FAQ- Frequently Asked Questions

What are vessel monitoring systems?

Vessel Monitoring systems (VMS) are devices that are used to track the position (latitude/longitude) of a vessel on the sea. They do this by triangulating GNSS (e.g. GPS)  signals to establish the vessel’s exact position on earth and transmit this position out via satellite or GPRS communication channels back to Fisheries Monitoring Centres.

What do Fisheries Monitoring Centers use a vessel monitoring systems for?

Fisheries Monitoring Centre use vessel monitoring systems to try and understand the level of fishing effort that occurs upon their seas. They use vessel monitoring system to track where their fleets voyage so they can see which areas around their coastlines receive the most fishing/vessel traffic.

Why do Fisheries Monitoring Centres (FMCs) use vessel monitoring systems?

The role of an FMC is to protect their fish stocks and marine reserves from overfishing. FMC will often use a variety of approaches to do this but one of the most common (and effective) is a vessel monitoring system to ensure that vessels are not over-fishing within particular areas.

What are the alternatives methods Fisheries Monitoring Centers can protect their fisheries?

Some of the alternative ways include:

Camera-based systems – can cover various different parts of vessel and then the video footage needs to be reviewed by the FMC to understand the intentions of the vessel at the time. Typically, the FMC will only review a small % of the footage due to the sheer volume of the footage.

At-sea observers – trained personnel will accompany a fishing vessel on a certain voyages and record the fishing effort catches.  Due to the cost/time of this method only a small selection

Dockside Monitors – trained personnel who monitor and verify landed weights and species at landing locations.

What does an FMC look for when they are monitoring their fleets?

FMCs are looking for the telltale signs that a vessel is fishing. When a vessel fishes, their position reports create ‘tracks’ on the sea that give away indications as to the activities that they are engaged in. Below we can see examples of different vessel tracks that show different types of fishing techniques.

FMCs can then use this information (collated from all their fleets) to understand where their vessels are fishing around the seas.

If an FMC sees one of these vessel tracks, can they categorically say that a vessel is fishing?

No – when FMCs see vessel tracks that they believe show vessel fishing they are only able to make assumptions about a vessel’s activities. Unfortunately, with current VMS there is no way of knowing precisely when a vessel started fishing, as the vessel maybe preparing the nets without actually fishing (or there could be other reasons – for example object avoidance).The only clear way of knowing definitively would either be to have an on-board video monitoring system and view and calculate when the vessel started fishing or to use a gear sensor system, to measure when the net was deployed or the winch was active e.g. BlueTrakers’s BlueSenz.

How can FMC’s ensure the traceability of their fleet’s catch?

To ensure traceability of catches, FMCs need ways to see the quantity of fish and the species of fish being taken from their seas. A straightforward approach to achieving this is by mandating a logbook for all catches (catch, bycatch, and transshipment) are reported to the FMC. In Europe this is called electronic recording and reporting system (ERS) http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/control/technologies/ers_en and it allows the national authorities to have a full understanding of what is occurring on their seas.

How frequently do FMCs need to receive positional reports to understand whether a vessel is fishing?

To understand whether a vessel is fishing, FMCs need to have sufficient reporting to be able to see patterns on the sea. Compare the two images below, both pictures are of the same longline fishing vessel; however one has a reporting interval of every 60 minutes and the other is reporting every 10 minutes.

With Figure 2 all we are able to understand is that the vessel went from point A to point B at a very slow speed and covered point B to point C at a slightly faster speed.  But if we look at Figure 3 we are able to see that the vessel was fishing in between those points.

It would seem that the more information the better, however as there are inevitably costs associated with reporting. FMCs need to strike the right balance between having enough information to gain the true picture however not creating too much of a cost burden for their fishing fleets.

How often do BlueTraker’s broadcast position reports?

BlueTraker’s can be configured to transmit positional reports at intervals ranging in seconds, minutes or hours. The BlueTraker default transmission is 15 minutes over the GPRS channel and 120 minutes over the satellite channel. BlueTraker’s can also include an ‘In-port’ function allowing the captain/master of the ship to signal that the vessels are in port which increases the reporting interval ( thus minimizing reporting costs).

Can the public access the BlueTraker data that the Fisheries Monitoring Centre has access to?

No – the data that is transmitted through the BlueTraker is encrypted so even if the information was intercepted there would be no way of interpreting it. However, some governments are freely offering the information: https://govinsider.asia/inclusive-gov/open-dataset-of-the-week-illegal-fishing-in-indonesia/ as a way of combating Illegal fishing and gaining citizen support.

Are you able to switch a BlueTraker VMS terminal off?

No - the purpose of a vessel monitoring systems is to provide continual vessel coverage for the Fisheries Monitoring Centres. This allows them to manage their marine reserves and ensure that vessels that do not enter into restricted areas such as marine protected areas or no-catch zones. If fishermen were able to simply switch a VMS unit off, it would defeat the purpose of having a VMS on the vessels, as fishing boats could then fish ‘unseen’ by the authorities.

How long does a BlueTraker battery last?

A BlueTraker terminal uses the fishing vessel’s main battery as its source of power while additionally keeping its internal rechargeable battery full. The internal battery means that should the main power fail or should the main power be disconnected then the BlueTraker’s backup battery is designed to takeover for a period of 48 hours. This function ensures that FMCs maintain complete visibility even if there is a technical failure/tampering.

Why do BlueTraker have an additional GPRS channel to transmit/receive data?

Transmitting data over satellite communication channel is expensive. For large files such as upgrades to firmware or sending through eLogbooks using a lower cost method such as the GPRS channel is preferable to save on costs.

What are geozones and how are they used to manage fisheries reserves?

In the context of fisheries, a geozone is a geographical area on the sea that has been established for the purposes of vessel activity monitoring. Fisheries Monitoring Centres (FMCs) will often want to keep a careful watch on particular sea areas: for example those that are recognized as fish spawning grounds or fragile marine areas that are particularly sensitive to disruption. Geozones are often set-up to have different time reporting intervals applied to them, so that FMCs can more closely regulate the activity that occurs within the zone. They are able to learn which vessels are passing through/fishing and the volume of traffic of a certain period.

What is difference between hardware and software geozones?

Put simply, hardware geozones reside within the firmware of the on-board device and software geozones reside on the computers at the FMC office. An advantage of hardware geozones over software geozones is that they do not rely upon the transmission/reception of the GPS location of the vessel for entry/exit messages or attributes of the geozone to be triggered.

How many geozones can a BlueTraker VMS contain?

A standard BlueTraker VMS is able to accommodate one hundred geozones. Each geozones can be made up of one hundred latitude and longitude points and have other different attributes attached to it e.g. Increase in reporting frequency if the speed drops below a certain level.

Why can’t FMCs simply use the AIS transponder that many of the vessels have on-board anyway?

There are three principal reasons behind this.

Firstly, AIS transponders can be switched off (vessels are usually mandated to have their AIS switched on when they leave port but there is currently no ruling on having it on when they are fishing or out on the sea).  Many fishermen will turn it off the AIS to avoid their competitors (who are competing for the same catch) from knowing precisely where they are fishing. Switched-off AISs do not necessarily mean that a vessel is engaging in illegal fishing or transhipments but unfortunately we have no way of knowing.

Secondly, AIS coverage is inconsistent and unreliable. Even with the advancement of Satellite AIS there are still problems with the reliability of the data. In a blog post by Global Fishing Watch they set out the numerous challenges (http://blog.globalfishingwatch.org/2016/08/ais-and-the-challenges-of-tracking-vessels-at-sea.html) that there are to the tracking vessels using AIS.

Lastly, as AIS transponders were only designed for collision avoidance so they are not capable of bidirectional communication. This means that although AIS  may be capable as a tracking solution the potential of using them for the next generation of fisheries monitoring (e.g. eLogbook) is improbable.

What type of messages do FMCs need to transmit to fishing vessels?

FMC will need to notify vessels about closure zones or quota level adjustments, equally fishing vessels providing information about their catch levels in order for FMCs to make more strategic decisions/choices over which areas on the sea to manage.

EMA d.o.o. | Teharje 7b | 3000 Celje | Slovenia

+ 386 3 428 48 00
[email protected]
[email protected]

Leading the innovation

With state of the art technology and comprehensible solutions for vessel tracking and monitoring, BlueTraker sits firmly at the forefront of global industry leaders. Vessel Monitoring Systems for Fisheries, LRIT and SSAS terminals, BlueSenz range of wireless sensors for fisheries and FuelTraker make the core of our expertise based on hybrid GPRS/Satellite tracking.

EMA d.o.o. | Teharje 7b | 3000 Celje | Slovenia

+ 386 3 428 48 00
[email protected]
[email protected]


Leading the innovation

With state of the art technology and comprehensible solutions for vessel tracking and monitoring, BlueTraker sits firmly at the forefront of global industry leaders. Vessel Monitoring Systems for Fisheries, LRIT and SSAS terminals, BlueSenz range of wireless sensors for fisheries and FuelTraker make the core of our expertise based on hybrid GPRS/Satellite tracking.

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