Tracking Fishing Vessels Around the Globe

Tracking illegal fishing
© U.S. Coast Guard


Two decades after satellite-based vessel monitoring systems ( VMS ) began taking on an increased function in fisheries management—because of their ability to track the localization and monitor the activities of fishing vessels around the world—new technologies are allowing these systems to be in full integrated into fisheries management plans. today, VMS have become a critical tool in the ball-shaped fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated ( IUU ) fishing, which accounts for up to US $ 23.5 billion worth of seafood every year .
The systems provide a greater degree of monitoring, control, and surveillance ( MCS ) than is possible with more conventional aerial and come on technologies. They have been increasingly required by fisheries managers around the worldly concern because they furnish a high academic degree of detail and confirmable data. When VMS are installed permanently on a fishing vessel, each unit has a alone identifier that can be used in conjunction with GPS to calculate a vessel ’ s stead and send the datum to authorities at routine intervals .
initially, flag States creditworthy for registering and licensing their vessels used VMS to track the activities of domestic fleets, while coastal states used the systems to monitor foreign-flagged vessels licensed to fish in their exclusive economic zones ( EEZs ). More than 30 years ago, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea provided the legal basis for such a apparatus when it gave coastal states basal province for managing all support nautical resources within the zones that run 200 nautical miles from their shores. In 1995, the U.N. fish Stocks Agreement specifically called for masthead States to develop policies to mandate and implement VMS while taking into account subregional, regional, and global arrangements.1 immediately, most regional fisheries management organizations ( RFMOs ) mandate that vessels authorized to fish within their waters be outfitted with VMS.

States are increasingly entering into multilateral data-sharing agreements that provide “ peer-to-peer ” VMS information exchanges. Some besides try wide, multiparty arrangements, such as the agreement among members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency ( FFA ) to provide near-real prison term share of VMS data among members for all foreign-flagged vessels licensed to fish within their collective waters in the western Pacific Ocean .
These systems have become increasingly twist, with the capability of being integrated with early management tools. Enhanced features now offered by service providers to complement the master traverse capability of VMS include :

  • Electronic catch reporting (e-logs). Facilitate near-real time catch reporting to allow fishery managers to more easily correlate catch and effort data with VMS position information and inspection reports.
  • Integrated catch documentation schemes. Track and trace fish from the point of capture through the supply chain, essentially tracking from hook to plate, by recording and certifying information that identifies where, when, and by whom the fish were caught.
  • Observer programs. Onboard observers independently collect information at sea, for example, tracking bycatch, catch composition, and gear configuration data. When coupled and verified with VMS, this information is critical for responsible fisheries management.
  • Catch share or quota monitoring. Catch shares, or quotas, allocate a specific area or percentage of a fishery’s total catch to an individual, community, or association. VMS can help hold participants accountable by providing near-real time information on vessel position as well as catch reporting via e-logs.

As a key element in gathering needed data, VMS are required in most commercial domestic and eminent seas fisheries worldwide and help authorities monitor thousands of fish vessels. however, to be effective, the data must be monitored regularly and shared appropriately for both enforcement and scientific purposes. To this end, RFMOs and other regional organizations, such as the FFA in the Pacific, increasingly choose to manage a centralize data-secure VMS on behalf of multiple members to collect information from vessels. That centralization improves the seasonableness and technical capabilities of VMS and boosts cost efficiencies .
This brief spells out the components of effective VMS and the options available, and it looks at best practices for putting these systems into place. VMS should be required for all vessels, particularly those authorized to fish in areas beyond national jurisdiction or in another state ’ s EEZ. The units should be equipped with bipartite report to allow communication between vessels and authorities. The VMS technologies should be approved and tamper-proof and the systems should be able to operate continually with backups in target. The data should be sent to all relevant authorities, and vessels that fail to comply with coverage requirements should face penalties .
Meeting these criteria would ensure that the systems implemented are effective and take advantage of fast-improving technologies. And that would allow authorities to better monitor the populace ’ south fisheries and reduce illegal fish .


