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It's time to take science seriously: our response to government consultation on better fishing vessel monitoring

Many UK fishing fleets can't market their fish as sustainable at the moment because they are data deficient. Here's Sustain's response to plans to improve data collection through vessel monitoring.

Billingsgate Fish Market, taken by Ruth Westcott

Billingsgate Fish Market, taken by Ruth Westcott

Defra is proposing to require all English fishing boats under 12 metres in length to be fitted with an Inshore Vessel Monitorin System (I-VMS), which will track when and where boats are fishing. Vessel Monitoring Systems are already required for over-12 metre boats and will soon be introduced in Scotland.

Sustain fully supports the proposal to implement I-VMS on under 12m vessels, to help to generate the vital data required for effective management of UK fisheries. Crucially, I-VMS will help to ensure that genuinely sustainable fishing is recognised, rewarded and incentivised.

Data deficiency is a pressing issue in the small-scale UK fishing fleet. In 2013, Project Inshore identified that, shockingly, only 12% of the fish stocks targetted by the English inshore fleet had enough data to gain Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification.

Sustainable Fish Cities is part of a movement that is seeing the market for sustainable fish growing ten times faster than for conventional fish. In a recent report, we found that UK fisheries are now losing out on millions of pounds of business from the catering sector, as UK buyers choose scallops, plaice, some cod, seabass and halibut from abroad because the local catch doesn’t meet sustainability standards. Increasing demand for sustainable fish is the trend in the UK and internationally, which is very important for the UK as roughly 75% of the fish we catch is exported.

The proposal to have I-VMS on under 12m vessels will help to fill the data gaps to allow UK fisheries to better access these markets.

Supporting sustainability

However, I-VMS it isn’t enough on its own to solve the data deficiency issue. To allow government to fulfil its promises of delivering a green Brexit and ‘setting a gold standard for sustainable fishing around the world’ we must:

  • Manadate CCTV on board all fishing boats as part of ensuring the smooth implementation of the discard ban and elimination of illegal fishing.
  • Ensure all UK boats have fully recorded catches, to improve the understanding of what fish is caught and where.
  • Encourage compliance by allocating a proportion of fishing quota as a reward for sustainable fishing
  • Invest in technology to analyse results and flag issues in real-time, with a warning system for non-compliance to vessels, as happens in Australia at the moment.

Read Sustain's Full response

Published Wednesday 14 November 2018

Sustainable Fish: A campaign to protect precious marine environments and fishing livelihoods, and call for fish to be bought from sustainable sources. We want to show what can be done if people and organisations make a concerted effort to change their buying habits.

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