On-board cameras for commercial fishing vessels

From 1 November 2019, on-board cameras will be required on some commercial fishing vessels in New Zealand. Find out how it'll work.

How we're rolling out on-board cameras

From 1 November 2019, on-board cameras will be operating on up to 28 commercial fishing vessels that historically operated in the area and were considered to have the highest chance of coming in contact with Māui dolphins.

For all other vessels, a holding date of 1 July 2020 has been set before the regulations apply. No decisions have been made about any wider roll-out of on-board cameras.

From 26 September to 13 October 2019, we’re consulting on the draft Fisheries (Electronic Monitoring on Vessels) Circular 2019. The draft circular sets out some important operating requirements for those commercial fishers who will need to carry on-board cameras from 1 November 2019.

Have your say on the draft circular

Stage 1

This stage affects 2 types of vessels that fish in Māui dolphin habitat (the inshore area off the west coast of the North Island):

  • trawlers that are no more than 29 metres
  • set netting vessels of 8 metres or more.

These vessels all reported doing some fishing, during the 2017/18 fishing year, in the inshore area between Whanganui and Kaitaia (General Fisheries Statistical Fishing Areas 40 to 42, 45 and 46).

However, they will only require cameras if they continue to fish in the area using trawl or set net fishing methods. The requirement will not apply to fishing that takes place outside of the identified area, or to other fishing methods.

Vessels that fished outside of this area during the 2017-2018 fishing year will not need to have on-board cameras. 

Why we're implementing cameras

This rollout is driven by the need for more accurate information about any fishing interactions with Māui dolphins, which are critically endangered. It will help ensure that measures to protect this fragile population are effective.

It will also allow time to refine systems and processes before consideration is given to expanding the camera programme across more of the commercial fishing fleet.

The Government will purchase and initially own the on-board camera systems for vessels in this first stage. Ownership transitions to the vessel operators will happen at a later date.

Fisheries New Zealand will work closely with the fishers involved to support them through the planning, installation, and use of on-board cameras.

Why we chose this fishing area

The area for the first introduction of on-board cameras is the inshore area between Whanganui and Kaitaia (General Fisheries Statistical Fishing Areas 40 to 42, 45, and 46). This area has the strongest scientific and anecdotal evidence indicating the presence of Māui dolphins. Māui dolphins (a sub-species of Hector’s dolphins) are critically endangered, with an estimated 63 adults remaining.

Trawl and set-net fishing vessels working in this area have the highest chance of interacting with Māui dolphins.

Set-netting is the fishing method that poses the highest fisheries risk to Māui dolphins. That's because the nets are invisible in the water and dolphins can get caught in them and drown. Trawling is also considered a risk. It has been known to capture Hector’s dolphins in the South Island, and captures may occur if Māui dolphins are feeding around the net entrance.

On-board cameras will provide accurate information about the impacts of fishing on the fragile Māui population. We need that information to ensure fisheries management measures are effective.

Other considerations

New Zealand is under growing pressure to meet expectations from consumers and overseas regulators about how:

  • seafood is caught
  • the effects of fishing on protected species such as Māui dolphins are being controlled.

The highest priority of this rollout will be to verify fisher reporting of any Māui dolphin interactions. 

Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation have reviewed the Threat Management Plan for Hector's and Māui dolphins, and it is currently out for public consultation.

Observer coverage

The use of observers on vessels on the west coast of the North Island area will continue to ensure that cameras can consistently detect interactions to the same level of accuracy as observers. Observers also perform other critical activities at sea (like biological sampling), and these activities need to continue.

There is limited observer coverage in this area. The 2017/18 fishing year observer coverage in the Fisheries Statistical Areas 40–42, 45 & 46, based on days fished was:

  • 58.4% for trawl
  • 9.4% for set net.

How the programme will be implemented

The camera systems required are being purchased through a competitive tender process through the Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS).

MPI will review the footage.

Footage will mainly be used to monitor interactions with protected species. But it will also verify the accuracy of fisher-reported information, such as catch reporting.

If cameras pick up non-compliant activity, the footage can be used to support prosecution action related to this activity.

The benefits of cameras

Overseas experience shows that placing cameras on commercial fishing vessels greatly improves the quality of fisher-reported data.

For example, reports of interactions with seabirds and mammals increased 7 times when electronic monitoring was introduced to Australia’s longline fisheries in 2015. Overall reported catch remained the same.

The Digital Monitoring Programme will underpin New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible and future-focused fishing nation. It provides the opportunity to:

  • build further confidence in the New Zealand seafood brand to develop product traceability initiatives
  • demonstrate good fishing practices.

This includes the ability to meet growing consumer expectations about how our seafood is caught. It'll also help us meet expectations on how we mitigate the effects of fishing on protected species like Māui dolphins.

Accurate information on commercial fishing activity is fundamental to ensuring fisheries management decisions deliver long-term sustainability of our fisheries and protect our marine environment.

Purchasing and funding on-board cameras

The Government will cover the cost of on-board cameras for vessels affected by this first stage. This will include the associated installation costs and ongoing costs (like maintenance and support) for at least a year before transitioning ownership to fishers.

Crown funding allows Fisheries New Zealand to:

  • set the technical requirements for on-board camera systems
  • support and engage with fishers and suppliers
  • make changes and improvements before a wider introduction across more of the commercial fleet.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working through a competitive tender process via the Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS) to purchase the camera systems required.

Privacy concerns

You may be concerned about what will happen to the information collected from digital monitoring.

We understand that your fishing knowledge is valuable. We have well-tested systems and tools in place to protect private and commercially sensitive information.

It’s important to note that cameras will only monitor areas of a vessel associated with fishing-related activities. For example, cameras may be located above deck to monitor fishing gear deployment and catch. Camera monitoring will not cover any areas of a vessel that are not connected to fishing or fishing-related activities. This includes:

  • the bridge
  • crew quarters
  • messes
  • heads
  • the engine room.

Camera footage will be captured electronically. It will be automatically encrypted so that nobody can access the footage without a digital ‘key’. Only authorised staff will have access to review camera footage.

We have also developed a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to address potential privacy issues around digital monitoring. The PIA considers the protection of privacy and information sharing between government agencies. It includes measures to ensure that all digital monitoring data provided to Fisheries New Zealand is encrypted before we share it.

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