Five reasons cameras on boats can help end overfishing for good

We need to see ambitious action to end overfishing now. Over 40% of assessed fish populations are subject to overfishing, ranking UK fisheries among the most heavily exploited in the world. Less than 1% of fishing trips in the UK are independently monitored, meaning we simply don’t have enough information to safeguard the health of our marine life. The Fisheries Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, offers a unique opportunity to take decisive action and future-proof our fisheries.

In its present form, the Bill doesn’t include a commitment to fully document and verify what is caught at sea. The single most effective change that can be made to the Bill is to introduce camera systems on boats fishing in UK waters – particularly larger +10m boats. Known as Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras (REM), this technology collects data about where and how fishing is happening.

Fishing boat

Here are five reasons we think the Government should support cameras on boats…

Improved data

Traditional independent catch data comes from human observers on-board boats. However, currently they are deployed on less than 1% of fishing activities in the UK. If cameras were widely rolled out, the additional data collected would help scientists and fisheries managers better understand the status of fish populations, assess the impact of fishing activities on bycatch (non-target marine life caught in fishing nets), track invasive species and even monitor the effects of climate change.

It shows ambition

UK fisheries authorities, along with those worldwide, have successfully trialled camera systems, but Government are yet to require their use. A commitment within the Bill to rolling out cameras would place data and science at the core of UK fisheries management. This would allow enough time for the UK fishing industry to prepare for a new system and provide confidence to manufacturers and suppliers to invest in the technology.

Compliance

Camera systems on boats will help authorities support and monitor compliance with fishing rules. This doesn’t necessarily mean cameras should be used to penalise non-compliance, but it’s important that managers have a good understanding of how different measures are being implemented.

Transparency

With cameras on boats, fishers would be able to help provide businesses and consumers with confidence in the sustainability of their seafood. Best practice would be incentivised, as consumers are willing to vote with their wallets and invest in truly sustainable seafood.

Cost-effective

The costs of camera systems are reducing year-on-year. Increased staff efficiencies and developments in technology mean that the estimated cost of rolling out cameras across the over 10 metres fleet (who are responsible for catching over 90% of our fish) is between £4.8 and £6.75 million per year - less than 1% of the value of seafood caught by these boats!

As the UK begins to map out its recovery plan post-Coronavirus, it’s more pressing than ever that we end overfishing while safeguarding the future of coastal communities. We can only do this if we include a commitment to roll out REM in the Fisheries Bill.