UK ramps up surveillance to deter illegal fishing

Vastly increased offshore patrols, aerial surveillance, and monitoring have ensured that illegal fishing has been kept at bay in England’s seas since the U.K. became an independent coastal state on 1 January this year, according to the country’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

With additional government investment of GBP 32 million (USD 44 million, EUR 37.5 million), the MMO has enhanced its surveillance and fisheries control capacity. It has also put more marine officers on shore, more patrol ships at sea, and increased aerial and radar surveillance to complement existing electronic monitoring systems.

“MMO activity at sea or on shore operates on a risk-based, intelligence-led approach and matches the seasonal pattern of fishing activity. Levels of activity are usually reduced during the winter months, but we’ve maintained our enforcement presence at sea throughout,” MMO Compliance and Control Head Michael Coyle said. “During March, inspections are at a higher level than ever due to the increased capacity we’ve introduced. There have been 41 inspections so far in March; 15 of these were U.K. vessels and 26 were E.U. vessels.”

According to the MMO, the overall intent is to enable fishermen to go about their business while it exercises control duties. It also stressed that while inspections at sea help it gather important data that could lead to prosecution, such as incorrect mesh sizes, undersized species, and undeclared catch, they are not the means by which the government acquires data on what is being fished where and when.

This information comes from fishing catch, landing, and sales records that all fishing vessels and merchants are legally required to supply, it said.

The United Kingdom currently can also request data on E.U. fishing vessels to support enforcement efforts and the U.K.-E.U. Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides the framework for continued data exchange. There are ongoing technical conversations with the European Commission to establish a mechanism to allow sharing of this data moving forward.

Photo courtesy of Marine Management Organisation


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