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CCTV Onboard Cameras Successful In Cutting Discards To 0.2%

Onboard cameras could be the answer the tuna industry is seeking to end the practice of discarding unwanted catches at sea. In a UK trial, CCTV cameras placed on fishing vessels are reducing cod discards from 38% to 0.2%, according to the Marine Management Organization (MMO), the group that spearheaded the trial.
Recently, the European Union’s fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki told BBC News that more onboard cameras are needed to prevent fishermen from cheating on fishing rules. She said the cameras will be essential, especially on large vessels, if the EU adopts a policy that requires fishermen to land all their catches. 
In the UK trial, participating fishermen are obliged to land all the cod they catch, regardless of size, and in turn, they are rewarded with increased quotas and extra fishing days at sea. But without the added financial incentives, it seems the fishermen would be less likely to follow the rule.
“It feels like we are being spied on – I wouldn’t want the cameras to be mandatory,” boat owner Fred Normandale told BBC News. “I have only done it [the trial] because they paid for it and made it worth my while in quotas and extra days at sea.”


Normandale’s skipper said the cameras make them think more about where they are fishing to avoid catching juvenile fish. “In the past if we brought up a lot of young fish we might have another haul to see what would happen. Now we move somewhere else and we check with other boats to see what they are bringing up.”

The onboard system uses cameras, GPS, and infra-red and hydraulic sensors to monitor the fishing activity. It produces a map that shows where the boat has operated in the last two months, as well as evidence of its catches. It costs about USD 10,600, installation is another USD 3,000, and software can be an additional USD 450 per year.
Still, MMO says the monitoring technology is cheaper than human observers and more effective because it enables multiple locations on the boat to be watched at the same time, including the discards chute.
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, a coalition of leading tuna processors and the WWF, is also championing electronic observers, “if proven effective,” in its commitment to achieve 100% observer coverage on tuna purse seine vessels. To date, the group has tested an electronic monitoring system during eight trips onboard three purse seiners. Cameras could “probably” collect data about discards, but the monitoring system requires high resolution cameras to be placed in several places, such as above and below deck, according to an ISSF technical report from last December.