop fishery of about 70 vessels using both Boatracs (a regional satellite service provider in the USA and Europe) and Inmarsat C for position tracking. The USA is also monitoring 10 vessels as part of its commitment to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
The most extensive VMS programme in the world is that being implemented by the European Union (EU). Via legislative instrument, all EU countries are required to monitor all vessels carrying their flag, where the vessel length is in excess of 24 m (there are a small number of exceptions). In total, about 7000 vessels will be subject to VMS and many EU countries already have their systems operational.
The primary purpose of the EU VMS is to track vessels as they move between jurisdictions and the EU has grappled with the problem of how to exchange position tracking information between flag and coastal states. The equipment used may be either Inmarsat C, Argos or Euteltracs (= Boatracs, a European and USA region satellite service provider).
The South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries have developed an extensive VMS to cover the Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZ) of all member countries. The system, currently in acceptance testing, has a star configuration with a central hub which receives all position reports and distributes position information only to the coastal state in whose EEZ a particular vessel is located. Such a system overcomes the information exchange problem that the EU has faced.
The equipment that can be used by vessels operating under the FFA VMS is approved for use by the FFA based on an open testing process against a set of criteria agreed by member countries. The criteria were derived from an extensive evaluation of the use demanded of the system. The primary objective of the FFA VMS is to provide the ability to track vessels through member country EEZs and ensure compliance with licensing conditions such as exclusion from particular geographical zones and at-sea transhipment.
FFA member countries foresee the potential for VMS to provide effective catch and effort reporting and it is envisaged that this will be provided in a second phase of the VMS when the position tracking component has been completed.
VMS has been used in the waters of French Polynesia and New Caledonia for several years to monitor the activities of foreign fishing vessels. The purpose of the system is position tracking and the equipment used is Argos.
Morocco has announced a contract that will lead to about 300 vessels being monitored via an Inmarsat C VMS.
Argentina has awarded a contract to the Spanish company, Sainsel, to implement a VMS to monitor approximately 400 vessels. The Sainsel system uses a modified Inmarsat C transceiver on board vessels and is a primarily a position tracking system.
Japan has conducted a number of trials with various types of VMS equipment and has used an Inmarsat A system for about four years to receive catch and effort reports and historical position data from a significant number of vessels. While Japanese long-line vessels operated in Australian waters this information was also provided to AFMA.
There are numerous other smaller VMS implementations at various stages of trial and implementation. Countries with VMS programmes include Chile, Peru, South Africa, Namibia, the Russian Federation and organisations such as NAFO. Technology used is Inmarsat C and Argos and the systems are all targeted at position tracking for compliance purposes.
There has clearly been a significant increase in the use of VMS for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) purposes. Driving this movement at the highest level has been the well-documented decline in world fish stocks since 1988 and the over capitalisation and over capacity of the international fishing fleet. As sustainable fishing requires sound management and the overfishing problem has been largely created by the technology used by fishing fleets it can be argued that part of the solution to this problem is the use of similar technology such as VMS.
The reasons for implementing VMS are remarkably similar across those countries that have used it. In most cases there is no effective MCS, as the cost of implementation using conventional methods is prohibitive. Fisheries management frequently involves vast areas and complex jurisdictional and boundary arrangements. The latter include national EEZs, geographical zones subject to quota, spawning grounds, ecologically sensitive zones, and areas subject to closure or limited access for various reasons such as resolving conflicts between commercial fishers and recreational, life style and indigenous fishers.
While there are few systems currently operational that have a catch and effort reporting function, this is a legitimate use for VMS. From Australia's experience, catch and effort reporting is a potentially cost effective and worthwhile use for VMS. Improvements in the timeliness of receipt and quality of the data, at a lower cost, are possible.
The technology for VMS really only became commercially available for widespread use 10 years ago. As with all new technologies, there are bound to be problems initially. Aside from technical problems there is also a lack of awareness and understanding of how a particular new technology can best be used. That is, it is sometimes difficult to see how the technology solves a given business problem.
