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

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.