ALC/MTU—automatic location communicator/mobile transmitting unit LES—land Earth station
DNID—data network identity MCS—monitoring, control, and surveillance
EEZ—exclusive economic zone MCSP—mobile communication service provider
FMC—fisheries monitoring center RFMO—regional fisheries management organization
GPRS—general packet radio services VHF—very high frequency
IUU—illegal, unreported, and unregulated VMS—vessel monitoring system
LEO—low Earth orbit VPN—virtual private network

Primary uses of vessel monitoring systems

VMS are typically used for monitoring, control, and surveillance to assist fisheries managers and enforcement authorities in tracking the activities of license vessels. They increase the efficiency and effectiveness of conventional aeriform and surface assets—which are normally the most costly components of enforcement—by providing critical data to track area ( spatial ) or time ( temporal role ) restrictions imposed by management bodies, such as RFMOs. Whether those management measures involve closed areas such as greenhouse grounds, broader closures as part of a marine protected area, or seasonal closures of a specific fishery, VMS can immediately tell authorities where and when vessels are operating .

What vessel monitoring systems can do

VMS functionalities have evolved to the charge where fisheries managers can require vessels to provide electronic submission of perceiver data and catch reports in near-real time. That eliminates the considerable delays associated with paper report and greatly reduces the potential for false, intentionally manipulated, or inaccurate data .
VMS make it easier to enforce a image of fisheries management measures, including :

  • Area restrictions and closures. Near-real time VMS tracking allows authorities to accurately monitor which vessels are operating in designated areas. If they have imposed catch or time limits in an area, VMS can be used to determine whether vessels leave as required.
  • Time management. Fisheries authorities also can monitor, in near-real time, vessels that are subject to seasonal or time closures so that the vessels leave fishery grounds and return to port as appropriate.
  • Catch restrictions. Combining VMS with additional catch reporting software can provide notification to a vessel when it has reached a catch limit and then be used to monitor vessels to ensure that they leave the fishery and return to port. This information can also be used in conjunction with area restrictions and time management to strengthen enforcement.
  • Quota tracking. When coupled with electronic catch reporting, VMS can provide fisheries managers with near-real time information on whether catches are approaching or exceeding established quota limits.
  • Tracking seafood through the supply chain. When combined with a catch documentation scheme, VMS can furnish information to validate vessel movements and activities. That can provide chain of custody information to the point of landing or transshipment and needed assurances to the market.

When properly configured and topic to appropriate manoeuver procedures and penalties, VMS provide highly accurate data on a vessel ’ s position that can help in developing improved stock assessments ; scientists can cross-check VMS data with other management tools, such as vessel logbooks, catch data, and observer reports .
Tracking illegal fishing
A fisheries enforcement ship ( on leave ) waits as authorities board a vessel observed fish in national waters in the Philippine Sea. Vessel monitoring systems help track license fishing vessels to make it easier to conduct boardings at sea to ensure complaisance with fisheries regulations .
© U.S. Coast Guard

What vessel monitoring systems cannot do

A properly configured VMS can provide a range of useful information for fisheries management and enforcement, but there are limits to what it can do. Among those limitations are :

  • VMS cannot conclusively tell authorities if a vessel is fishing. On their own, VMS cannot indicate if a vessel is fishing unless the units are linked to gear sensors or cameras that provide verification of activity. However, analysis of VMS data can indicate with a high degree of confidence whether vessel movements are consistent with fishing activity. Enforcement authorities then can respond to confirm the activity or investigate further to verify actions that do not comply with fishery measures.
  • VMS generally cannot be used as the sole evidence of IUU fishing in prosecutions, unless specifically allowed by the relevant government. Increasingly, fisheries authorities seek to use VMS data in prosecutions, but the ability to do so depends on the specifics of a state’s regulatory or legislative framework. As domestic legislation is updated and provisions are added to allow VMS data to serve as evidence of noncompliance, the successful use of such information in fisheries prosecution cases will increase.
  • VMS generally cannot be used by third parties (such as RFMOs or coastal states) as the sole evidence of noncompliance. The ability of a party, other than a vessel’s flag State, to use VMS data alone to prove noncompliance with RFMO requirements on the high seas remains problematic because the responsible flag State still must investigate to prove the alleged offense occurred. Third parties typically use VMS as a surveillance tool to help direct more conventional aerial and surface enforcement efforts to document potential noncompliance.

