Boardings at Sea
It was agreed that it was timely to refresh and reissue the laminated code of conduct which lets skippers and boarding officers know what to expect from each other during boarding at sea. The code was welcomed when it was first introduced after discussions between the Federation and the MFA but it was agreed that it could be usefully updated.
One piece of advice that the new code will contain is a reminder that skippers are allowed to wash their nets before mesh and twine size measurements are undertaken to get rid of sand, silt etc that could distort measurements. This has become an even more significant factor following the advent of the Omega gauge.
Research results to be published shortly by a respected Dutch research institute could reopen questions about the reliability of the omega gauge, especially in relation to whether the gauges are calibrated to the right tension and whether the protocols for measuring nets on board deal adequately with stretching of net materials after the initial measurement.
One way of reducing inspection time at sea and scope for misunderstanding is a scheme through which nets are measured by the MMO on shore, on request, before the vessel goes to sea. An official tag is attached to the net to confirm where and when the net was measured. This information is then transmitted to the records of fisheries protection vessel.
Given that enforcement activity is supposed to be guided by a risk based approach, the scheme, which has been piloted in the North east and the South West, should reduce hassle all round and save a great deal of time.
The discussions covered a range of other issues including:
- Quota management
- Electronic logbooks
- Marine spatial planning
- Enforcement at sea
- Marine conservation zones
- Under-10m logbooks
- Real time closures
- IFCAs (Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities)
The Federation reiterated its view that the Government had put the industry in the hands of a monopoly supplier for VMS equipment, with entirely predictable results. MMO was able to confirm that the Government contract to supply VMS equipment would be retendered in the near future. An entirely different contract will apply in 2012.
In the meantime the option of a low cost option for inshore vessels based on mobile phone technology is being investigated.