Publication: October 2021
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Executive summary: ESDEENFRIT
At a glance note: English
Author: Aloysius (Edwin) T.M. van Helmond
Key findings
  • Since 1999, the use of camera-systems on board, commonly referred to as Electronic Monitoring (EM), has emerged as an innovative approach for documenting catches in fisheries.
  • The number of vessels involved in EM is steadily growing, and estimated at approximately 1 900 fishing vessels worldwide in 2019. Canada, the United States of America, Australia and Chile have successfully implemented EM in their national fisheries management administrations.
  • During the period 2008 – 2019, more than twenty EM trials were conducted in the EU. Despite promising results, none of the trials evolved into a fully integrated EM programme. Still, valuable lessons are learnt on EM implementation in European fisheries.
  • EM improves monitoring coverage without a considerable increase in the monitoring budgets.
  • Involvement of fishers is crucial for EM implementation. Fishers need to conform to the operational practices on board to facilitate the success of EM.
  • In the context of the EU Landing Obligation and the requirement to record discards, further work on development is still needed. Detecting smaller fish specimens in large volumes of catch is still challenging.

In 1999, after a first trial with CCTV (closed-circuit television) camera systems on board fishing vessels to cope with management reforms and gear theft in British Columbia, Canada, it was quickly recognized that cameras on board fishing vessels could be used for monitoring and control in fisheries. Since this first trial of this Electronic Technology (ET) the use of camera systems on board, commonly referred to as Electronic Monitoring (EM), has emerged as an innovative approach for documenting catches in fisheries. A typical EM system consists of various activity sensors, Geographical Positioning System (GPS) recording device, computer hardware and cameras, which allow for video monitoring of catches, and detailed fishing effort registration without requiring additional on‐board personnel.

EM already demonstrated its ability to cost-effectively transform management and compliance in several fisheries. The aim of this report is to review the current status of EM and provide an overview of the latest developments in European fisheries, as well as potential benefits and risks of EM in fisheries.

State-of-play of Electronic Monitoring worldwide

The implementation of EM in fisheries is steadily growing. Currently, the total number of vessels, that are or have been, involved in EM schemes is estimated at approximately 1 900 (Figure 1). Fully implemented EM programmes exist in Canada, the United States of America (USA), Australia and Chile. These full programmes are defined as management‐driven monitoring schemes, where EM is officially used for compliance monitoring purposes. Vessels under these regulations are required to have an EM system on board. Other remarkable EM implementations are the fishing industry driven French and Spanish tropical tuna purse seine programmes in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, where fishers voluntarily adopted a full EM programme, covering 100% of fishing activities.

Figure 1: Increasing number of vessels involved in Electronic Monitoring worldwide
Electronic Monitoring in European fisheries

In European fisheries a total of 26 EM trials carried out by seven different countries (Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom) were encountered during the review. The more comprehensive EM trials involve more than ten vessels. So far, none of the trials have moved to full implementation.

EM trials were executed in a variety of fishery types, from larger beam trawlers and seiners to small inshore fishing boats of less than 10 metres in length. EM proved to be an efficient monitoring tool in catch quota management (CQM) trials for cod in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Benefits and Risks

The biggest advantage of EM is the increase of sampling coverage and the level of detailed fisheries information that can be collected without an extreme increase in monitoring budgets. However, it should be emphasized that EM is not a “plug and play” system. Firstly, the involvement of the crew on board fishing vessels is crucial for a successful EM implementation. Fishers need to conform to maintenance of the EM systems, camera lenses need to be cleaned on regular intervals as footage collected from dirty cameras is useless. Secondly, the manual review of video EM data is labour intensive. Automated specifies recording systems, through computer vision technology, seem the logical next step in reducing time and manual labour needed for video review (Figure 2). Such technology is currently still under development. Furthermore, the implementation of EM on a large scale requires sufficient IT infrastructure data storage and processing.

In contrast with the in general negative attitude of the fishing industry around EM, the majority of the participating fishers in EM trials were positive and supportive of using EM for fisheries management purposes. Although, in some cases strong incentives to participate were provided (e.g. substantial quota uplifts).

Figure 2: Computer vision technology in practise: Example of automated classification of fish species on the sorting belt of a beam trawler


Experiences and lessons learnt from EM trials are valuable and useful for implementing EM on a larger scale in European fisheries. In the context of the EU landing obligation and the requirement to record discards, further work on EM development is still needed. Processing large amounts of video data and detecting smaller fish specimens in large volumes of catch with video review can still be challenging. Computer vision technology is a possible solution to facilitate processing large amounts of EM data and improve fish detection.

Policy recommendations
  • Support the development of technical innovation in Electronic Monitoring. Facilitate research on species recognition through computer vision technology; support networking between fisheries research, EM providers and robotics, e.g. (technical) universities and private sector; develop strategies to process large amounts of EM data (video data).
  • Build fishing industry support for Electronic Monitoring. Demonstrate EM benefits and best-practise examples; facilitate communication around EM between stakeholders; develop “win-win” scenarios through alternative uses of EM data.
  • Create a European Electronic Monitoring infrastructure. Provide legal guidelines around EM (e.g. privacy, data ownership); facilitate workgroups or committees with experts representing all stakeholder parties when implementing EM in a particular fleet or fisheries. Provide legal requirements and governing framework for Member States to implement EM.

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[AT A GLANCE] Workshop on electronic technologies for fisheries : Part II: Electronic monitoring systems – Research4Committees · October 7, 2021 at 1:10 pm

[…] Link to the full study: Workshop on electronic technologies for fisheries : Part II: Electronic monitoring systems […]

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