Increased monitoring of the under-12m fleet will provide the vital data that will allow inshore fisheries to thrive, writes UK fisheries minister Victoria Prentis…

In 2020, we passed the first domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years, and are now able to control our own waters. Following our departure from the EU, we have seen uplifts in quota across the UK. We have already seen an increase of around 15%, and this will continue to increase year on year.

In England we have taken the opportunity to give a significant uplift in quota to our smaller inshore vessels, righting a historic wrong. When we joined the EU in the 1970s, the lack of data for these small vessels meant that they were given an unfair allocation, and this was then difficult to change. The under-10m sector have now seen their quota increase really significantly.

These inshore vessels account for the majority of our fishing industry, and we are working with them to make sure that lack of data never puts them at a disadvantage again.

Information about where and how these vessels are operating has historically been scarce. Vessel monitoring system (VMS) technology will help fill these gaps, providing us with good-quality data to rely upon in future.

VMS is already a requirement for vessels over 12m, and we are introducing requirements for under-12m vessels to have a VMS device. On the face of it, this may seem like a time-consuming, unnecessary task, but it will provide benefits.

Firstly, it will improve the ability of the Marine Management Organisation and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities to share data, detect illegal activity and take enforcement action more quickly against foreign vessels when we need to. It will also help search and rescue efforts and improve safety at sea by having accurate and timely positional data available if smaller vessel operators get into difficulty.

I also know that displacement is a big concern among our fishermen. The marine space may seem crowded – with fishing vessels, protected areas and renewable energy – but we need to make sure that we can work side by side. A healthy marine environment is vital for the long-term future of our fishing industry. VMS will help fishermen to navigate this, and give those who manage the fisheries the ability to make informed decisions on their behalf.

Of course, this will only become a legal requirement once vessels are in a position to comply. The MMO is currently overseeing the inshore VMS roll-out in stages to ensure vessel owners and suppliers have time to make arrangements for installation, and are providing a grant of up to £650 to cover costs. There is also no increased manual burden on vessel owners and crew as IVMS devices function automatically, and fishermen should be reassured that the privacy of individual vessel activities is protected.

In addition, the new Catch App complements IVMS by supporting the digitisation and accuracy of catch records. A promising 88% of eligible inshore fishers have already signed up for the Catch App, showing fantastic efforts by fishermen to help improve our understanding of what is taken in and out of our waters.

I urge anyone still hesitating to use the app to introduce it to their routine. Aside from the fact that the Marine Management Organisation has commenced enforcement, it will guide Fisheries Management Plans as we look to protect and enhance the stocks that people rely on for income.

I am working closely with the MMO to see how we can further help those who have concerns or are experiencing challenges installing IVMS devices and using the Catch App.

This government will always support our industry become more profitable and sustainable. These requirements will help to reach this goal, securing the future of our fish stocks, the marine environment, and the UK fishing industry.

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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