In addition to physical inspections, modern technologies provide the authorities with the means of controlling fishing activities at sea in a manner that is not possible with traditional controls.
The EU supports EU countries with the funding available for the introduction and maintenance of modern control technologies.
Monitoring and inspection of fishery activities
The use of modern technologies, including digital tools, has been increasing in recent years. Some examples include national Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS) and satellite or non-satellite-based tracking of small scale vessels (typically vessels below 12m) and the introduction of digital tools in support of traceability to track fish from landing to retail.
Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) incorporating closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, sensors and automatic recognition software reviewing technologies, is another tool that is increasingly used as a dependable system for monitoring compliance and ensuring the accurate documentation of catches.
EFCA has published technical guidelines to facilitate the harmonised adoption of REM controls by EU countries.
- the Electronic Reporting System (ERS) is used to monitor the catches reported by EU vessels
- the positions of fishing vessels are recorded and monitored through satellite-based technologies which also help to protect fish stocks and access rights of fishers
- national automatic cross-checks verify the accuracy of the data submitted by the fishers
- the mandatory, risk based application of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM), is an important element of the European Commission’s proposal for a revised EU fisheries control system.
Modern technologies used to monitor catches
ERS is used by fishing vessel masters and national authorities to record, report, process, store and send data on catches, landings, sales and transhipments.
ERS is required for fishing vessels 12 metres in length overall or more however, exemptions (subject to certain conditions) can apply for vessels less than 15 metres length overall.
The key element is the electronic logbook, in which the fishing vessel master records and reports these data electronically rather than in paper format.
This record is then sent to the national authorities, who store the information in a secure database.
In addition to facilitating the work of the master, the advantage of electronic reporting is that national authorities, through an internationally agreed standard, the United Nations Fisheries Language for Universal eXchange (UN/FLUX), can exchange and easily cross-check data and detect illegal activities that could otherwise go unnoticed.
Some EU countries extended electronic reporting of catches to small scale vessels (typically vessels below 12m) through mobile apps, which allow recording species, quantities, size and catch locations. Such modern tools are beneficial for small scale operators, as they enable them to market their catch as ‘locally sourced’, while at the same time providing fisheries scientists and managers with essential data to better manage the biological resource.
Modern technologies used to monitor vessel positions
The EU control system employs a comprehensive use of satellite-based technologies and tracks the location, course and speed of vessels in order to ensure that rules on which vessels can fish where and when are respected.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) is the principal satellite-based monitoring system which regularly provides data to the fisheries authorities on on the location, course and speed of vessels. It is compulsory for all EU vessels greater than 12m, with the data shared between EU countries.
The EU also uses a satellite-based technology (satellite imaging of sea areas) which may help to locate and identify fishing vessels at sea.
These technologies complement the use of non-satellite based technologies for geopositioning such as mobile phone apps, as well as the deployment of control assets such as patrol vessels, surveillance aircraft and drones to identify possible illegal activities.