Monitoring programs

Compliance use a range of tools to gather intelligence and conduct routine surveillance, such as vessel monitoring systems (VMS) to get real time position reports from Commonwealth fishing vessels in the Australian Fishing Zone.

Compliance monitoring programs include the use of:

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)

The AFMA VMS consists of three main components:

  • the tracking unit on the vessel known as an ‘automatic location communicator’ (ALC) or VMS unit;
  • the transmission medium – usually Inmarsat C; and
  • hardware and software used by AFMA to monitor vessel locations.

VMS units have built in global positioning system (GPS) units and are fitted to vessels nominated to Commonwealth fishing concessions.

These VMS units transmit data about vessel positions to AFMA through a satellite communications network and an internet connection. While VMS units are programmed to automatically report their positions at regular intervals, AFMA can obtain real time position reports as required.

AFMA requires that a computer be connected to the VMS unit. This allows for email communications between AFMA and the vessel. It also allows the vessel operator to communicate to others through email.

Specialised geographical information software (GIS) is used to display vessel positions and tracks and VMS data can be automatically cross-referenced against closed areas or areas subject to particular management arrangements. Alerts can be set up to notify AFMA officers about particular vessel activities including entries and exits to closed areas and ports.

Alerts are transmitted to officers by email or SMS message and include the most recent location of the vessel, the nature of the vessel activity, and the calculated speed of the vessel.

See also: VMS information for industry

Catch Disposal Records

On landing, the fishing permit holder, Statutory Fishing Right (SFR) holder, or a nominated authorised person is required to complete a form detailing the species caught and their accurate weight.

Depending on the fishery, operators also may have to record the number of boxes of each fish consigned and usually the processing state (wholeweight, headed, gilled/gutted etc) in which the fish were landed and the number of shark carcasses. The document must be completed within 50 metres of the point of landing of the fish.

The fishing operator retains a copy of the completed (and signed) form, forwards the original to AFMA and forwards the remaining two copies with the fish to the fish receiver. The first fish receiver must hold a Fish Receiver permit.

On arrival at the first fish receiver, the fish must be weighed and the fish receiver (who may be a processor, retailer or fish market) must record the species and weights (and shark carcass numbers) and sign the copy of the form consigned by the concession holder with the fish. The receiver forwards a copy to AFMA and retains the third copy on the premises, where it may be inspected if required.

Forms are mailed to AFMA and entered onto our fishery database. AFMA integrates the catch information with records of quota entitlements and provide periodic updates to management and industry on the remaining quota available.

Catch disposal records may also be used for non-quota fisheries. In these cases detailed information is required on landed catches for stock assessment or other purposes.

Fish Receiver Records

Fish receivers who are the first point of receipt of fish in designated fisheries are required to be registered and to maintain a record of fish received from operators in those fisheries and to make that record available on request to Fisheries Officers.

In the case of quota fisheries, fishing operators may only consign fish in the first instance to a registered fish receiver and the fish receiver must weigh the fish and complete the documentation.

There are no constraints on who may be registered as a fish receiver, nor on to whom the fish may be consigned once they have passed through the initial receiver.

For compliance monitoring purposes, AFMA works co-operatively with State/Territory fisheries compliance organisations to implement and maintain a National Docketing System. This requires all points in the marketing chain to maintain a record of fish purchased or sold, including details of to whom the fish were purchased or sold. Product movements can therefore be tracked beyond the first receiver, if necessary, and an audit process can be implemented if required.