A further problem is manifested by the fact that with new technology there are often competing suppliers and equipment types and users have slightly differing requirements. This leads to a confused marketplace with no real standards and a lack of certainty. There are concerns that investment will be wasted on equipment or systems that will quickly become outmoded or cease to be best practice.
New technology provides new capabilities that may not have been foreseen by legal systems. Time, testing, continual improvement and an adjustment process may often be necessary for the technology to achieve its potential.
With VMS, most if not all of these problems have been solved or have been proven to be solvable.
Cost is one of the most common reasons cited for not proceeding with VMS. It is difficult to demonstrate a cost benefit when the cost can be easily quantified but the benefit is a hard-to-define increase in effectiveness. This is especially so when an existing low level of compliance effectiveness has become accepted as normal. VMS costs have reduced significantly over the past six years. Onboard equipment is now about a third of the price compared to that in 1993.
VMS is now well proven in satisfying the position tracking function and is an effective and integral part of the MCS regimes of several countries. VMS is in the process of being similarly implemented in a number of other countries. Most of these implementations are not trials but are large-scale systems whose use is required by legislative instruments.
Many of the countries that have implemented VMS have experienced technical and logistic problems with their systems. The reliability and capability of position tracking systems has required continual improvement and this continues today. Cost has been a major factor in preventing further use of VMS but costs have declined and the effectiveness of VMS has become more apparent.
All VMS implementations have been aimed at position tracking with the exception of the Japanese system which has a catch and effort reporting purpose. The Australian experience of the Japanese system has, for AFMA, identified a number of issues that will be addressed in the development of AFMA's domestic catch and effort reporting system. Other countries aside from Australia and Japan see the value in using VMS for catch and effort data reporting and there will clearly be some further developments of this function.
In the introduction of any new technology there comes a point where the technology is no longer novel and gathers what might be termed "critical mass". With VMS we are now clearly at that point. The use of VMS on 7000 vessels in Europe and several significant systems in the Pacific, North America, South America and Africa are the proof of this. It can surely only be a matter of a few more years before VMS will be used universally on sea-going fishing vessels and its use will be regarded as a normal fishing pre-condition.
Logbooks providing catch and effort data remain a primary tool for monitoring the status of fish stocks. Maintaining these data in computerised databases to provide a history of the fishery and a repository for easily accessing data for analyses is common throughout the world. The use of these databases for analysis purposes is well documented and further discussion is therefore directed towards the collection of catch data and its quality.
Catch data is collected and used for purposes other than the analysis of the stock status in a fishery. Another primary use within AFMA and other fisheries agencies is in monitoring the compliance with management arrangements, especially in output controlled fisheries subject to quotas. AFMA maintains registers of quota holders and a database of their catch against quota. These registers and databases allow monitoring of quota and feedback of quota status to operators.
Fish catch databases have, like the information technology industry, become quite sophisticated regardless of whether they are used for stock assessment or compliance purposes. The databases contain large amounts of data and a number of tools exist to extract and report on that data. However, there are a number of areas where improvements could be achieved.
Fish catch databases are typically quite isolated in the sense that they are generally only used for a particular purpose with little cross checking of data from other sources, at least this is the case within AFMA. The quality of the data is also quite variable. Most databases source their content from paper logbooks completed manually by fishers with the data subsequently entered into a computer by data-keying operators, often after a significant time lag from the fishing operation. The quality of the data will therefore depend on the quality of the data entered in the logbook by the fisher, the quality of the keying, the quality of the editing processes and the identification and correction of errors as the data is keyed. There are obviously many potential sources of error and improvements in the data collection processes are hard to achieve and can generate significant extra cost. Data entry editing can be made more sophisticated but this can be time consuming especially if clarification of logbook entries requires queries with the fisher. In most cases a degree of data inaccuracy is accepted and use of smaller samples of more accurate data, typically from an observer programme is used to provide a guide to the degree of inaccuracy. This too is an expensive process.
In Australia monitoring of catch on landing is restricted largely to ad hoc or random inspections by fisheries officers and various paper based records. In some fisheries a prior-to-landing reporting system is in place. This requires fishers to report their intention to land fish two hours prior to entering port, enabling fisheries officers to attend the landing on an as required or ad hoc basis. There has also been some use of electronic devices made in measurement of the fish catch.
