Technology could be key to end overfishing, according to a new video showing how cameras and sensors can be used to monitor fishing boats at sea.
In 2014, the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) became law. It aims to end overfishing, and introduced a significant change to EU fisheries management: the obligation to land all fish subject to a catch quota, irrespective of their size. The objective of this new policy is to eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding dead or dying fish by 2019.
ClientEarth fisheries lawyer Elisabeth Druel said: “Monitoring the landing obligation is challenging. If illegal discarding happens, it will take place at sea, where surveillance and inspection are expensive and sometimes difficult to carry out.
“This means our current system, which relies on the occasional use of on-board observers or at-sea inspections, plus inspections of the catch once it has been landed, will not guarantee that the entire EU fishing fleet is landing catches as it should.”
The landing obligation is not a full discard ban, as many exemptions exist. This means that even if control authorities see a boat throwing dead or dying fish overboard, it is hard for inspectors to know whether the discarding was legal or not.
Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) can help authorities assess the legality of discards. REM is a system composed of sensors that monitor gear activity, cameras that record the processing and discard activities of fishers on the desk, and GPS to provide the exact location of the vessel.
All the data gathered through REM is automatically transmitted to control authorities, who can analyse it and more easily detect infringements of fishing rules, including the landing obligation.
This approach is much more cost-efficient than other forms of at-sea monitoring, as well as providing continuous information about the vessels’ fishing activities. Used in combination with other tools such as sea-inspections or on-board observers, it could cut overfishing and boost compliance with the law. This will help achieve the EU’s sustainability objectives while protecting seas and the people who depend on them.