How vessel monitoring systems work

The building blocks

Each VMS relies on a piece of hardware installed on fishing vessels called an automatic location communicator ( ALC ) or a mobile transmit unit ( MTU ), which sends information to communication satellites. As seen in Figure 1, data are relayed to land Earth stations ( LES ) managed by mobile communication service providers ( MCSPs ) and then transmitted by impregnable land line or internet connection to fisheries monitoring centers ( FMCs ) and the relevant RFMO secretariats. The monitor centers can be managed by national, subregional, or regional entities, depending on national policies or international agreements .
Tracking illegal fishing
source : European Union, 1995-2016, © 2016 The Pew Charitable Trusts
Setting up a typical “ vessel-to-authority ” VMS requires addressing three discrete elements :

  • Shipboard hardware. The ALC/MTU—together the vessel’s VMS unit—is installed and integrated with the shipboard GPS. Each VMS unit has a unique identifier for a specific vessel. Data reports are automatically sent to fisheries monitors at predetermined periodic times—the “VMS reporting rate”—and are of specific size. Management authorities determine how frequently data should be submitted, with a range of once a day to 24 times a day. The costs associated with the purchase, installation, and maintenance of shipboard VMS units may be borne by the fisheries management authority or vessel owners and operators, depending on management arrangements.
  • Satellite communications. The fishing vessel data are sent securely through communication satellites and LES to the responsible FMC. The MCSPs are commercial entities that run and maintain the communication satellites and the LES, process the VMS data, and ensure that the information is sent to the FMC in a usable format. Airtime costs linked to the use of communication satellites and LES depend largely on the size of the data report, the overall VMS reporting rate, and the number of vessels being monitored.
  • VMS service provider. Typically, a fisheries authority contracts with a commercial vendor to securely manage and store processed VMS data from MCSPs, and provide a user interface that displays the data so they can be analyzed appropriately. Fully managed services can include the costs of licensing, maintaining, and operating the software; maintaining a secure database and information technology (IT) hardware; managing, storing, and processing the data; and airtime. In some cases, VMS service providers also provide airtime and contract directly with MCSPs for bulk data to provide more seamless service. That can bring economies of scale and boost bargaining power with MCSPs on airtime pricing. In other cases, authorities prefer separate MCSP and VMS service provider contracts, allowing vessel owners to choose their preferred VMS unit from a list of approved devices. Table 1 lists some typical commercial providers for a range of VMS services.

Table 1

Sample Providers of Vessel Monitoring System Components

VMS element Providers (not inclusive)
Shipboard hardware (ALC/MTU) Applied Satellite Technology (AST), Thrane & Thrane, Faria Watchdog, Furuno, Thorium, SatLink
Mobile communication service providers Vizada, Speedcast, Stratos, Iridium, Inmarsat, Argos
VMS service providers PoleStar, Trackwell, Visma, CLS

The VMS unit transmits GPS data on vessel placement and time to monitoring systems, normally using conventional satellite systems, such as :

  • Inmarsat. Originally founded by governments but now a commercial entity, Inmarsat maintains a constellation of geosynchronous communication satellites.
  • Iridium. Uses a constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide global coverage.
  • CLS Argos. Uses LEO satellites from Europe and the United States in polar orbit.
  • AST. Uses both mobile phone technology and Iridium communications through polar LEO satellites.
  • Qualcomm. Provides access to Iridium satellite systems.

Centralized systems eliminate pleonastic, distinguish, and dearly-won satellite transmissions to multiple authorities by providing the like datum automatically, securely, and in near-real time to relevant RFMO member countries and the RFMO secretariat .

