EMS systems trialled on tuna vessels in Fiji and Ghana

EMS Camera on board a Ghanaian purse seiner. © J. Million EMS Camera on board a Ghanaian purse seiner. © J. Million

The monitoring of fishing activities at sea is on the verge of making an important step forward with the development and deployment of Electronic Monitoring Systems (EMS).

These systems, consisting of several video or still cameras, coupled with a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and installed on fishing vessels, record activities on board, and the data collected include images, location, course and speed of the vessel at all times.

EMS is an effective tool to monitor compliance of fishing vessels with national or international management measures, but also to collect data on the composition of catch, bycatch and discards, complementing human observers programs

In the framework of the Common Oceans/ABNJ Tuna Project, two pilot activities have started to test the insertion of EMS data in the national processes to verify and enhance compliance with current regulations. The systems are deployed on board longline vessels in Fiji and purse seine vessels in Ghana.

In July 2015, Satlink S.L. was selected by FAO to supply the EMS equipment for both pilots. During a first phase, EMS units were installed on five longline vessels in Fiji and on five purse seine vessels in Ghana, and the activities started in October 2015.

On board each longliner, three cameras are installed to monitor the setting and hauling of the line, while on board the purse seiners, six cameras are installed to monitor activities of the vessel, setting and hauling of the net and loading of the catch. All the data are recorded 24/7 on onboard hard drives, which are retrieved upon return of the vessels in port for review and analysis.

In total, it is expected that 17 Ghanaian purse seiners and 50 Fijian longliners will be equipped in the course of the Project.

At the end of each fishing trip, data and videos are analysed by land-based observers of the government of Fiji and Ghana. The review and analysis of the footage and data is carried out with a dedicated analysis software allowing the land-based observers to estimate fishing effort, catch, bycatch and discards by species, as well as to identify any potential infractions of the vessels. At the end of the review, a trip report is generated highlighting all the events identified during the trip.

The first trips of the EMS-equipped vessels have been completed, and the review of the data generated during the first trips has started both in Fiji and Ghana. More installations will be carried out this year, which began with Ghana in January, and will be carried out in Fiji in July.

In addition to the installation of equipment, the Project will work with the Fijian and Ghanaian authorities to develop national legal frameworks to support the use of this new technology on fishing vessels.

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