Next steps in digital monitoring

  • Hon Stuart Nash

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash says the rollout of digital monitoring technology more widely across the commercial fishing fleet is proceeding to the next stage.

“Fisheries New Zealand officials are taking steps to extend catch and position reporting across the wider sector. A discussion paper has been released today seeking feedback on proposed changes to regulations,” says Mr Nash.

“Since October 2017 all fishing trawlers over 28 metres in length, most of the deepwater fleet, have used two forms of digital technology. Vessels record catches through e-logbooks, and report their position through geospatial position reporting. The deepwater fleet is responsible for 70% of the commercial catch.

“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. 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.”

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 consultation also seeks feedback on changes to regulations for innovative trawl technology. The regulations are designed to encourage innovation in fishing equipment and have the potential to reduce bycatch and minimise damage to fish during trawls.

“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.”

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,” Mr Nash said.

For background about digital monitoring, see the Fisheries New Zealand website

Questions and Answers

  • What is the purpose of the amendments?

The amendments are technical. They are intended to clarify and tidy up a number of minor issues around the practical day to day operation of electronic catch and position reporting. They also enable flexibility around innovative trawl technologies.

They reflect issues identified by stakeholders, industry, and Fisheries New Zealand. They are intended to be practical and workable for the fishing industry. They do not substantially change the programme.

  • Will they force permit holders to reveal commercially valuable fishing locations?

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.

  • How long will it take to roll out ER and GPR?

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.

  • What else will the proposed changes achieve?

The changes propose removing the requirement to keep copies of reports for seven years. This was required under the old paper based system and will no longer be needed once all records are online.

They will clarify how Fisheries New Zealand and the fisher should respond in the case of mechanical or technical failure of equipment.

They will make the timeframes for recording and reporting easier to understand.