The catch of wild southern bluefin tuna for subsequent growing out in farms requires a sophisticated system to estimate the quantity of wild fish for decrementing the quota that exists for this species. A video system has been used to facilitate the counting of fish as they enter the farm. This is operated by a commercial provider, Protech Marine, under contract to AFMA. In other quota fisheries electronic scales have been developed and tested to accurately record the weight of fish along with the species type and quota holder identification. At this stage this information is used only to produce a paper catch declaration for forwarding to AFMA.
There can be little doubt that VMS has now reached "critical mass" in its use as a compliance-monitoring tool. Large-scale implementations have been made and more are being implemented. Fisheries managers are now seeing more situations where VMS can be cost effectively applied and the VMS software is becoming more reliable and more capable in terms of automating the monitoring functions. The situation in regard to satellite service providers and equipment providers has also become a little clearer with Inmarsat C (Trimble and Thrane), Argos and Boatracs the market leaders although other players are emerging and the use of cell phone systems becoming a possibility in some areas. There is room for further refinement of the position tracking function but the main area where VMS has not realised its full potential is in catch reporting.
Other tracking technology such as satellite based synthetic aperture radar will become less expensive and more accessible in the future. This will not replace VMS as we know it today, but will complement it. Again, increased effectiveness in fisheries MCS will result.
Fish catch databases have progressed more or less in step with developments in the information technology industry and quite sophisticated databases and associated tools are currently in common use internationally. At the dockside some fisheries agencies have made good progress in implementing comprehensive integrated systems while others have made little or no progress.
What is clear from the current situation in electronic monitoring of fisheries is that there is still scope for further development of the existing systems and that there is particular potential for the integration of these systems to form a more complete and comprehensive integrated electronic data management system.
There will undoubtedly be further development of the position tracking role of VMS in tandem with the continual improvement of software and hardware, increased automation in compliance monitoring functions, the development of national and regional systems, greater international co-operation and greater standardisation. There will also be more effective use of the VMS data achieved through integration with other systems, for example in corroborating logbook data.
A pointer to the even more widespread adoption of VMS, is the United Nations Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling fish stocks and Highly Migratory fish stocks (UNIA). The UNIA foreshadows a major role for VMS as part of the MCS regime.
While the UNIA has not yet attained binding status it does provide an insight into the future of VMS on a global basis. UNCLOS and the UNIA provide a strong basis for co-operation in fisheries management and conservation via subregional and regional management arrangements. The UNIA provides obligations in relation to such management arrangements where VMS plays a significant role. The UNIA, either directly or through implication, identifies a role for VMS in MCS and as a means of assuring the quality of catch and effort data. VMS, in conjunction with the UNIA's compliance and enforcement measures, may represent the only cost effective means flag States have of meeting their obligations to ensure that their vessels do not contravene subregional and regional conservation and management measures.
The UNIA foreshadows the use of compatible VMS and the exchange of data between flag States and coastal States or subregional or regional management organisations. There are already examples of how this may work in practice. In the European Union, member States have agreed to implement a national VMS in each state and apply VMS to most vessels over 24 m in length. Vessels are to report positions to both flag and coastal States although it is not yet clear how this is to be achieved. The FFA system operating in the Pacific provides a practical model for distribution of data between co-operating coastal States which could be used in this instance.
Perhaps the major development of VMS will be in catch reporting where it will play a significant part in the development of electronic logbooks. It is important to understand that an electronic logbook does not require the use of VMS. A VMS system provides a communication medium for the transmission of data that could include logbook data. This does not preclude such data, as that from electronic logbooks or other sources, being sent to fishing agencies independently by more traditional means (i.e. by diskette at the conclusion of a fishing trip). However, there are many instances where real time monitoring of fish catches is a necessity or where vessels are at sea for considerable periods of time and a more timely submission of data is required. In these circumstances it is likely that transmission of logbook data via VMS will be preferred to other, more conventional methods.
