Today (15 February 2022) Wales has become the first nation in the UK to require all of its licensed commercial fishing boats are fitted with a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
Boats of 12 m or more in length were already required to have such a system in place, but an order coming into force today means those under this size, more than 350 boats, must have a VMS device.
The under 12 m fishing fleet makes up around 97 percent of Welsh registered fishing boats. The Vessel Monitoring System will transmit the geographical position, date, time, speed and course of a boat, at least once every 10 minutes, while fishing operations are being undertaken. This is important in gaining a fuller and more accurate picture of fishing boat activity in the Welsh zone, and for Welsh registered boats wherever they may be, to improve fisheries and marine environment management.
A consultation began in 2019 on the requirement for the under 12m fleet and to support the fishing industry, Vessel Monitoring Systems have been offered for free to the relevant Welsh fishing fleet. However, due to European Maritime and Fisheries Fund rules, from today onward fishers will have to purchase the devices themselves.
Free device installation began in December 2020 although no monitoring of fishing activity of the under 12m fishing fleet has been undertaken before the legislation comes into force today.
More than 98 percent of boats in this category have been fitted with a VMS. The installation of VMS on vessels is done in full consultation with the owner and is carried out by fully qualified engineers.
Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “I am pleased Wales is the first nation in the UK to require all commercial fishing vessels which operate in Wales or the Welsh Zone are fitted with a Vessel Monitoring System.
“We want to help ensure a sustainable and prosperous fishing industry in Wales and this step will be fundamental to the effective management of fisheries and the wider marine environment. The implementation of the catch recording system for under 10m vessels in 2020 means we now have better information about what is being caught, and this combined with VMS will give us a fuller picture of fishing in Wales and where it is taking place. It will also provide the industry with evidence of their catch origin and fishing grounds which could be used to resolve any disputes with other marine users.
“We have worked closely with the industry and have offered substantial funding via the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to help prepare fishers for this new requirement.”