English fisheries to be managed through remote electronic monitoring technology

Fishing vessels at a port in England
All vessels fishing in U.K. waters, including non-U.K. boats, will soon be required to carry remote electronic monitoring | Photo courtesy of Zdzislaw Fielder/Shutterstock
4 Min

Remote electronic monitoring (REM) will soon become mandatory for all vessels fishing in English waters, including non-U.K. boats, the country’s government has announced.

The U.K. Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) said REM will ensure catches are accurately recorded and that fish aren’t unlawfully thrown back into the sea. The data captured by cameras, gear sensors, and GPS units will in turn support the fishing industry by allowing the government to manage stocks sustainably and give retailers and consumers greater confidence about the sustainability of U.K. fish, it said.

The move to REM comes about in the wake of Brexit, which enabled the program, U.K. Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said.

“Leaving the E.U. has given us the opportunity to take a new approach to fisheries management that is in the best interests of the U.K. fishing industry,” he said.

To begin with, volunteers within five priority fisheries will begin to use REM systems this summer, with their work helping to refine the U.K.’s monitoring objectives and ensure the technology works for fishers. Once these monitoring objectives have been finalized and the REM systems are working well, they will become compulsory for all vessels in those fisheries.

“By harnessing this technology, we can sustainably manage our fish stocks to benefit the industry, future generations, and our marine environment,” Spencer said.  

Defra has also confirmed a different approach to managing discards will be adopted in England, whereby from 2025, both landings and discards will be counted against quota allocations. It said the amount of quota used to cover discards will vary and depend on the type of vessel and gear types being used.

Additionally, discard reduction schemes will be established to identify ways to reduce unwanted catch in the first instance. 

Working collaboratively with regulators and the industry, the schemes will identify and resolve barriers to improved gears being used, Defra said. Both approaches will be implemented at the start of next year. According to the department, the new reforms mark a “clear departure” from the legacy of the E.U. Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The rollout of a new electronic monitoring system comes after the U.K. Marine Management Organisation partially botched the rollout of inshore vessel monitoring systems (I-VMS) in 2023. The company had to pause the rollout of new systems in May 2023 after two of the four available devices approved for use in the I-VMS program – the Satlink Nano and the Maritime Systems MS44 – failed to meet standards after additional testing.

Maritime Systems Managing Director James Glover contested the move, and said the MMO never gave the company to rectify the issues, and called the process a “clear witch hunt by senior management at the MMO.” 

Despite the problems with the first rollout, after a pause the MMO retried rolling out I-VMS in October 2023.  

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