The roll-out of on-board cameras on 1 November 2019

On-board cameras will be used on some commercial fishing vessels operating off the west coast of the North Island from 1 November 2019. Find out how it'll work.

Types of vessels and area chosen

A key aim for this 1 November roll-out of on-board cameras is to verify any interactions with critically endangered Māui dolphins.

The area chosen includes the highest density of Māui dolphin distribution, as well as some low-density areas and potential habitat. This West Coast North Island area lies between Whanganui and Kaitaia (General Fisheries Statistical Fishing Areas 40 to 42, 45, and 46).

Coastal set netting poses the highest fisheries risk to Māui dolphins. Trawling poses the second-highest risk, with captures of Hector’s dolphins being reported from the South Island.

So on-board camera regulations have been applied to 28 vessels that reported fishing in this defined West Coast North Island area during the 2017/18 fishing year, and are:

  • trawlers no more than 29 metres long; and
  • set netters of 8 metres or more.

From 1 November 2019, these vessels must have cameras operating if they trawl or set net in this area.

If any other vessel decides to fish this area, it may need to carry an observer – based on where and how it will be fishing.

Observer coverage expected to continue

Since 2014, there have been observers on trawlers fishing in the core area of Māui dolphin distribution. In 2017/18, this achieved 95.5% observed coverage. Additionally, since 2012, there’s been mandatory observer coverage on any commercial set-net vessel that operates from New Plymouth (Waiwhakaiho River) to Hawera, between 2 and 7 nautical miles offshore.

The use of observer coverage is expected to continue, to test the effectiveness of on-board cameras, and their ability to detect protected species interactions. Observers also perform other critical activities at sea (like biological sampling), and these activities will continue.

Government media release: Cameras on vessels to ensure sustainable fisheries

Download a map of fishing areas (image) [JPG, 1 MB]

Download a map of fishing areas (PDF) [PDF, 31 MB]

Purchasing and funding of on-board cameras

The government is meeting the initial purchase and installation costs of this on-board camera roll-out. Maintenance and support costs will be covered for at least a year – as this is a bedding-in period that will allow us to refine systems and processes.

Electronic Navigation Limited (ENL) was contracted in August 2019 to provide the electronic monitoring technology solutions for this roll-out. Its partners are Marine Instruments Ltd (for equipment) and Archipelago Marine Research (for capture and review software). Archipelago has over 30 years’ experience in on-board camera technologies, and have been part of on-board camera solutions in Australia, Canada, England, and Alaska.

Collecting footage from on-board cameras

On-board cameras are positioned to record fishing activity and give us the best chance of verifying if there are any Māui dolphin captures. All footage will be captured electronically and automatically encrypted so that nobody can access the footage without the decryption ‘key’ that is held and controlled by MPI.

The recordings are stored on a removable drive on the vessel.

Monthly, while a vessel fishes in the area, the fisher needs to:

  • swap out the current drive
  • replace it with a blank drive
  • pack the drive in a protective case and
  • courier it to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) using Track-and-Trace.

On receipt of a drive, MPI will courier the fisher another replacement drive, protective case, and courier bag.

Reviewing footage from fishing vessels

All drives will be decrypted and stored in batches, to be reviewed by authorised Fisheries New Zealand staff. Reviewers will look at all fishing that’s occurred in the defined West Coast North Island area.

This fishing footage will be reviewed for protected species interactions (primarily for encounters with Māui dolphins). Also, a sample of this footage will be reviewed to verify species catch composition. Information collected from these footage reviews will then be reconciled with fisher reporting.

Any footage of interest, including reporting discrepancies and workplace safety, will be identified, and the information passed on to fisheries management, fisheries compliance, or any other relevant government agencies so that they can follow up. Fisheries infringements and prosecutions will follow existing Ministry for Primary Industries' processes.

Privacy of information collected

Privacy is the most frequently raised issue by fishers, and we have well-tested systems and tools in place to protect private and commercially sensitive information.

Note that cameras will only monitor areas of a vessel associated with fishing-related activities. Vessel owners and skippers are involved in each camera installation from the beginning, to ensure they have full transparency of the process and the footage captured is as targeted as possible. In each wheelhouse on the vessel, there is a viewing screen where fishers can see what’s in each camera’s view.

We have also developed a Privacy Impact Assessment to identify privacy risks and recommend how to manage them. This has informed our development of the on-board camera system.

To help meet our Official Information Act and Privacy Act obligations, the Ministry for Primary Industries has guidelines for the release of fisheries information. These guidelines have been updated to include the information gathered by on-board cameras.

Protecting information collected through electronic monitoring [PDF, 690 KB] [PDF, 690 KB]

Guidelines for the Release of Fisheries Information [PDF, 359 KB]

Guidance documents

Electronic monitoring: Key information for commercial fishers [PDF, 147 KB]

Important information for fishers with on-board cameras in the West Coast North Island (WCNI) area.

Electronic monitoring of commercial fishing guide [PDF, 1.7 MB]

An overview of the WCNI on-board camera system and instructions for its operation.

Protecting information collected through electronic monitoring [PDF, 690 KB]

An overview of privacy and information security for on-board cameras.

To request printed copies of the guidance documents, email

What to do if your equipment is broken

If your camera equipment is broken, but you want to go fishing, phone MPI immediately on 0800 00 83 33.

How to apply for other exemptions

If you are seeking an exemption for reasons other than broken equipment, use the form in the Fisheries (Electronic Monitoring On Vessels) Circular 2019 [PDF, 1 MB]

Last reviewed: