Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash wants New Zealand’s entire commercial fleet reporting their catch and position under the digital monitoring system by the end of next year. 

“Electronic catch and position reporting is already in place for trawl vessels over 28 metres in length that make up most of the deep-water fleet. They account for 70 percent of the catch,” Nash said. Smaller vessels predominantly working inshore fisheries will now be subject to monitoring. 

The roll-out among 1,100 smaller vessels starts in January. It will be introduced progressively starting with those with the highest annual catch entitlements. 

Wider electronic reporting pprrovides more accurate and timely information about the catch, Nash said. The current paper-based system relies on reports being mailed the following month which can cause long delays. The new reports will be completed and submitted daily in most cases. 

Broader electronic monitoring aims to provide real-time information and evidence about the commercial catch. It should also improve the understanding of what fish are being legally returned to the sea, including fish below the minimum size, said Nash. 

There will be a cost to purchase the electronic catch and position reporting equipment from technology providers but that is difficult to estimate until providers publish their pricing, he said. 

The expanded roll-out was delayed last year due to issues around technology and specifications, such as the frequency and timing of reporting, how to deal with equipment failures at sea and how to protect commercially sensitive information such as the location of fishing spots.

“After consultation with the industry and others, we are in a better position to make sure it works,” Nash said. Officials will continue to work with the fishing industry for the remainder of the year to resolve any technical questions, he said. 

Jeremy Helson, chief executive of Fisheries of Inshore New Zealand, told BusinessDesk the organisation has no way of assessing the plan.

“We have not been told about any of the changes that have been made to the regulatory regime after the consultation that closed in June this year. As such, we don’t know whether our concerns have been addressed,” he said in an email.

Helson also said there are currently no commercial providers of software or hardware systems yet so it is difficult to know whether the timeframe is feasible, or what the costs may be.

The electronic catch and position reporting is part of a wider digital monitoring project. Nash said he’s considering options for introducing on-board cameras for commercial fishing vessels. A final decision needs Cabinet approval and wider public consultation. 

Helson said a range of policy work is required before cameras are considered. 

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