On 15 February, Wales become the first nation in the UK to require all of its licensed commercial fishing boats to be fitted with a vessel monitoring system (VMS).

There are over 350 registered under-12m fishing vessels in Wales, making up around 97% of the Welsh fleet.

Under the terms of the order that came into force on 15 February, all Welsh vessels, and all those fishing in the Welsh zone, must now carry VMS that transmits their position, speed and course, and the date and time, at least once every 10 minutes, while fishing operations are being undertaken.

A consultation began in 2019 on the IVMS requirement for the under-12m fleet, and vessel monitoring systems were then offered for free to Welsh vessels. However, from 15 February vessel owners will have to purchase the devices themselves, which the Welsh government says is due to the rules of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Free device installation began in December 2020, although no monitoring of fishing activity of the under-12m fishing fleet was undertaken before the legislation came into force.

More than 98% of boats in the Welsh under-12m category have now been fitted with VMS. This was done by qualified engineers in full consultation with the owners, the Welsh government says.

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said: “I am pleased Wales is the first nation in the UK to require that all commercial fishing vessels which operate in Wales or the Welsh zone are fitted with a vessel monitoring system.

“We want to help ensure a sustainable and prosperous fishing industry in Wales, and this step will be fundamental to the effective management of fisheries and the wider marine environment.

“The implementation of the catch recording system for under-10m vessels in 2020 means we now have better information about what is being caught, and this combined with VMS will give us a fuller picture of fishing in Wales and where it is taking place.

“It will also provide the industry with evidence of their catch origin and fishing grounds which could be used to resolve any disputes with other marine users.

“We have worked closely with the industry and have offered substantial funding via the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to help prepare fishers for this new requirement.”

Asked to confirm the exact numbers of vessels that had – and had not – received approval for funding and had terminals fitted, a Welsh government spokesperson told Fishing News: “The Welsh government has offered to supply and fit a device for free to all Welsh-registered under-12m fishing vessels, up until the date legislation comes into force [15 February].

“More than 98% of vessels in this category have been fitted with a free VMS. The small number of vessels without a device have either chosen not to accept the free device, or have not answered any of our attempts to contact them. “Every device has been tested on installation to confirm that it is working correctly.

“The remaining 2% of vessels must source a suitable device themselves prior to fishing.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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