Next steps in digital monitoring

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has confirmed the next stage of digital monitoring across the wider commercial fishing fleet will begin in January 2019.

“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 per cent of the catch,” Mr Nash says.

“The remainder of the fleet, the smaller vessels who predominantly work the inshore fisheries, will now report their catch and position under the modernised system as well.

“The rollout will begin in January 2019 with those who have the highest total holdings of annual catch entitlement (ACE). It will be introduced progressively and end with operators who have the smallest or no holdings. It will be in place across the whole fleet by December 2019.

“It replaces the current paper-based catch reporting system that is slow, error prone and time consuming. The wider introduction of electronic catch and position reporting will give us more accurate and timely information about what is being caught, how it is being caught, and where it is being caught.

“The modernisation of the fisheries monitoring system will provide better information and improve the understanding of what fish are being legally returned to the sea, including fish below minimum size. It will provide real time information and evidence about the commercial catch that will enable better decisions around setting catch limits.

“I put the rollout on hold late last year after challenges around technology and specifications. We have arrived at solutions to these issues. After consultation with the industry and others we are in a better position to make sure it works. The industry had concerns in a number of areas, such as 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.

Fisheries officials also used the consultation to consider how they could better facilitate innovative trawl technologies that have the potential to reduce bycatch and minimise damage to fish. Officials will continue to work with the fishing industry for the remainder of this year to resolve any other technical questions.

“These changes will allow Fisheries New Zealand to make more informed and faster decisions about managing our fisheries to maximise their recreational, cultural, commercial and environmental value. It will also give increased confidence to New Zealand and international consumers that fish from our waters are being managed and caught sustainably.

“The introduction of electronic catch and position reporting is part of a wider Digital Monitoring Project. I am still considering options around the introduction of cameras on board commercial fishing vessels and no Cabinet decisions have yet been made about this additional technology. Decisions around on-board cameras would require Cabinet approval and wider public consultation,” Mr Nash says.

For technical details and more background information about digital monitoring, see the Fisheries New Zealand website  


Questions and Answers

  1. What is wrong with the way commercial catches and fishing positions are reported now?

The paper-based reporting process can be slow and time consuming, and prone to errors.

The paper reports are mailed in by the 15th of the following month and the process can result in long delays before fishing information is verified. If an error is made in the forms, the commercial operator is notified and must provide an amended report or indicate that they stand by their original report. This requires operators to recall events that happened two months earlier unless they have kept their own separate records.

  1. What will the changes look like in practice?

By using digital technology the commercial fleet will record activity in real time while fishing. The reports will in most cases be completed and submitted daily. The new regime will require the fleet to report more than previously, including fish caught that are below the minimum legal size.

Electronic catch reporting will require an e-logbook where fishing boat operators complete and transmit their catch reports electronically, most of them daily. The upgrade to electronic reporting will reduce human error and make reporting easier and more efficient.

Electronic position reporting is a new requirement for most of the commercial fleet. It will see the location of vessels and land-based fishers reported frequently through automated geospatial position reporting (GPR) devices.

  1. What is the expected impact of electronic catch and position reporting on the commercial fleet?

There will be a cost to purchase the electronic catch and position reporting equipment from technology providers. Fisheries New Zealand will support this process with guidance material and is preparing for meetings across the country to provide information and answer questions. 

There will also be some changes to past practice and familiar processes. This will affect what is reported, how it is reported, and when it is reported. However, these changes will improve the timeliness and quality of information provided to support industry decision making.

Precise cost estimates are difficult because technology providers have not yet publicised their pricing. As with any product, prices will also vary depending on the vendor chosen; the hardware and software already in place on commercial vessels; and whether catch and position reports are transmitted using cellular coverage or satellite-based systems.

The modernisation of the fisheries management system is a crucial step towards improving the sustainability of our fisheries and our marine environment.

  1. How will electronic catch and position reporting be rolled out?

 It will be rolled out over 11 months, starting with those who had the largest annual catch entitlement (ACE) holdings at 23:59pm on 30 September 2017. In general, the largest operators are more likely to have the necessary infrastructure in place to support electronic reporting. This staggered approach will also enable Fisheries New Zealand to better support commercial operators as they transition into the new regime.

The table below sets out an example of what the rollout might look like.  The stages will only be finalised once the regulations have been amended. .



Permit holder’s ACE holding at 30.09.17

Can start reporting from

Must report by


2,000 tonnes and over

14 January 2019

1 May 2019


180 - 1,999.99 tonnes

1 May 2019

1 June 2019


45 - 179.99 tonnes

1 June 2019

1 July 2019


24 - 44.99 tonnes

1 July 2019

1 August 2019


11 - 23.99 tonnes

1 August 2019

1 September 2019


4.50 - 10.99 tonnes

1 September 2019

1 October 2019


1 - 4.49 tonnes

1 October 2019

1 November 2019


All other permit holders

1 November 2019

1 December 2019



  1. How will you deal with concerns about privacy or commercial sensitivity?

 We have listened to concerns that vessel operators will be forced to publicly reveal commercially valuable information, such as lucrative fishing spots or places where they enjoy an abundant catch.

There are cases where the fishing operator is not the permit holder for that species but is catching it on their behalf. Some skippers do not want to reveal their precise fishing locations to the permit holder.

Skippers or designated fishing operators will still be required to record their fishing location in fine detail, to the equivalent of 11 metres, when they report to Fisheries NZ. But they will only be required to share the same information with the permit holder with a precision equivalent to eleven kilometres.



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