Illegal Fishing- It’s not just about the Pirates

Illegal Fishing- It’s not just about the Pirates

Fishing vessels that do not comply with the current fisheries management measures and the specific region schemes of control and enforcement are considered to be participating in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries.  IUU fishing activities are estimated to affect upto 26 million tonnes of fish every year with an annual cost of $23 million. This has a catastrophic effect on small scale fishing and the communities globally, where families depend on the industry for livelihood and food resources. IUU fishing is often related to other illegal activity, such as slave labour and human trafficking, which is why it is so important to highlight and combat against these activities in as many as ways as possible. 

Satellite communications have and are continuing to play a significant part in fighting the illegal activities in countries around the world. There are so many networks providing global or near global coverage making it easy for a single communications device to be used on various types of vessels. This technology enables the tracking of fishing vessels over predetermined sizes within regions at regular intervals, allowing each country to monitor activities and become aware of suspicious or unexpected fishing activity as soon as possible via specific analytical software. It is the responsibility of the vessel master to maintain and repair the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) device and ensure its operability at all times. If a vessel does not have a working VMS solution, it is unable to leave port and therefore unable to fish. No Comms, means No Cod, resulting in No Cash!      

Enhancements and innovative updates to the satellite solutions now provide vessels, countries and regional organisations the ability to transfer larger amounts of information more frequently.The ERS or Electronics recording and reporting Systems is used to collate and transmit fishing vessel data, which includes catch, landing, sales and transhipment information. The data collated is then transmitted to the national authorities, where the authority stores the information in a secure database. The more data transmitted via the vessel regarding catch and environment information in as near real time as possible enables authorities and scientific organisations to analyse and react more efficiently to address any concerns they may have. This could include completing onboard inspections of vessels either in person or sometimes via drones, to help identify and combat IUU activities.

The implementation of the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU)  is another process to help eliminate fishing vessels taking part in illegal activities. Vessels are required to submit requests to landing ports prior to arrival, which can be denied by its own registered country or by the chosen port landing country if the vessel is deemed to be involved with illegal activities. This includes if either country suspects a failed VMS unit or an attempt to interfere with transmitted location information. Thus highlighting the importance of the satellite connectivity and the reliance on the information transmitted. 

Sustainable fishing helps to ensure there will be populations of ocean and freshwater wildlife for many years into the future. This can be achieved by monitoring activities and applying legislation in the various regions. Many countries and communities have traditionally employed fishing practices that simultaneously harvest and maintain fish populations. Due to experience and local knowledge communities will fish for specific species only during certain times of the year, determined by tides and the moon, allowing fish stocks to replenish themselves. They continue to follow these practices today. IUU activity is fighting against these efforts to ensure the future of our oceans and species as well as the future of the communities that rely on this industry.

Satellite Insight are actively working with organisations and satellite hardware manufacturers to enhance the capabilities of equipment and meet requirements for the monitoring of fishing vessels of all shapes and sizes. By understanding the challenging environment and scenarios that are experienced not only by the fishermen but also the monitoring parties, it will be possible to make this technology and its benefits more accessible for all within the industry.

Existing and upcoming developments within satellite network technology and the continued commitment of individual country fisheries management, the battle against IUU can be won. 

Kay Barber
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