Skip to main content

New technologies for monitoring fishing vessels


Specific Objectives

There are two objectives for 2002:

- To further understand the ability of remote sensing (SAR and optical) to contribute to monitoring fishing vessels;

- To support the Commission develop a harmonised electronic logbook that can integrate legal requirements for catch, landing and sales reporting with VMS.
Planned Deliverables

Specific deliverables to DGs:

- Reports describing work done including;

- performance of the vessel detection software in the Bay of Biscay area;

- requirements for harmonised electronic logbooks;

- Presentations to describe the work to fishing inspectors.

As a result of the research:

- Software that integrates classification algorithms with the Java-based software for vessel detection developed in 2001.


The IMPAST shared cost action project, coordinated by IPSC, starting in January 2002, will be integrated with this project. It includes 6 fisheries authorities as well as industry and a university. The objective is to see how SAR imagery can be integrated with the Vessel Monitoring System.

Efforts will be made to set up a network of research organisations with expertise in image processing in order to benchmark different algorithms for vessel and wake detection and classification using both SAR and optical imagery. The network will offer a focus for the deployment of new space borne sensors suitable for vessel monitoring. A proposal has already been sent to DG-RTD.

Summary of 2001 Deliverables: 31/12/2001


SUMO - a Java software for detecting vessels in Radarsat Imagery;


Kourti. N, Shepherd I. Electronic Logbooks for Fisheries. A Preliminary System analysis report presented to DG-FISH;

Kourti. N., Shepherd I., Schwartz G., Pavlakis P.,
Integrating Space borne SAR imagery into Operational Systems for Fisheries Monitoring" Canadian Journal for Remote Sensing. Vol 27. No. 4, August 2001;

Kourti. N., Shepherd I., Schwartz G., Ringrose R. Llewelyn J.,
Evaluation of the possibilities for the extension of control by remote sensing Final Report, March 2001;

Schwartz G.,
Algorithm Development: Searching for Unidentified Maritime Objects-SUMO Draft Report, November 2001.

Output Indicators and Impact

A measure of the impact of JRC's work is the degree to which the technologies tested or proposed by JRC become operational or mandated by EU regulation. It is not expected that this will happen during 2002 but in the next years there could well be a requirement for EU vessels to maintain an electronic log book and Fisheries Monitoring Centres will probably incorporate SAR imagery in their portfolio of monitoring technologies. There have been some suggestions that a certain amount of SAR monitoring may even become a legal obligation for Member States. It is too early to tell whether this will indeed be the case.
Summary of the project

The main objectives of the project are to develop and assess new technologies for the monitoring and control of fisheries.
The work will follow closely the priorities of the Fisheries Directorate General and might change if their priorities change or if technology progress offer new possibilities.


No other activity can provide as clear an example of the need for a coordinated European Union policy as fishing. A host of legal, political, economic, social and environmental factors encouraged the creation of the Common Fisheries Policy which has operated since 1983 and is now in its second decade.

Fishing provides a livelihood for many in the fishing, processing, wholesaling and retailing sectors but its health depends ultimately on the level of fish stocks. A recent article in Science, "Historical Over fishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems" (Jackson et al., 2001) finds
that ecological extinction caused by over fishing precedes all other pervasive human disturbance to coastal ecosystems including pollution, degradation of water quality and anthropogenic climate change. Historical abundances of large consumer species were fantastically large in comparison with recent observations.

Given the tendency of fish to ignore national boundaries and given the pressures evidenced by recent collapses in certain fish stocks and hence in catches it is clear that the activity's best chance of survival is through enforceable common rules.

The Common Fisheries Policy, like agriculture, is one of the very few that has common rules throughout the Union.

There are various control and inspection mechanisms for the Fisheries Policy either operational or in the process of being set-up.
Council Regulation 686/97 established the legal framework for a Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS).
This applies to Community vessels operating in Community Waters or in the waters of countries that have accepted such a system for their boats that operate in Community waters. The system is presently undergoing pilot studies and basically involves an integration of communication systems with global positioning systems to monitor the actual position of vessels in real time. The obvious criticism of such a system is that it is an active system. It relies on the co-operation of the vessel being monitored which must have the necessary equipment installed. Boats that do not, for whatever reason, have such equipment or boats whose system is not functioning correctly cannot be detected.


Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen