Fishing vessels have traditionally been uncontrolled. However, with fish stocks declining around the globe, effective fisheries management has become essential if fish stocks are to regain some sort of sustainability and if the fishing industry is to continue to have a future. In addition, in some parts of the world, fishing vessels have been used as a disguise for other illegal activities and so re-establishing control over fisheries has become an essential part of managing a national EEZ.
Demand for fish has increased as populations have increased and there is now the potential that demand for fish will outstrip the ability of the oceans to supply. Fisheries Research has been working to determine the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for many important fisheries worldwide. But once this has been established, monitoring and control of fishing fleets is required to ensure that catches do not exceed this figure has proven difficult to implement and is frequently ignored by fishing vessel crews. Licensing, quota’s / TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and logbooks / electronic catch reporting have been implemented in a variety of ways to try to establish effective management of a fishery, however, unless that is supported by an effective means of Monitoring, Control & Surveillance (MCS) then it is unlikely the sustainability objectives will be achieved.
Monitoring, Control & Surveillance (MCS)
Fishing activity occurs throughout the EEZ of a coastal state and beyond into international waters. Technical guidelines on MCS have been published by the UN FAO on Fisheries Management and plans for deterring and eliminating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Effective Monitoring, Control and Surveillance quite naturally needs reliable and up to date information on a number of issues. Firstly, it is essential to understand who is actually fishing within the EEZ. Most fishermen will be operating legally and, where necessary, will have obtained the necessary license from the fisheries authority. As part of their license, these licensed fishermen may be required to fit a VMS transponder so that their location can be monitored through regular position reports being transmitted from the vessel to a Fisheries Monitoring Centre. The Fisheries Monitoring Centre will be equipped with a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) which will present all fishing vessel position reports to the authorities so that fishing activity can be analysed and assessed against catch reports (either manually or electronically received).
Monitoring, Control & Surveillance
Monitoring, Control & Surveillance involves multiple systems, assets and surveillance tools to create a solution that is suitable for the particular fishery and the types of fishing activity that occur within its boundaries.
Customs Vessel alongside an illegal fishing vessel
EEZ Monitoring Control & Surveillance requires inputs from all assets, sensors and systems. Covering an area the size of a national EEZ cannot be achieved with shore based sensors alone, although they do have a participating role in the compilation of the complete maritime surveillance picture for the EEZ. Effective and reliable monitoring of licensed fishing vessels (through a Fisheries VMS - Vessel Monitoring System) enables the operational location of fishing vessels to be plotted and through Satellite AIS the location of commercial vessels can also be plotted. SARSAT satellite imagery and other Patrol / UAV surveillance techniques can then be used to detect vessels that remain unknown and these can be targeted by patrol vessels to determine their intent within the EEZ.