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Credit: Fisheries New Zealand

Credit: Fisheries New Zealand

Fisheries New Zealand uses digital technology to improve monitoring of commercial fishing

New Zealand Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash recently announced that the rollout of digital monitoring technology is proceeding to the next stage to cover more widely across the commercial fishing fleet.

Fisheries New Zealand officials are taking steps to extend catch and position reporting across the wider sector. A discussion paper has been released seeking feedback on proposed changes to regulations.

The digital monitoring system is made up of: (1) electronic reporting (ER) of catch via an e-log book so as to quickly and accurately measure commercial catch effort, (2) geospatial position reporting (GPR) to verify where and when fishing happened, and (3) electronic monitoring (EM) which are on-board cameras to verify what is being reported.

The first 2 elements of the new system, ER and GPR, were rolled out for trawl vessels over 28m from October 2017. Since then, all fishing trawlers over 28 metres in length, most of the deepwater fleet, have adopted two types of digital technology: ER to record catches, and GPR to report their positions. The deepwater fleet is responsible for 70% of the commercial catch.

Geospatial position reporting allows fisheries officials to know where fishing is occurring and e-logbooks enable more accurate and up-to-date information about catches.

While permit holders will be required to report their fishing location in much finer detail, in some cases the fisher is not the permit holder and will want to protect the exact location of fishing marks.

Fishers will still be required to record the fishing mark in fine detail (to the equivalent of 11 metres) but the amendments mean the permit holder will need only verify the location to approximately 11 km, thereby protecting the precise location.

According to Minister Nash, this form of digital monitoring is to be extended to the rest of the commercial fishing fleet and land-based fishers, with the roll-out expected to start in the last quarter of 2018. There are approximately 1100 commercial fishing vessels and fishers affected that use a range of fishing methods.

The proposed changes deal with a number of technical issues such as timing of electronic reporting and how to respond to equipment failures at sea. The regulations are designed to encourage innovation in fishing equipment and have the potential to reduce bycatch and minimise damage to fish during trawls. Minister Nash highlighted that the consultation also seeks feedback on changes to regulations for innovative trawl technology.

“Electronic monitoring through cameras offers a third layer of technology and enables verification of the catch reporting. Regulations for on-board cameras are not part of this consultation process. Work is continuing on a range of options for how the camera regime will work. No decisions have yet been made in this area,” he added.

An important part of the Digital Monitoring project involves working with technology providers to develop the software and hardware systems that fishing operators will need.

“The Digital Monitoring project is part of a wider fisheries programme to ensure the sustainable economic, social, and cultural value of New Zealand’s fisheries. We need to strengthen the way we manage fisheries and improve the information we have about our stocks, to give confidence that fish are being caught sustainably,” Minister Nash said.

The final regulations are expected to be in place by 1 November 2018. Depending on the outcome of consultation, Fisheries New Zealand intends to phase in ER and GPR after that.  The criteria for phasing forms part of the consultation process.  

Phasing in the new obligations will allow technology providers time to work with fishers. It will also allow Fisheries New Zealand time to build its capability and capacity to support fishers to implement the new requirements.

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