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Volunteers Wanted For VMS Trials

Sustainability +1 more

UK - Seafish, the authority on seafood, is seeking 30 volunteer vessels in the south west to participate in a 12-month low cost Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) pilot study to monitor inshore fishing activity.

This work will support a range of fishing initiatives, including mapping fishing effort, supporting environmental accreditation and the design and management of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s). The trial is due to take place between May 2010 and May 2011.

Seafish is looking for 30 vessels based round the south west coast to take part in the trial. The vessels chosen will be representative of the makeup of the inshore fleet. Seafish will be looking for vessels that use different fishing techniques and in a range of sizes and deck arrangements. There will be no vessel size limit placed on participants, but they must all have a suitable onboard power supply and a secure location for fitting the small VMS unit.

Preference will be given to vessels that operate in the South Devon coastal area as this project will seek to work with a Natural England project piloting the development of a management plan for a local Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Priority will also be given to vessels engaged by ‘full time’ fishermen and to vessels in the Responsible Fishing Scheme. Five of the selected 30 vessels will ultimately be recruited to work with the project team to develop additional functionality. In the interests of transparency and fairness, a selection protocol will be applied to the first round of respondents.

“This is an important project and we hope that vessel owners will want to become involved. It is becoming more important that fishermen record where and when they fish. The activities of inshore fishermen are poorly understood by some fisheries managers," said Tom Rossiter, Seafish Project Manager.

"We need a low cost option for monitoring the fishing activity of inshore vessels. This will give managers and scientists a better understanding of fishing practices, and fishermen will be able to demonstrate that their activities can coexist with the many competing activities in the marine environment. This is what this trial is all about.”

Each of the 30 vessels will be fitted with a small VMS system, utilising General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) mobile phone communication technology, which will record and send position and course details to a central database. There will be no cost to the vessels involved during the course of the pilot project. As a further incentive, the participating vessels will take ownership of the equipment once the project finishes and a further 12 months transmission costs will be covered.

Jim Portus, CEO of the South Western Fish Producer’s Organisation (SWFPO) and secretary of SWIFA said: “The greatest threat to a fisherman is that he is denied access to his fishing grounds and livelihood. With marine planning coming, including spatial and temporal restrictions, the way to maximise access will be with reliable, modern and cost-effective position monitoring. The inshore sector is most vulnerable to these restrictions and can least afford the costly satellite-based systems. This is the main reason why I urge owners of inshore boats to come forward and participate in these trials.”

As part of its economic and social research in the marine environment, Defra is funding this Seafish project, which will be managed by a Steering Group including representatives from the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee, the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the South West Inshore Fishermen’s Association (SWIFA), the UK Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Coalition Group, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Natural England (NE), the Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).