Data reporting

typically, FMCs use a datum network identity ( DNID ) number to address specific groupings of VMS units. All units within a group must be configured to belong to a unique DNID. Vessels then can be identified by a VMS data report that uses both the DNID and the VMS unit identifier. The groupings may be associated with a flit of vessels licensed by a national authority for a specific fishery, or they may be authorized vessels that must be monitored under particular RFMO arrangements. A individual VMS unit may be configured to belong to and store more than one DNID group. That allows a vessel to be monitored simultaneously by more than one authority ( for exemplar, a national fisheries assurance, an RFMO, or a vessel owner ) through individually transmitted data reports. This can increase satellite airtime costs for the contracting party .
Data reports are typically provided to relevant authorities independently, which generates extra airtime costs. To help minimize these costs, management authorities can allow an MCSP or VMS service supplier to establish a “ gateway ” within a centralized VMS database to provide coincident procure dissemination of reports to multiple authoritative users under rigorous data confidentiality protocols. This allows a unmarried vessel data report to be processed through a communication satellite to an LES and an MCSP .

Setup options

There are two approaches to housing the IT hardware, servers, and databases needed for a VMS :

  • In-house system. A flag State or other authority establishes a secure physical space with limited access, buys the necessary IT hardware and software, maintains the equipment, and obtains VMS data directly from an MCSP. It sets up its own virtual private network so that VMS data can be sent directly to authorized users—such as a national FMC—to be viewed via software developed in-house or, more typically, owned and managed by a VMS service provider.
  • Hosted system. The VMS service provider supplies the software for viewing the data and hosts the system in a secure space, with all IT hardware, software, and data storage provided. The flag State or RFMO secretariat uses secure internet access to view the data. This system has multiple advantages, including:
    • No capital outlay.
    • No ongoing IT costs (maintenance, upgrades, warranties, etc.).
    • Hardware solely dedicated to running VMS, which increases reliability.
    • Secure access from anywhere in the world.
    • Redundancies that minimize risk of system failures (power, internet, backup). An in-house system could have similar redundancies, but at a greater cost.
    • IT costs spread over multiple clients, which helps lower costs in the long term.

A host system can be tailored to individual node requirements, providing the footing for an RFMO centralized VMS. This allows for report of vessel situation data, either immediately to an RFMO secretariat or through the relevant iris State and then to the secretariat. In some cases, coverage is directly and coincident to both. For exercise, the VMS avail supplier can purchase IT services from an internet “ cloud ” provider ( for example, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft ), contracting for needed hardware and data storehouse depending on the size of the fleet to be monitored and range of services. With a cloud system, capacity can be scaled up or down to meet clients ’ needs at a moment ’ south comment, possibly increasing price efficiencies .
In both in-house and host systems, data possession protocols are retained and even belong to the node ( flag State, RFMO, or other ) in line with established data rules and procedures. importantly, such centralized systems eliminate pleonastic, discriminate, and dearly-won satellite transmissions to multiple authorities by providing the lapp data automatically, securely, and in near-real time to relevant RFMO member countries and the RFMO secretariat .

Size and cost implications for data reports

VMS data reports are typically transmitted in packets of unlike sizes and multiple parts, known as single- or two-packet report. Two-packet report contains information on the identity of a vessel and its current military position in latitude and longitude in one package, and the vessel ’ second course and speed in the second. Older VMS software required two packets to display all three factors on a single graphic drug user interface. however, because two-packet coverage costs twice american samoa much as single-packet report, most VMS service providers developed processing software to calculate the class and speed based on the final two VMS data reports received. This technological advancement has closely eliminated two-packet report requirements and drastically reduced unnecessary and expensive airtime costs .

Two-way communication

ideally, VMS units should allow for bipartite communication between the vessel and relevant authorities. This enables a fisheries assurance to change the coverage rate of a VMS unit of measurement or send the unit an regulate to immediately update a vessel ’ s position—critical capabilities from enforcement and management perspectives. Known as duplex engineering, these bipartisan communications allow authorities to alert a vessel if it is nearing or entering a shut area. A duplex VMS whole can provide directly communication, via text or e-mail, allowing for near-real meter transmission of electronic logbook and catch data. This can help with the flow of information for quota monitoring or product traceability. Newer duplex technologies are much better suited to smaller vessels than are old VMS units, a development that bolsters the case for using VMS on vessels of all sizes .

