Publication: September 2021  
Download: English  
Executive summary: ESDEENFRIT  
At a glance note: English  
Authors: DTU Aqua, Technical University of Denmark: Jørgen DALSKOV, Gildas GLEMAREC, Lotte KINDT-LARSEN, Anne-Mette KRONER, Pernille NIELSEN
Key findings
  • Electronic Monitoring (EM) systems using closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and various sensors can also be used on vessels below 12 metres.
  • EM sensor systems can record detailed information on all length classes fishing vessels.
  • The use of tablets and smartphones as a tool for recording fishing operations and as logbook and report tool can prevent data deficiencies.
  • The use of EM can improve possibilities for monitoring compliance with g., the landing obligation (LO).
  • Electronic technologies (ET) are cost-effective to monitor compliance in small-scale fisheries (SSF).

The small-scale vessel fisheries (SSF) are playing an important socio-economic and cultural role in European waters and coastal communities, but in terms of monitoring and control they have generally been neglected in Europe by fisheries scientists and fisheries managers at national and European Union (EU) level. In general, the SSF segment can be characterised as a fisheries fleet segment providing insufficient information on its fishing activities for sustainable management of the EU fisheries and the marine ecosystem.

In the EU fisheries, only vessels above the length of 10 metres are obliged to fill in a logbook and only vessels above the length of 12 metres are obliged to use VMS (Vessel Monitoring System). Furthermore, for both obligations there are possibilities for exemptions. The management and the development of the small-scale EU fishing fleet – where no or limited information on fishing effort, use of fishing gear, location of the fishery and on what has been caught and landed exist – is not optimal.

Usages of electronic technologies for fisheries control and monitoring

Worldwide, ET are increasingly being deployed to improve fisheries monitoring in all types of fisheries. The use of camera-based Electronic Monitoring (EM) systems including CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras, gear sensors and advanced data analysis can provide full documentation and accountability for fishing activities. The use of EM and other electronic devices generates several benefits, such as high levels of compliance and documentation of fishing practices. For the SSF fleet, the use of tablets and cell phones for electronic reporting and monitoring has developed significantly over the latest years in many parts of the world.

Fixed video-based EM systems installed on fishing vessels offer a cost effective and 24/7 monitoring alternative to independent fisheries observers to collect data in SSF. Video-based high-resolution data makes it possible to estimate accurately e.g., compliance with the LO, discard activities and incidental bycatch of protected, endangered or threatened (PET) species.  

Observer coverage in the SSF is traditionally low, and there is often a lack of information on the spatiotemporal distribution and intensity of fishing effort. Implementation of video-based EM systems in the SSF can become an important tool to assess the impact of SSF on marine ecosystems in the EU.

Non-camera EM sensor systems provide high-resolution fishing data by recording vessels’ fishing activities, which result in better control and surveillance of the fisheries. The implementation of EM sensor systems on bivalve fishing vessels in Denmark has increased accuracy and transparency of fishing activities. Combining the EM sensor data with logbook information provides the possibility of fine-scale mapping and assessment of actual area impacted by each individual fishing activity with a very high temporal (10 seconds) and spatial (below 10 meters) resolution.

EM systems have, within the EU, mainly been installed on larger vessels. However, EM systems for SSF have been developed and are implemented for large scale use in Latin America with more than 600 vessels being monitored in 2021. The systems are fitted specifically for the small vessels in terms of power use, mounting and data upload.

Most Europeans own a smartphone or a tablet nowadays, and these portable devices offer an ideal platform to develop monitoring solutions for SSF for which space and power on-board are often limited. The ease of use and versatility of apps can speed up and facilitate tasks like reporting the fishing activity to the authorities. Replacing logbooks and landing declarations using data recorded semi-automatically on a smartphone/tablet can be a strong incentive for fishers.

When available, apps can enhance fishing procedures, without the need of dedicated computer software to run on the vessel. This is of particular interest on small-scale artisanal fishing vessels, which cannot accommodate such equipment on-board for a lack of space or power, or simply because it would be too expensive. A major advantage of apps compared to, e.g., fixed or mobile EM systems is that they can be used on literally any vessel, regardless of size, provided the fisher carries a smartphone or tablet. The costs of implementing such systems on a large number of vessels, be it for management, scientific monitoring or control purposes, is therefore below the one of all the other ET solutions presented in this report, without necessarily losing much in resolution and accuracy. For very small vessels operating in European waters, the generalisation of apps combining fishing activity monitoring, logbook and landings declarations could conveniently replace pen and paper in the future, thereby enhancing considerably the quality of fishery-dependent data.

Policy recommendations

Small-scale vessel fisheries play an important socio-economic and cultural role in European coastal communities. In terms of monitoring and control, SSF have generally been relatively neglected in Europe by fisheries managers and fisheries scientists both at national and EU level. In European waters, SSF often provide insufficient information with regards to fishing activities for ensuring a sustainable management of this fleet segment and of the marine ecosystem. Based on the present review, we have come up with a short list of global policy recommendations:

  • For monitoring compliance with the LO, fishing vessels in SSF could be equipped with video-based EM systems, as those described in case studies I and III. It is recommended that video-based EM systems are installed on all the vessels using mobile gears, as this is the fleet segment with the highest risk of non-compliance with the LO. To limit the workload for EM analysts and reduce the cost, it is advised that national competent fisheries authorities analyse a subset of the entire EM data that are collected. For instance, only a random selection of 10 % of the entire fishing activity could be reviewed for any discard of species with a total allowable catch (TAC) as portrayed in case study I
  • In fisheries with low discard or bycatch risk, such as dredge fisheries for bivalves or low impact fisheries using g., pots or handlines, video-based EM is likely unnecessary, but it is recommended to monitor the spatiotemporal distribution at a fine-scale for control but also for documentation of important fishing grounds, using for instance an EM sensor systems – or a similar technology – as is described in case study II.
  • In fisheries where there is a suspicion of high-risk of incidental captures of PET species, including marine mammals, birds, chelonians, as well as non-commercial fish and elasmobranchs, it is recommended that at least a representative sample of the fishing vessels in the fleet carry a video-based EM system, such as the ones described in case study I or, g., for small open boats, the technology described in case study III.
  • The current requirements for documenting fishing activities in EU fisheries using traditional paper logbooks for vessels below 12 meters (10 metres in the Baltic Sea) have been outdated for several years. It is recommended to gradually generalise the utilisation of tablet or cell phone apps specifically designed to fulfil the EU reporting requirements. These apps, such as some of the apps listed in case study IV, should be available in the fishers’ native language.
  • Finally, it is recommended that, for all length classes, individual vessels identity and fishing activity are accessible at the finer possible spatiotemporal scale to the competent authorities and to the national scientific bodies responsible for the scientific advice.

Data alone will not result in more sustainable fisheries, and data themselves will not lead to better decision-making, but they are a key component of an effective ecosystem-based management in EU waters. It is of course a challenge for fishers and especially for small-scale vessel fishers to adopt and afford new technologies for monitoring and reporting fishery-dependent data. Therefore, financial support will be necessary when implementing electronic technologies in the SFF, for instance through the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

Selection of visuals:


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