An electronic logbook can be considered to be similar to a conventional logbook but with the fisher recording data in a computer rather than a paper logbook. There are a number of benefits to this method of data entry. Firstly, there is only a single data entry function and this can be performed very soon after each fishing operation is completed. In performing the data entry function the fisher will interact directly with the editing checks for the data and a more complete and accurate data record can be required before the data record is accepted by the computer system. Having electronically recorded the data it may produced in hard copy and may be transmitted in a number of different ways to the fisheries agency or other recipients such as the fishing company, and may be easily incorporated into appropriate databases. As a result improvements in timeliness, accuracy and reduced costs are possible.
However, in AFMA's experience with electronic catch reporting systems there are a number of important pre-requisites for the success of such systems. In summary these are:
- Entry of data must be as simple and intuitive as possible with appropriate training, help and other user support facilities;
- There must be effective validation of the data at the source of entry;
- The screen display must be in a language appropriate to the user;
- The data transmitted should be restricted to the ASCII character set;
- The system must have the ability to be used on a variety of computer terminals and must be able to achieve a similar level of function regardless of the type of terminal;
- The logbook must have an effective update capability taking into account the logistics of the fishing vessels and their operations, and
- The logbook update capability must extend to the format of the report in terms of the data fields and to the size and validation criteria of each data field.
If the data is to be transmitted via a communications system there are a number of other requirements including:
- An assurance of both the sender and receiver's identity or address;
- Provision such that neither the vessel operator nor the receiving fisheries agency are able to fraudulently deny having sent or received the catch report;
- A high degree of assurance that the data is not corrupted between sender and receiver;
- A high degree of assurance that the data is not intercepted by unauthorised persons during transmission (achieved by encryption of the data);
- The compression of data in order to minimise the size of the message transmitted, and
- The reliable retention of the data and a facility allowing it to be made available for inspection on board the vessel.
The development of electronic logbooks incorporating these and other appropriate features will be expensive. Many of these features will be common requirements for most jurisdictions. With co-operation between fisheries agencies at both a national and international level, a set of standards may be agreed which would facilitate the development of electronic logbook systems at a substantially reduced cost and greatly simplify the operational environment for fishers, scientists and managers.
Another aspect of electronic logbooks that will require attention is their legal status. The requirement to submit logbooks is often imposed by a legislative instrument. Each jurisdiction implementing an electronic logbook will have to ensure that an appropriate legislative environment exists to support the submission of electronic records and maintain an appropriate standing for those records. In Australia, the Commonwealth Government is currently considering legislation, which gives legal standing to particular types of electronic records submitted to the Commonwealth as part of any government function.
Fish catch databases by themselves are already at a relatively high level of sophistication. They will continue to be enhanced to meet user demands especially in terms of additional data items and improvements to facilitate fast and easy access by users. The area where these databases will play their greatest role is as the central element in the integration of various other systems into an integrated system. At present VMS positional data, data from both conventional and electronic logbooks, catch return data related to quota systems and data from observer reports are all stored in separate databases. These databases may not be completely integrated but systems will be developed to make more effective use of all the data, allowing, for example, more effective cross checking between data sources.
In terms of electronic monitoring it is expected that there will be considerable development at the point of landing. Commercial organisations will further develop electronic scales and their use will become more widespread. Having established an effective and accurate data capture mechanism the next logical step will be to electronically integrate that data into the fisheries agency databases. This will involve transmission of the data to the fisheries agency and a number of options exist for achieving this. These include dial up links using both standard telephone lines and cell phones. A project to develop and trial this technology is already underway within AFMA.
In addition to integration with the fisheries agencies, the landing data will be available in electronic form for use by fishing companies, co-operatives and the fish markets.
Although electronic measurement of fish catch at the dockside is made possible by the development of the appropriate hardware and software, there are obviously important considerations related to how this hardware is used. In many cases fish are unloaded at relatively remote ports, which presents problems in getting the equipment to the point of unloading at appropriate times. Advance notice of the intention to land through "prior to landing" reporting systems and VMS will enable co-ordination of monitored fish unloadings. Further, at any port there is also the issue of ensuring the equipment is used to correctly record the catch. It is expected that commercial service providers will emerge to provide a physical presence and oversee the use of the electronic system. There is experience in Canada of such a service provider in the form of Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. and, to a lesser extent, in the counting of southern bluefin tuna by Protech Marine, as wild fish are landed into farms in Australia.
