WWF: Onboard cameras vital for fish discard ban to succeed

Published on
February 25, 2016

Remote electronic monitoring that uses a combination of onboard cameras and sensors is by far the most efficient and cost-effective way to monitor fishing activities at sea and to ensure the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy’s (CFP’s) landing obligation – also known as the discard ban – is being fully implemented, according to a new report published by WWF.

The study, “Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) in Fisheries Management,” compares REM to traditional monitoring methods, such as aerial and boat surveillance, onboard observers and dockside checks, and finds that REM could offer a far more efficient and cost-effective way of monitoring fishing activity and improving information on fish stocks.

The cameras, which would be used in conjunction with GPS and electronic sensors, can record continuous video during fishing. While 100 percent of fishing activity is recorded, usually around 10 percent is looked at – providing a snap shot of what is happening onboard a vessel. The video data is reviewed to quantify the catches and compare them against the fishermen’s logbooks.

The landing obligation requires boats to bring all fish caught from certain species to land so they can be documented and counted against fishing quotas.

WWF has estimated that installing the equipment, and reviewing 10 percent of data could cost as little as GBP 4,697 (EUR 5,946; USD 6,553) per vessel. It also reckons that to equip and install all 10-meter plus fishing vessels in the U.K. fleet with REM camera systems, and to undertake a review of 8 percent of the footage shot could cost less than is currently spent on traditional monitoring options in the country.

The report finds that all the EU’s 10-meter plus fishing vessels could be monitored for 10 percent of the time they are at sea, for a total cost of EUR 122 million (USD 133.4 million). WWF said this money “could easily be made available” to fishermen and administrations given the EUR 6.4 billion (USD 7.1 billion) fund of money made available across the EU to help implement the new CFP, of which the landings obligation is a key element.

“Member states have an obligation to demonstrate that they are effectively monitoring compliance with the landing obligation,” said Helen McLachlan, fisheries governance manager at WWF-UK. “It is difficult to see how they can do this without having good knowledge of what is happening at sea. Cameras offer by far the most effective means of doing this 100 percent of the time for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.”

The NGO said the discard ban represents one of the biggest ever operational shifts in European fishing practices and will be challenging, but if implemented effectively it could bring social, economic and environmental benefits – more fish in the sea, a more resilient, profitable industry and greater food security in future years.

However for it to work, effective monitoring will be vital, it said, highlighting that poor implementation carries the risk of illicit discarding at sea going unrecorded, potentially weakening scientific knowledge on fish stocks, which could mean the wrong quotas being set in future.

Between 2010-12, an average 40 percent or 148,765 metric tons (MT) of demersal fish such as cod, haddock and plaice caught in the North Sea were discarded with certain species being particularly affected – during this period 43 percent of whiting and plaice, 25 percent of hake and up to 91 percent of dab ended up back in the sea.

WWF’s report was launched to coincide with a European Commission (EC) seminar to discuss implementation of the landing obligation.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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