Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nauru improves tuna vessel monitoring

The Nauru Vessel Monitoring System (usually known as VMS) is receiving attention at the moment.

The national VMS Officer, Mr Murin Jeremiah, is in Honiara on attachment to the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Solomon Islands Fisheries Division for two weeks.

Each of the foreign vessels that is licenced to fish in Nauru waters must have an Automatic Location Communicator (ALC) installed and switched on. This electronic device transmits the vessel's position by satellite to the regional VMS node run by the Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara. From there it can be monitored by Nauru's VMS system and checked out for compliance.

Nauru is in the process of developing agreements with other Pacific Island countries to allow VMS data to be shared, so vessels can be tracked across the whole region, providing an early warning of which vessels are about to enter Nauru waters.

The VMS is not much use in monitoring vessels which turn off their ALC, but if there is region-wide monitoring it is easy to check if a VMS trace suddenly disappears and to ask why.

The Nauru VMS computer is currently housed at the Civic Centre, close to the main internet feed, but will be moved to NFMRA headquarters when the Oceanic Fisheries database and network is upgraded next month.

VMS has proven to be a powerful tool. Even without an oceangoing patrol boat to physically arrest vessels in the EEZ (Nauru port facilities are too limited to host a patrol boat) VMS data can be used to confront fishing companies and the governments of the countries where the offending fishing vessels are registered, to improve compliance with the law. VMS data can be used as a trigger for further investigation, cross-checking the logsheets and zone entry and exit reports for inconsistencies.

Murin is gaining hands-on experience with the regional VMS system at FFA, and experience boarding and investigating active vessels alongside his Solomon Islands government counterparts, and NFMRA is extremely grateful to the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Solomon Islands Fisheries Department for making this attachment possible. We're looking forward to a significant increase in the detection of offshore tuna fishing violations, when he returns to work on 18th March.

Nauru VMS Officer Murin Jeremiah at the airport
FFA staff demonstrate vessel inspection procedures to workshop participants from several Pacific Island countries.
This is a tuna-spotting helicopter on the top deck of a purse-seine fishing vessel in Honiara harbour.

This attachment exercise is part of the Nauru Fisheries Management Institutional Strengthening Project, funded by the Australian Government as part of its programme of bilateral cooperation with Nauru.

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