Special Report: EU failing to introduce electronic fishing records

IP is particularly popular in Spain because of the opportunities it offers for remote repair maintenance. IP is particularly popular in Spain because of the opportunities it offers for remote repair maintenance.

Many fishing companies looked to Inmarsat technologies when it came to e-Logs, partly because Inmarsat C is used widely in other areas such as vessel monitoring systems (VMS), or because, as in the case of Spain, Inmarsat is the only company with the relevant spectrum licence.

Kyle Hurst is responsible for the fisheries sector at Inmarsat and has spent the last 12 months investigating the technology packages on the market, the decisions behind the procurement and the success or failure of the technology as member states progress the move to electronic logbooks.

To gauge the latest progress on eLogbook compliance, he spoke to a number of member states for World Fishing & Aquaculture. What follows are his findings.

A year ago, Ireland was among the first to issue a tender in preparation for the migration from paper logbooks to electronic record and reporting as required by EU Regulations (EC) No EU Directive 1077/2088.

The directive, which in 2010 only applies to vessels of an overall length of 24 metres or more, will in June 2011 include vessels over 15 metres. The introduction of electronic recording and reporting systems (ERS) by the EU was a bid to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to create a level playing field for catchers.

The EU has one of the largest fishing fleets in the world and is the third largest catching power. It is also the largest importer of fishery products.  But compliance has been slow, there have been many technology problems and with so many systems in the market there is a distinct lack of collaboration and progress. There appears to be no overall coordination and little evidence of shared experiences between member states.

Those states raised concerns about how incompatible the technology was and how it was hampering progress at an autumn meeting of the ERS steering group in Athens, Greece.

There is a body of opinion within the fishing industry that thinks the EU has not handled the implementation of ERS well.  So, should the EU adopt a stronger more centralised approach to ERS implementation to get the legislation back on track quickly?

Oliver Drewes, EU Commission spokesman for maritime affairs and fisheries believes a more centralised approach is now likely.

“Insufficient progress has been made so far and we are discussing with member states how the EU can improve compliance performance,” said Drewes.

The transition from paper logbooks to ERS is relatively straightforward for most fishermen. The fishing industry is no stranger to technology. Many rely on satellite communication services like FleetBroadband for downloading large weather or oceanographic files to help them find and catch fish faster. Talking to other fishers, checking fish prices on the internet and negotiating a sale while still at sea, over the phone or via email is all in a day’s work.


Poor conversion

While no-one expected the industry to achieve 100% compliance in a year, the figure of 10,000 24-metre vessels across Europe expected to be converted to electronic logbook recording by early 2010 seems very wide of the mark.

According to Drewes the EU was expecting only 3,350 vessels to be compliant at the start of 2010, but at the time of writing only 1,000 vessels over 24 metres have registered as using ERS.

Member states have an option to choose older technology (Inmarsat C) or the newer Internet Protocol (IP)-based technology. The latter is seen by many in the fishing industry as a better long-term investment, and a future proof technology that will promote the advancement of fisheries capture, monitoring and marketing.

Ireland was believed to be the first to go down the IP route, followed by Spain and the UK. Those countries using the Inmarsat C technology include Denmark, Poland, Germany and Italy, while France, depending on the ERS equipment involved in the solution, use both according to Olivier Forner, office manager of information systems for fisheries and aquaculture within the French government.

Inmarsat FleetBroadband was the first officially-approved service to meet the EU directive.  At the time of writing, 520 compliant fishing vessels had a SATLINK FleetBroadband terminal that allows them to transmit logbook information from any fishing area in the world, and utilise the voice, SMS and internet connection.

SATLINK expects to have this technology on 1,000 vessels (over 24 metres or over 15 metres) by mid-2011. 


Rules of ERS

ERS regulations require that skippers complete their fishing logbooks each day before midnight (as with paper logbooks) and transmit this data back to its own FMC/Shore Authorities.

The vessel’s “official” logbook will now reside ashore in the databases of the shore authorities. One great advantage to this new approach is that the control authorities can view the vessel’s logbook remotely.

When a vessel from another member state comes to fish in local Irish waters for instance, Irish authorities will be able to access catch and historical data remotely. This will help to tackle the misreporting and falsification of logbook data.