Reporting rates

Fisheries authorities have the greatest confidence in VMS data that are provided routinely and with short time periods between reports. If vessel report data more frequently, authorities can determine with greater accuracy their location, steering, and speed. And that provides greater certainty when they examine movement patterns coherent with fishing natural process. In addition, scientific assessments benefit from the increased detail that is available with more patronize report .
Gathering these data more frequently can be useful when vessels operate near known or disputed nautical boundary lines or in areas where vessels are not authorized to fish. Using bipartite communications, authorities can mechanically increase the VMS report rate for specific vessels when warranted. importantly, authorities can send alerts to these vessels before they reach such boundaries or closed areas, providing proactive notification that may deter activities that violate fishery requirements. Increased reporting rates, however, bring greater airtime costs. As such, the management authority should work to balance effective monitor and cost-effectiveness.

Type approval

To operate systematically and efficaciously and to provide certainty to fisheries authorities about the data transmitted, the VMS whole must have the decline capabilities for its determination and be tamper-proof. Fisheries authorities generally require each make and mannequin to undergo an established “ type approval ” action to ensure that the timbre of data received from a specific VMS unit of measurement gain and exemplar meets specific operational and technical foul standards. Generally, an independent authority approved by either the national or regional fisheries management government assesses the hardware via technical and environmental trials. Following testing, fisheries authorities prepare a list of approve VMS unit types. Hardware installers besides must be approved to set up VMS units on board to ensure that authorities receive data from that vessel consistent with management requirements .

Data-sharing agreements

VMS data are commercially sensitive and not publicly available unless vessel identity and track history information—where the vessel has traveled—is removed. still, the data can be shared among allow authorities under rigid confidentiality arrangements. For model, the 17 members of the FFA have an established VMS data-sharing agreement to keep a near vigil on their Pacific waters. Data for closely 1,500 foreign vessels licensed to fish in the sphere are shared among fisheries authorities for each member express according to established, rigorous policies and procedures. sometimes, VMS data are besides shared among intergovernmental agencies, such as a state ’ randomness coast guard, dark blue, or other nautical authority via a memo of understanding. This can help improve nautical knowledge domain awareness and allow authorities to remove legitimate fish vessels from potential undue surveillance or enforcement actions .

New technologies

The monetary value of function and maintaining a VMS varies according to the requirements of the specific system. In general, the higher the functionality, the more expensive the equipment and needed airtime costs. Some systems, such as those operated by the United States and the European Union, require more expensive onboard equipment and transmission of large amounts of data over the communication satellite yoke. Although these requirements result in increased airtime charges, they besides provide a higher grade of performance. The basic price of VMS hardware, however, continues to decrease as engineering advances. In most cases, a standard VMS unit of measurement for a vessel can be purchased for about US $ 1,000 or less, depending on its specific capabilities .
Fisheries managers can choose from diverse emerging VMS options. Although all available systems use GPS to monitor vessel movements, they differ in the methods and the ability to transmit VMS data to an MCSP .
Among lower-cost systems are :

  • General packet radio services (GPRS). Using mobile phone technology, these systems use coverage from land-based mobile phone masts that can provide patchy coverage in some areas and have limited range. Marine-quality antennas can help optimize performance. The systems typically have the ability to continue logging vessel positions during periods of signal loss that can be transmitted when the signal returns. However, given the limits of mobile phone coverage, this system is more applicable to nearshore fisheries and smaller or artisanal vessels than those that go farther out to sea.
  • VHF time division multiple access. These systems use a dedicated radio frequency to transmit data. Depending on the height of antennas installed on vessels and shore towers, transmissions are possible up to 40 nautical miles. There are no transmission costs once the system is set up, other than a VHF license cost.

however, much like GPRS technology, this type of VMS configuration is limited in crop and more applicable to nearshore fisheries .

Choosing the right VMS

When flag States, coastal states, or RFMOs consider which type of VMS to use, they should take into account current management arrangements and the increase capabilities of today ’ mho systems. VMS are most useful in areas where fisheries authorities have imposed spatial or temporal role restrictions on fishing within their waters. The systems besides can track vessels on the high seas, enhancing general maritime domain awareness, and improving the potency and efficiency of law enforcement activities. This helps managers target vessels and areas that demonstrate the highest risk for disobedience .
Among the questions that policymakers should ask when choose and implementing a VMS are :

  • Why is the system being implemented?
  • Which vessels will be required to report?
  • How will the information be used and for what purposes?
  • Who will be able to view and use VMS information?
  • Are additional functionalities—such as electronic logs, observer reporting, or catch documentation— desired or needed?