Through the developments outlined above, a package of electronic monitoring measures will emerge. Once integrated with appropriate processes and personnel, the development of an integrated electronic data management system (IEDMS) is achievable. This is the direction that AFMA is currently pursuing. At the current time, development of the dockside component is proceeding and other components already exist or will be developed.
Vessel activity will be monitored by position reports providing information on the probable location of fishing activity, possible transhipment and landing activity. VMS may also play a part in the transmission of data for an electronic logbook.
Fishers will enter data into an electronic logbook system on a per operation basis whilst at sea. This data may be sent to AFMA via the VMS or subsequently through other means. The data received at AFMA will be stored in the appropriate logbook database.
Before returning to port fishers will notify AFMA of the intended port of unloading, the time of docking and the quantities of each relevant fish species, if necessary. The messaging capabilities of the VMS or a mobile phone may be used to communicate this information. The VMS will be used to monitor the vessel's movement to its nominated point of unloading.
Observers will perform their traditional functions as a means of data verification and estimation of the size of activities that may not be electronically monitored (e.g. discards).
The weight of fish unloaded will be accurately recorded and electronic catch declarations against the appropriate quota holders will be created. These will be transmitted to AFMA and stored in AFMA's quota database. The catch weights and other information captured by the electronic scales will be available to fishers for their own purposes including transmission to the fish markets.
Dockside monitoring personnel will be scheduled to attend an unloading following the advance notice of the landing. These personnel will oversee the operation of the electronic scales.
Databases for catch and effort, quota, VMS position reports and observer reports will be made available, for both scientific and compliance purposes. Applications to increase the cross referencing of data will be developed and implemented.
Abnormal events will continue to require investigation and the components of the IEDMS will require administration and maintenance.
AFMA already has some, but not all of the components of the IEDMS in operation, at least in some fisheries. In moving to an integrated system, AFMA believes the totality of the IEDMS will provide more benefits than the sum of the benefits arising from the individual components. It is probable that one or two components may be more relevant to one fishery than another and, in consequence, these components may not be applied. In many fisheries, however, the benefits arising from the combination of the components of IEDMS may be diminished significantly if one component is missing.
When AFMA commenced its study of the IEDMS a major focus was improving the quality of the data available for both stock assessment purposes and quota monitoring. This remains an important product of the IEDMS, as a high standard of fisheries management, based on sound advice and decision making, is dependent on a high standard of data. In evaluating the cost effectiveness of the proposed IEDMS, however, it was found that the major pay-off of IEDMS was a significant improvement in compliance effectiveness, particularly in quota based fisheries. The two benefits of data quality and more effective compliance are related since the approach of the IEDMS is to substantially minimise the opportunity for false and inaccurate data to be provided to AFMA.
It should be noted that the cost benefit study carried out for AFMA was obviously tasked at looking at AFMA's costs and different results may be obtained in other jurisdictions due, for example, to different costs of existing systems. Cost is another reason to implement an IEDMS. AFMA's study found that the IEDMS may result in reduced costs or be cost neutral depending upon the situation of particular fisheries. At the same time, the study pointed to substantial improvements in the effectiveness of compliance. This is particularly important when the cost of conventional compliance measures continues to escalate.
IEDMS can also benefit the fishing industry. The industry will certainly benefit from more effective compliance and from better decision making based on better quality data. Further business benefits should arise particularly from the data captured at the dockside and its availability to the operator for other purposes such as consigning fish to the markets. The emphasis on dockside clearance of catch will also provide a greater degree of certainty to fishers that once through this process there will be less scope for subsequent queries about catches and a clear audit trail will exist to verify past catches.
