Thirty one inshore vessels now equipped with VMS equipment
Thirty one inshore vessels in the south west are now equipped with a low cost Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and are currently reporting their movements every minute, as part of a 12-month pilot trial being run by Seafish, in conjunction with CEFAS, to monitor inshore fishing activity, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to Seafish.
The information is being relayed to a password protected website where the fishermen can view their data. In addition five fishermen have agreed that their data can be made public via this website.
Defra is funding this Seafish project as part of its remit to undertake economic and social research in the marine environment. The project is being managed by a Steering Group including representatives from the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee, the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the South West Inshore Fishermen's Association (SWIFA), the UK Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Coalition Group, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Natural England (NE).
The 31 vessels taking part are representative of the makeup of the inshore fleet. All the vessels have volunteered and range in size from 5.6m to over 20m, use different deck arrangements and operate a range of fishing methods including potting, netting, trawling, beaming, scalloping and hand lining.
Each vessel has been fitted with a small VMS system, utilising General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) mobile phone communication technology. This records and sends position and course details to a central database.
"It is becoming more important that fishermen record where and when they fish and I think fishermen have recognised this, which is reflected in the number and variety of vessels that have volunteered to take part in this trial. These fishermen are being very proactive. There was no incentive for the fishermen beyond supplying the equipment," said Gus Caslake, Seafish Technical Project Manager.
"The aim is to trial a robust, cost-effective and efficient inshore vessel tracking system that can enforce spatial restrictions, thereby demonstrating compliance with inshore fisheries management agreements, such as those being proposed under plans for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The vessels are reporting their movements every minute, which is far more frequently than the satellite-based system used on 15 metre+ vessels, and at a lower cost," he said.
Nick Prust, SWIFA Chairman and owner of one of the vessels taking part said: "So far so good. The equipment has been fitted and with a few refinements is working well. Inshore fishing vessels need a low cost, reliable position monitoring solution if we are going to continue to be able to have access to fishing grounds with spatial and temporal restrictions and to co-exist alongside new proposed MPA's. By taking part in this pilot trial we are contributing to a solution."
Trials continue until May 2011. The next steps are to develop an emergency battery monitor plus a docked vessel location alarm system. There are also plans to test a hybrid unit which utilises both satellite and mobile phone technology.