The systems besides can track vessels on the high seas, enhancing cosmopolitan nautical sphere awareness, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement activities .

once these overarching questions have been answered, managers can look at other variables, such as which VMS units should be considered for type approval, whether a two-way communication system should be adopted, and, for RFMOs, what is the best way to parcel VMS information among flag States, the secretariat, and coastal state members. Policymakers besides need to set standards, specifications and procedures, operating requirements, and data confidentiality rules, angstrom well as consider how to handle manual report if a vessel ’ s VMS whole fails .

Recommendations for RFMOs

While it is difficult to generalize, a review of stream VMS requirements in many RFMOs points to some best practices. particular approaches will depend on the circumstances and needs of each region, american samoa well as how fishery managers answer questions about how they want to use VMS .
VMS should be required for authorized vessels of any size and type. The requirement should apply to all vessels authorized to fish in areas beyond national waters—such as the high seas or in another state ’ s EEZ—and enforce to all vessels defined as fishing or fish accompaniment vessels. That includes fish carriers and bunker vessels, because these vessels are typically authorized to engage in fishing-related operations, such as transshipment. At first, VMS were used to monitor only larger industrial fish vessels because of the costs and technical requirements. now, though, these systems can be used for even the smallest vessels because of newer, compress hardware and monetary value reductions, vitamin a well as the handiness of battery-powered units and cellular technology .
VMS should be type-approved and tamper-proof. VMS units should be sealed and in full automatic pistol, and have adequate stand-in and convalescence procedures .
Type approval establishes and maintains uniformly high system integrity. The approval process ensures that VMS units are dependable, robust, and procure. Systems should be able to demonstrate that they can :

  • Transmit mandatory, automatically generated position reports that contain the unique identification of the VMS unit.
  • Include visible and/or audible alarms to indicate a unit malfunction.
  • Provide comprehensive and transparent communications, which function uniformly within the entire geographic coverage area.
  • Provide two-way communications between an MCSP and a VMS unit.
  • Send and receive email or text messages.
  • Report positions accurately within 100 meters, unless otherwise indicated by an existing regulation or VMS requirement.
  • Store a predetermined number (100 or more) of specific geopositions so that data can be recorded and saved when the VMS unit is unable to transmit or is configured to a ‘‘store and retrieve mode.”
  • Allow for variable reporting intervals between five minutes and 24 hours.
  • Have reporting intervals changed remotely by an authorized user.

In addition, communications must be dependable and not allow unauthorized access to passwords and data. The units should have mechanisms to prevent, to the extent potential, interception of data during transmittance to the MCSP, spoofing—one MTU fraudulently identifying itself as another VMS whole, any alteration of unit identification, and introduction of viruses that could corrupt messages, transmissions, or the entire system .
To ensure security, the RFMO should require that specially identified position reports be generated in the event of :

  • An antenna disconnection.
  • A loss of the positioning reference signals.
  • A loss of the mobile communications signals.
  • Shipboard emergencies, power-up, power-down, and other status data.
  • A vessel crossing predefined geographic boundaries.