L. Joll1, R. Casey and I. Towers
1 Fisheries Western Australia, Locked Bag 39, Cloisters Sq. Post Office, Perth, Western Australia 6850.
Abstract: Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology is being applied in many fisheries jurisdictions. Most applications have focussed on the compliance aspects of position reports, although a number of applications have begun to utilise some of the novel fisheries management capacities which arise from the use of VMS technology, such as spatio-temporal closures. A VMS was implemented in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery in 1998 primarily to achieve management objectives related to overall effort levels and their spatial distribution, including closed water areas, to maintain sustainability of key species. The implementation of a VMS in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery allows the control of total effort in the fishery by limiting the total vessel time which may be expended, as well as controlling the spatial distribution of that effort.
The Pilbara, fish-trawl Fishery is a multi-species demersal trawl fishery for tropical finfish off the coast of the Pilbara region of Northwest Western Australia. The fishery originally arose as an offshoot of the Nickol Bay and Exmouth Gulf prawn fisheries in the late 1980's, when prawn-trawling vessels began to explore the opportunities to supplement their prawning activities by trawling for fish. Because of the relatively small scale of their activities the initial allocation of access entitlements was based on a rudimentary but cost-effective allocation of time access based on calendar months. The three pioneer operators were granted 12 months access, while a further 8 vessels were subsequently granted 6 months access. A maximum gear entitlement was determined and the boundaries of the fishing area were set as waters between 50 m and 200 m deep between longitudes 116_ E and 120_ E, on the basis of the areas trawled during the initial exploratory phase. Usage of the time allocation was monitored by owners reporting their time usage (with appropriate independent checks), with the data being recorded on a paper-based record system.
Development of the fishery saw an increasing usage of the basic time allocation as well as improvements in vessel and gear efficiency, resulting in a rapid escalation of the exploitation rate of the fishery, realising a catch of over 3000 t by 1996 (Fig. 1). However, at these high catch levels, the slow-growing, longer-lived (but generally more valuable) species in the catch were being exploited at levels which resulted in the breeding stocks of these species within the fishery area falling below the limit reference point of 25% of the virgin biomass. In addition, the fishery was highly concentrated in the 50 - 100 m depth zone in the centre of the fishing area, as this area had better known fishing grounds and was nearer to port.
Figure 1. Catch history of the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery.
Proposals to introduce a more sophisticated management regime to overcome some of the management issues arising from the original rudimentary system (e.g. the allocation of access levels which were too high, excessive expenditure of that effort in the central area of the fishery, lack of a strict audit of effort usage and an unwieldy unit of time access) were based around the understanding that implementation of a VMS-based management regime would allow for the time access to be based on smaller, more flexible units than a calendar month and that monitoring would be by a robust and auditable method. In addition it also provided a tool to achieve a better distribution of effort in the fishery, through the allocation of portions of the available effort into under-utilised areas of the fishery. A VMS also provided the mechanism to monitor proposed closures of the heavily exploited central part of the fishery and of the deeper water (100 - 200m) areas of the fishery, where knowledge of stocks was being developed through research fishing.
The ability to use a VMS to monitor the usage of time access is based on the data packets which are transmitted each time the Automatic Location Communicator (ALC) on a vessel sends a position report. In addition to the latitude, longitude and vessel identification data strings, the data packets comprising the position report also give the time of the report, as well as the course and speed over ground of the vessel at the time of the report. On receipt of the satellite transmission at the ground station, the land-based communications carrier appends a date "stamp" to each position report. Using the latitude and longitude allows the location of the vessel within the waters of the fishery to be determined, while the date and time information can be used to determine the elapsed time between position reports.
The introduction of upgraded management arrangements in 1998 though a statutory management plan, which incorporated the use of VMS, was subject to extended consultation with licensees in the fishery. However, industry had recognised the need for effort controls and had imposed a small, voluntary, effort reduction in the 1997 season. Nevertheless, there was considerable discussion of the appropriate levels of effort allocation for 1998 and the appropriate apportioning of that effort across the fishery area. Despite a degree of tension about these matters, industry was highly supportive of the use of VMS technology to monitor their usage of the time allocations in the fishery and the proposed areas of closed waters.