The regulations rightly allow fishermen to make corrections to logbook data previously submitted. Mistakes will be made, particularly until the skipper becomes accustomed to the new technology. Such corrections will be recorded in the shore databases and can be subjected to detailed analysis. Instances where patterns of corrections could emerge would lead to further scrutiny by control authorities.

Each member state is permitted to implement individual ERS solutions. The only mandatory requirement relates to the content and the format of the ERS data to be exchanged between member states.

Data security is seen as critical to the integrity of the whole ERS system and the non-repudiation of data sent from the vessel to the shore databases. For that reason, the laptops used by Irish fishermen have hard drive encryption and are loaded with client certificates for identification by the shore databases.

Each skipper in Ireland must register to receive an individual username and password (later to be upgraded with an individual USB smart key containing another certificate), thereby providing a digital signature for all ERS transmissions.


Spanish adoption

Spain has the largest fishing fleet (of over 24-metre vessels) within the EU, around 976, second is Italy with 502 boats, so the Spanish fishing confederation Confederación Española de Pesca (Cepesca) is keen to have the most modern technology especially for the future.

A huge effort has been made by Spain to convince other EU states to look at future technology reveals Luis Diaz del Rio from Satlink.

“Vessels will continue to require more IP technology onboard. Remote maintenance is now a commercial reality. Fishing vessels are cost effective when working at sea so in this day and age it is farcical for a boat to go back into harbour because the fishing areas have changed and it cannot receive the ERS necessary modifications through Inmarsat C,” said del Rio.

“How many times do we criticise planners for building motorways in and out big cities to cope with today’s traffic but not the volumes expected in 10 or 20 years time?  Not moving to IP is the same mistake.  Why not provide fishermen with the latest technology if it’s free or heavily subsidised by the EU especially when you are giving them extra SOS system, SMS, voice, Internet, shore to ship and ship to shore?”

Assistant general secretary at Cepesca, Rocio Bejar, affirms the IP route, commenting that the Spanish authorities preferred IP technology because it’s the only service that is completely reliable.

“Spanish fishing vessels need to be constantly located, and IP with its global coverage delivers this capacity and reliability. The Spanish authority is always concerned about the safety of the fishermen, so the best technology for the fleet is IP-based. And with IP it is also harder to cheat with the fishing quotas,” said Bejar.

IP is particularly popular in Spain because of the opportunities it offers for remote repair maintenance.

The SATLINK 250 terminal has so far been installed on over 400 Spanish fishing vessels.  In September 2010 Vizada and Nautical announced they had provided the Inmarsat FleetBroadband service to more than 300 Spanish fishing vessels.


French compliance

Back in 2008 many French fishermen invested in the Halios system, confident that it would be certified for both VMS and ERS.

Pierre Girard, manager of CLS Argos’s fishing department back in 2008 was quoted saying “that the aim is to use one device to be compliant with two regulations”.  The Halios system consists of a CLS Thorium mobile terminal unit, which is mounted on the outside of the vessel and transmits and receives the data.

The French fishing fleet has around 214 vessels over 24 metres and so far around 10 are compliant. The fleet has 750 vessels between 15 metres and 24 metres that will follow compliance in the summer of 2011.

While many in the industry believe that there appears to be no overall co-ordination and little evidence of shared experiences between the states to improve the speed of ERS implementation, Olivier Forner is not one of them.

“We have been working together since 2006, beginning with the SHEEL (Standardised Harmonised European Electronic Logbook) project, which has been the most important exercise towards deploying a secure and harmonised solution, with the aim to develop and test a Europe-wide standard for electronic logbooks. There have been many collaborative technical workshops between members states held on a regular basis since 2007,” The French specialist on ERS said.


Software options

France certified the e-Sacapt software solution (developed internally) in July. In progress is the certification of Turbo Catch (developed by Sodena) and Iktus (developed by CLS). The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK was slow to approve software but the programme is now gaining momentum.

According to Liam Mason, a senior operations analyst with the Marine Monitoring Centre in Scotland, there are approximately 258 vessels with length of 24 metres or above in the UK.  Marine Scotland is responsible for approximately 151 vessels, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) are responsible for approx 88 vessels and DARD (Northern Ireland) for around 19 vessels.

At the time of writing, 63 of Marine Scotland’s 136 vessels have been fitted with electronic logbooks and 45 of 84 English vessels are believed to be compliant.