VMS should operate continually, but have backup systems in place. VMS units should remain in continuous operation at all times at sea and in all areas, providing “ port-to-port ” tracking from the moment a vessel leaves port until it returns. management arrangements should be implemented to avoid electric potential gaps or loopholes in monitor by the most appropriate assurance ( flag State, coastal state, or relevant RFMO ). In cases of VMS failure, the rules should ensure that vessels operate without a function system for the shortest possible time and continue to report manually at sufficiently frequent intervals, ideally no longer than four hours. If a VMS unit remains malfunctioning for a set period of time, a vessel should be required to return to port, arrange for immediate rectify or substitution, and remain in larboard until the unit is operational. fortunately, the improved dependability of modern VMS units has greatly reduced the number of failures and the want for manual report. Jan Kranendonk Fisheries management authorities can track fishing fleets more effectively if vessel monitoring systems have been mandated .
Tracking illegal fishing
Using state-of-the art systems that integrate multiple sources of information, analysts at fisheries monitoring centers can scan vessel monitoring system data to track the movements and activities of fishing vessels .
© Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd. 2017
VMS transmissions should be provided to authorities in near-real time. Vessels should transmit VMS data at the highest possible frequency, ideally at hourly intervals. Higher reporting rates permit more accurate monitor of fishing or transshipment operations and, when correlated with capture data, helps improve scientific stock assessments. Authorities must recognize that there will be a degree of delay or rotational latency between the fourth dimension a VMS data report is transmitted from a vessel to the degree it is displayed on a user interface within an FMC. In most cases, when a VMS is performing correctly, data latency should be less than one hour for at least 90 percentage of stead data .
VMS data should be sent to all relevant coastal states and the relevant RFMO. VMS data should be provided simultaneously and in near-real prison term to the vessel ’ s iris State and to all other relevant authorities. coincident and direct coverage to authorities can be accomplished directly from the vessel via multiple transmissions ( through appropriately assign DNIDs ) or after the datum are received within a centralized hosted or “ cloudbased ” VMS. The centralized method is more cost-efficient and limits opportunities for tampering, deliberate handling, or altering of VMS data because secure landlines and HTTPS protocols ( alike to internet banking ) can provide data directly to relevant authorities in near-real prison term. If the VMS data are beginning transmitted to the sag State assurance, measures should be put in station to securely transfer these data to the relevant coastal state and RFMO as close to near-real time as possible in an agreed upon and standardized data exchange format. relevant VMS data besides should be available to RFMO scientific committees to cross-check the accuracy of fisheries management data to improve overall stock assessments ( this does not need to be in near-real fourth dimension ). The data will besides be used to bolster inspections and at-sea enforcement actions .
VMS should provide for two-way reporting. VMS units should allow for communication—known as duplexing— between a management authority and the VMS unit of measurement. This enables the authority to increase the coverage rate when a vessel nears an environmentally sensible or close area and to ask the VMS unit for an update vessel military position. Alerts can be sent when needed for an question or for real-time communication with the vessel operator .
The extra costs associated with bipartisan communications include sending data to and from VMS units with text or without textbook, angstrom good as condition requests. Strict protocols and procedures to identify situations that warrant increased coverage intervals can help mitigate these costs .
Viable penalties should be in place if vessels fail to comply with reporting requirements. Flag States, relevant coastal states, and RFMOs should have mechanisms in identify to ensure effective execution of VMS regulations and to apply appropriate penalties when those regulations are not followed—including potential revocation of the authority to fish. These penalties should include possible pursuance and fines. Enforcement authorities besides should be able to arrange a vessel to port for nonreporting or failure to report manually in case of a malfunctioning VMS unit of measurement .

Flag States, relevant coastal states, and RFMOs should have mechanisms in locate to ensure effective execution of VMS regulations and to apply appropriate penalties when those regulations are not followed—including possible revocation of the authority to fish .

Tracking illegal fishing
Officials on a Micronesian patrol boat cook to dining table a purse seine fishing vessel in national waters.

© Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency


VMS are an essential tool for fisheries monitoring, command, and surveillance that is being used increasingly by nautical authorities to combat illegal fish. The systems besides play an important character in effective fisheries management .
With the adoption and execution of effective rules and data-sharing among appropriate authorities, these systems can help to detect, deter, and eliminate IUU fish in the world ’ mho oceans. At the same time, they can provide fishery managers with the information needed to design and implement effective management measures that ensure the long-run sustainability of critical fisheries .


  1. United Nations General Assembly, “Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks” (1995), Article 18.3(e) requires “recording and timely reporting of vessel position, catch of target and non-target species, fishing effort and other relevant fisheries data in accordance with sub-regional, regional and global standards for collection of such data. Article 18.3(g)(iii) mandates flag States to conduct monitoring, control, and surveillance of their vessels by, inter alia, “the development and implementation of vessel monitoring systems [VMS], including, as appropriate, satellite transmitter systems, in accordance with any national programs and those which have been sub-regionally, regionally or globally agreed among the States concerned.” Annex I provides standard requirements for the collection and provision of data, including on vessel positioning and fishing activity.
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