One of the advantages to the industry was a greater degree of flexibility in their use of the time allocations, as the previous calendar month time unit had been too "bulky". Mechanical failures or the onset of a prolonged period of bad weather following commencement of their utilisation of a calendar month meant that their ability to properly utilise that month could be seriously impacted. In considering the appropriate time unit to use in the new arrangements a daily unit was not favoured by industry as access to the port at Port Samson (the base for all vessels) is affected by the high tidal regime of the area (up to 7 m) and the shallow port entrance. In order to maximise their use of a daily unit vessels would have had to leave port up to 6 hours before their desired start time in order to exit the harbour.
The most functional effort unit for implementation of time-based access monitored by a VMS was considered to be an hour, although the methodology for the measurement of the hour required some discussion. In particular, industry were concerned that, where vessels moved from one management area to another management area of the fishery, that they were not recorded twice in the same one hour period in two areas and "billed" for two hours. The solution devised during the consultation process to resolve this issue was to use only one record in an area in any one-hour period as representative of the areas in which the vessel had operated. However, when the system was implemented, a slightly different time accounting methodology was used as it proved more practical than the method originally devised during the consultation process. This methodology simply used the time and date of the first record of a vessel in an area and the time and date of the first record of the vessel in the next area it moved into, with the time spent in the first area being determined as the time difference between these position reports.
The previous depth boundaries of the fishery also needed to be mapped as a series of co-ordinates to form the boundaries of the various management areas (Fig. 2, Areas 1 - 6). The status of each area was also determined as either a closed area or one into which a particular allocation of effort could be made. Another concern was the need to allow vessels to move across areas in which they had exhausted their time access. This was resolved by putting a series of 3 mile wide transit corridors between the areas of the fishery so that vessels could freely transit through areas in which they had exhausted their time access. Vessel speeds in these transit corridors are monitored (using the "speed over ground" string in the data packet) to ensure that vessels maintain speeds over 5 knots, which is a good indicator that they are not trawling during the transit phase.
Figure. 2. Western Australia (above) detailing the general location of the Pilbara Fish-trawl Fishery (below). Transit corridors through the fishery (shaded) and fishery areas delineated.
Fisheries Western Australia uses Terravision software in an Inmarsat C-based VMS and has approved several models of Automatic Location Communicator (ALC) [Trimble Galaxy and Thrane and Thrane Fishery Capsat] for use in its VMS. All vessels operating in the fishery must have an approved ALC installed on the vessel to Fisheries Western Australia standards (which incorporates a continuous power supply to the unit and a password-lock on the software configuration of the ALC) and a computer to allow for messaging through the ALC. The ALC must operate at all times and may only be turned off with the permission of the VMS supervisor. This is particularly important in this fishery as many of the vessels also have access to the adjacent Nickol Bay, prawn fishery and, without a continuously operating ALC, could conceivably change fishing gear during a prawning trip and move into the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery.
Prior to leaving the port area (defined as the area within a 3 nautical mile radius of the main wharf) to operate in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery, vessels must report via their ALC declaring their intention to enter the fishery. This provides a secure, receipted record of the vessel's intention to fish. Failure to declare an intention to fish in the fishery is a major contravention of the provisions of the management plan, which carries significant penalties. All vessel position reports, and associated time and date information, are stored in a database, which can be subsequently queried to produce the time usage reports. Following completion of a trip, vessels declare their intention to leave the fishery and return to port. The process is outlined in Table 1 and a typical example of the report produced by the VMS supervisor from querying the database is presented in Table 2.
Table 1. Process for VMS time calculations in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery.
|Vessel declares its
intention to fish in the fishery.
|Vessel proceeds to sea; VMS
positions (including date and time) logged onto vessel database.
|Vessel declares its intention to leave the fishery and returns to port.|
Subsequent data management of position reports
|First date and time of entry
of a vessel into a fishery area noted.
|First time of entry of a
vessel into a new fishery area noted.
|Subtract first date and time record in new area from first date and time record in the previous area [= elapsed time in area].|
Table 2. Typical example of the output from the VMS time monitoring system for a vessel in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery.
|AREA||VMS REGION||DATE and
The time accounting methodology does not account strictly for the small delays (less than 1 hour - which is the general frequency of interrogation of the ALC set in the fishery) which may occur between the time the vessel enters an area of the fishery and the first position report. However, given that there will also be a delay between the time the vessel enters a new area, and the first position report in that area, these delays are assumed to be neutralised in the overall time accounting. The method involves no less accuracy than the "single report within the hour" approach originally devised during the consultation process and is considerably easier to manage for report production.