UK vessels may use one of three approved suppliers; eCatch by Dualog AS, distributed by AST (approved 26 May 2010); Olfish Dynamic Data Logger by Olrac, distributed by Selex (approved 23 June 2010) and Catchlog UK by Catchlog, distributed by Notus (approved 11 October 2010).

Astri-Helen Hanssen is the project manager for Fisheries IT Solutions at Dualog AS and has been involved in the UK, Dutch and Swedish ERS compliance programmes.  She acknowledged most are running late according to the EU deadlines because it has been up to the member states to decide on how they want to implement it.

According to Hanssen, both Sweden and Ireland specified the technology in a tender.

“Sweden asked for the vessel system and also the system that would be running within the authorities. There have been a lot of delays, but it seems like they have started trailing on some vessels now.  Holland has installed on most of the fleet above 24 metres, if not all,” said Hanssen.

Netherlands-based Sam Electronics has so far supplied 160 ERS packages with Orlac software to the Dutch fishing fleet and reports a rapid implementation programme for the smaller vessels.

Gerard Reijmer is senior advisor to the Netherland Fishing Authority and is pleased with the progress of the Dutch fishing industry.  At the moment, 150 of the 180 Dutch vessels over 24 metres are equipped with e-software.

“This is great and gives us confidence for the next deadline when some 340 vessels over 15m will need to move to compliance by July 2011,” said Reijmer.

The Directorate of Fisheries in Norway stipulated that all Norwegian fishing vessels longer than 21 metres had to use an electronic logbook and start daily electronic reporting when fishing in Norwegian waters by 1 October.

Norway has approved four software packages; e-Catch, Fangstlogg 1.0 (Telenor Maritime Radio), IFisk 1.0.2 (Bytek Nordic AS) and Track Well Fangstdagbok Versjon (Navy AS).

The Spanish authorities developed their own software. It is free, so the shipowners only have to be registered in the Fisheries Ministry web page and they can download it there.

According to Bejar from Cepesca, the Spanish software is under evaluation and the authorities are changing the errors that are being reported by all the skippers to ensure it is absolutely user friendly.

Reijmer said the Netherland Authorities have not been prescriptive in the electronics package that their fishermen must use for ERS.  Beside the South African software Olrac there are eCatch and Chartworx in use and proving popular.

“Our fishing industry is using different forms of communication, they have a free choice and rather than approve various equipment that our industry must use we decided to just formalise the reporting format in XML / XSD,” he said.

Free choice is all well and good but it has clearly led to serious incompatibility problems for some member states. The lack of cohesion across all the different solutions is certainly being blamed by many for the poor compliance response. Any state looking for instruction and a simple solution on what is the right way to implement eLogs will be disappointed. 


Grants and terminals

Both the French and the Spanish governments offered grants of up to €4,500 ($5,943) to subsidise the cost of the package.

The Irish state provided fishermen with their laptops but they pay for airtime.

The Netherlands Authority offered to pay 95% of the cost of equipment up to a maximum grant of €4,500, which should cover everything from installation and antennae through to equipment, but not airtime. The UK grant from Defra is for software to a maximum of £2,000 (€2,390/$3,156) per vessel.

The Irish ERS terminal consists of three components: dedicated laptop to allow data entry, Sirius IT vCatch e-logbook software and Satlink FB 250 satcoms hardware supported by Inmarsat FleetBroadband. Satlink has taken the technology to another level which future proofed the system with inbuilt redundancy.

In a bid to make its software was as user-friendly as possible the SFPA decided to include a feature which allows the skipper to view the electronic logbook in the “old paper logbook style”. At any stage in the fishing trip, the skipper can switch between the two views.

Another advantage to this functionality is that, inspectors from other MSs, who are not used to the Irish software, can view the logbook in an easily recognisable format.

Ireland and Spain made a conscious decision to future proof their investment and go down the IP route.

SPFA sea fisheries protection officer Patrick Allen said: “We looked at the full life of the system to the state and the fishermen. Our decision was weighted toward the fishermen more heavily than we see other states doing now. The IP route was the best future proof solution we could find at the time. We didn’t want to have to change our solution four or five years later.”

The pressure on fish stocks (88% of which, according to the European Commission, are over-exploited in EU waters)  is overwhelming and e-Logs  is a system based on a set of environmental and social criteria that is well placed to achieve sustainable fisheries.

Since all parties seem to conclude that insufficient progress has been made, is it time for the EU take a stronger leadership role in a bid to deliver the level playing field this directive was brought in to achieve?


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