£1.5m put into new vessel tracking systems

vessel tracking boat fishing

New technology will help ensure inshore fishermen are fishing in a sustainable way, following £1.5 million funding for vessel tracking devices, the Scottish government has said.

The joint funding from the Scottish government and EU will be focused on enhancing the monitoring of vessels under 12 meters long with a small number of boats undertaking research to improve the scientific evidence base.

The monitoring of vessels will help identify the location, extent, and intensity of fishing activity. That information can then be used by fishers, fisheries managers and marine planners, to better inform decisions that may impact on fish stocks and the marine environment.

“We are taking action to modernize inshore fisheries and are introducing appropriate vessel tracking, as outlined in our ‘program for government’,” said fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing. “This program will help underpin the future prosperity of our fleet and the many coastal communities that depend on it.”

The investment will not only help the government make better and more responsive fisheries management decisions but also improve interactions between fishing and other marine users, he added.

“It’s encouraging that demand for Scottish seafood – at home and around the globe – continues to be strong. Business confidence is high, and the fisheries sector continues to take steps to improve productivity and sustainability. And despite the continuing threat and uncertainty of Brexit, it is vital we continue to invest.”

The government noted the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, through which the investment will be partly funded, is yet to have a replacement identified for after Brexit.

Environmental NGO Open Seas told Undercurrent News that to date the Scottish government has been slow to modernize vessel tracking and monitoring in inshore fisheries.

“This has led to issues such as that in Loch Carron, where local communities were left to raise the alarm about damage caused to vulnerable reefs whilst government remained unaware, and in the Firth of Lorne and other marine protected areas, where vessels have operated illegally inside closed areas and without penalty,” it claimed.

This has also made it difficult for the seafood industry to properly trace where fish and shellfish have come from, and whether there are illegitimate or unsustainable products in their supply chains — something many have acknowledged to the NGO is of significant concern, it went on.

“This announcement goes some way to addressing those issue and we warmly welcome it. It shows government and ministers are serious about improving the way we understand, manage and enforce Scotland’s inshore fisheries and has the potential to greatly improve the way the inshore seas are managed.”

It noted the committed funding aims to establish monitoring on only some vessels, and this means “the situation in Scotland will remain in stark contrast to that of English waters, where monitoring systems are being rolled throughout the inshore fleet and treated as a condition for access”.

This article was originally published as £1.5m put into enhancing Scottish vessel monitoring, reporting at Undercurrent News on 08/10/18.

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