U10 e-catch recording to be phased in

Changes to original proposal

Electronic catch recording for English and Welsh under-10m vessels is planned to start in mid-August – but it will be phased in, instead of applying to the whole fleet as originally planned, reports Tim Oliver

The change is one of three that the MMO has made following a consultation on the plans, which was launched in February and closed in April (Fishing News, 7 March, ‘U10 e-catch reporting soon’).

Another change is the removal of the requirement for a landing declaration to be made, and the third is that a separate paper transport document will not now need to be carried.

An MMO spokesperson told Fishing News that the project team will be carrying out further testing of the new catch recording service for under-10s in June and July, and the phased introduction is planned to begin in mid-August, 2019.

The new requirements will be introduced to larger vessels first. The Welsh government will introduce the requirements across the whole fleet on one day towards the end of this summer.

Letters and emails will be sent to registered owners and operators throughout the summer, to inform them when they are required to begin recording their catch.

The new e-catch recording measures will require under-10m operators who catch and land species subject to quotas, catch limits or effort restrictions to record their catch via a mobile device (a smartphone or tablet) prior to the fish leaving the vessel. This service will be available online and also as an app, which can be downloaded for both Android and Apple devices.

Skippers who catch only non-quota species will have 24 hours to record their catch, via a mobile device, a personal computer or a laptop.

Michael Coyle, head of compliance and control at the MMO, thanked everyone who had responded to the consultation, and the more than 100 fishermen who had helped to test the prototype of the catch recording service.

He said: “We have listened to the concerns of individuals and industry, and have made three significant changes to the way that we will be introducing this licence change.”

On the decision to phase in the new measures gradually, he said this would enable the project team to continue to learn from the experiences of owners and skippers throughout the summer, and make improvements where necessary.

Submission of a landing declaration within 48 hours of fish leaving a vessel had been set out in the original proposal for all quota and non-quota catches. But following several responses to the consultation, raising concerns about double reporting, this requirement has been removed, and the catch record is the only document needed.

The third change removes the need for a separate paper transport document to be carried. “As long as the estimated catch record has been submitted, this digital record will suffice,” said Michael Coyle.

He said that the MMO and Welsh government ‘are intent on supporting the viability and growth of the fishing industry’. The project is an important part of this strategy, as it will provide a better understanding of the English and Welsh under-10m fleet’s catch. Better data gathering will provide better scientific evidence, and lead to better decision-making.

The MMO says that other benefits of introducing catch recording for under-10s include a greater understanding of the activities of under-10m vessels, which will allow for better fisheries management. In addition, better records will allow the origins of fish to be traced, which should lead to improved sales and marketing opportunities for the industry. They will also lead to improvements in enforcing catch limits and quotas.

This summer, the Welsh government will be running a number of training events for owners and skippers, and the MMO will be organising face-to-face sessions to demonstrate the new system. Further details will be released in the coming weeks.

I-VMS introduction delayed

The MMO has also announced a delay in the planned roll-out this summer of the introduction of inshore vessel monitoring systems (I-VMS) for under-12m vessels operating in English waters, following the consultation on the plan.

Michael Coyle said that the MMO is reviewing its approach following the consultation, and is working to ensure that I-VMS is introduced to the under-12m fleet ‘in the most practical way, using the most appropriate technology’.

He said that the policy had not changed, only the timetable for its introduction. A fresh timetable for the project will be set, and vessel owners and skippers will receive full details of the requirements later this year.

The pause will not affect the project overall, as implementation of I-VMS nationally was not expected before 2021.

Concerns raised in consultation

DEFRA and the Welsh government received 74 responses to the consultation on electronic catch reporting for under-10m vessels, which closed in April.

Twenty-nine were positive and 31 were negative. There was a mixed response from 14 of the replies, which agreed with catch recording in principle but had questions linked to its practical application.

Positive impacts identified by respondents included better ability to manage stocks sustainably; improvements in enforcing catch limits and quotas; helpfulness to fish buyers/customers in identifying where fish are caught and by which vessels; improved identification of line-caught fish, which will benefit traders and customers; better data to help inform policy and decision-makers; and better information to guide marine planning generally.

Negative impacts included practical issues associated with using mobile phones in an open boat (difficulties of data entry with wet, cold hands, possible IT issues with the app, and loss of connection onboard).

There were concerns that the low IT skills of some fishermen will make it difficult for them to comply with the new requirements, and about the costs for those who do not have smartphones and the technology needed to submit records.

Safety was another concern – especially at some ports/harbours – when recording even when stationary would be difficult from the boat. Skipper tiredness was also a concern.

Lack of clarity about what is to be recorded and how this should be done was a concern (eg, there is no mention of discards for non-quota species, weights of whole or gutted fish, or conversion factors).

Respondents expressed worries about data protection – what data will be transmitted, to whom, and how will this be securely stored?

There were concerns about duplication in weighing (weights before landing, after landing, at auction and on sale).

Particular concerns were expressed by the shellfish sector, where there are already considerable reporting requirements in place. For example, will the detail currently required be lost, or will further burdens be placed on fishermen?

The full summary of responses to the consultation can be seen at: bit.ly/2FdZ46E


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