The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has stated that it will be closely monitoring and cracking down on vessel monitoring system (VMS) non-compliance with a month-long VMS zero-tolerance campaign throughout February 2021.
This means Commonwealth fishing boats without a reporting VMS could be subject to compliance action, including being ordered back to port.
VMS has been mandatory on Commonwealth fishing boats since 2007 and on Torres Strait boats since 2018.
AFMA CEO Wez Norris commented that it is “disappointing” to see a recent decline in VMS compliance.
“VMS is an essential monitoring tool for the sustainable fisheries management of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries, ensuring healthy fish stocks and protecting the rights of fishing operators,” said Mr Norris.
“The vast majority of fishers follow the VMS rules, and compliance rates remain above 95 per cent, however there are some who may not be doing the right thing.
“During the crackdown, boats that do not have a fully functional VMS and have not sought approval to turn their VMS unit off, may be ordered back to port.”
VMS allows AFMA to monitor vessel position, course and speed of all Commonwealth fishing vessels in real time. All boats nominated to Commonwealth fishing concessions are required to have an approved VMS unit fitted and always functioning.
The VMS must remain switched on at all times, even when the boat is in port, or fishing under a state or territory concession, unless the operator has been granted approval to temporarily turn it off.
Failure to have a fully functioning VMS, including failure to seek approval to switch off the unit, is a breach of the fishing conditions. In addition to being ordered back to port other compliance actions may be taken including being issued with an infringement notice, suspension of one’s fishing concession, and/or prosecution.
Published since 1978, Ausmarine is the foremost magazine servicing the Australian and New Zealand commercial, military and government marine sectors.