Once a vessel is inside the boundaries of the fishery, all time spent in the waters of the fishery is "debited" against the vessel's fishing entitlement. When a vessel changes areas the time continues to be logged against the area in which the vessel was last recorded, until such time as a new position report shows that the vessel is in a new area. Similarly, if the vessel moves outside the boundaries of the fishery, the time continues to be logged against the last area in which the vessel fished. This provision prevents vessels making use of diurnal and other variations in fish catchability by moving outside the boundaries of the fishery at times of low catchability and back again at times of high catchability, thus increasing the effectiveness of their available fishing time. However, if a vessel declares an intention to cease fishing in the fishery, time ceases to be "debited" from the time of the first position report outside the boundaries of the fishery, but it must return to port once a declaration to leave the fishery has been made. If a declaration to leave the fishery is not made, time continues to be "debited" to the last area fished until such time as the vessel enters the defined area of the port.
The management system for the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery is effectively one based on an input quota, where time is the input. Each licensee is allocated a specific holding of time units in the fishery which are calculated on the nature of the original licence grant (i.e. 6 or 12 months access). The units are fully transferable between licensees on both a permanent and a temporary basis. This allows operators who may wish to vary their activity on a permanent or temporary basis to transfer time to or from other operators in the fishery.
Transformation of the old monthly time unit to a VMS hourly unit presented a small challenge which was not quite successfully achieved. A conversion of the monthly unit to the hourly unit was proposed based on the number of sea days per month spent in the fishery. As the figure used in the original conversion included the transit time to and from port, not just the time spent in the waters of the fishery (which is what the VMS database calculations are configured to determine) a correction for this error was made to the time allocations for Areas 4 and 5 in the second year of operation of the management plan (1999). This resulted in a 9% reduction in the time allocation in these areas (Table 3). Access levels in Area 2 were not adjusted, because the large database on fish stock levels in this central section of the fishery indicated that breeding stock levels in the area were being maintained above the 25% reference level, despite the error in the time unit translation. However, a 33% reduction was made in the time access for Area 1 (which incorporated the 9% adjustment) because the fishery data showed that a large reduction in access to stocks in this area was required to allow breeding stock levels of the key species in this area to rebuild above the 25% reference point.
Table 3. Unit allocations, unit values and time allocations in the various Areas of the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery in 1998 and 1999.
|Total unit allocation||17136||3360||0
|Unit Value 1998||1.00||1.00||1.00||1.00||1.00||1.00|
|Total time allocation 1998||17136||3360||0||3360||5712||0|
|Unit Value 1999||0.67||1.00||1.00||0.91||0.91||1.00|
|Total time allocation 1999||11481||3360||0||3058||5198||0|
VMS technology provides an option for the efficient management of input-controlled fisheries which use units of time as their input. The system operated in the Pilbara, fish-trawl fishery uses hourly units, but a similar system could be devised for a daily unit. Matched with the normal position fixing aspects of a VMS, this system provides a management method with broad spatio-temporal capabilities. Currently the system assumes that the amount of fishing time will constitute a fixed percentage of the time spent in the fishery area. This is unlikely to be the case in the longer term and it is likely that operators will seek to maximise their trawling time by minimising winch-up and gear turnaround times. At some point in the future, it is likely that the fishery may move to more direct measurement of trawling time by the addition of additional sensors (such as winch or exhaust temperature sensors). This will also give a more direct measure of trawling activity, which may remove the need for the transit corridors currently in place. It is also likely, that the extensive logbook system operated in the fishery will move to an electronic format allowing direct downloading of data using the communications facilities of the VMS, facilitated by the increased availability of on-board communications capacity and computing power.