The UK Overseas Territory Government of Montserrat’s Fisheries Division is leading the way in sustainable marine resource management by becoming the smallest coastal country in the Wider Caribbean to proactively embrace cutting edge Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology to support the management and protection of coastal and marine resources.
The ground-breaking initiative is being delivered by the Government of Montserrat (GoM) in partnership with Succorfish and will provide responsible and sustainable fisheries resource management, development and conservation within the local marine environment.
Succorfish VMS technology has been designed to allow small scale, 3-10m fishing vessels, like those operating in Montserrat, to accurately record, monitor and map their exact location to within two metres from every minute to every hour. It significantly enhances fisheries management activities by supporting legal frameworks for spatial planning, protecting areas of conservation by deterring Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and improving safety at sea for inshore and offshore fishing vessels. As well as allowing authorities like the Government of UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat to improve its fisheries data collection and information systems required for future policy, it also supports the 2011-2020 National Sustainable Development Plan that recognises the importance of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems as a foundation for socio-economic development in the future. This reiterates the need for effective governance structures and strategies to protect and conserve the biodiversity of natural resources.
The Government's Fisheries Division will join the EU Member Countries, USA, and Australia to implement VMS as part of their legal framework for fisheries resource management from July 2014.
Tom Rossiter, Head of Marine at Succorfish, commented, "This low-cost, cost effective inshore VMS system uses innovative mobile phone technology and offers a highly efficient and effective tool for Governments like Montserrat to plan responsible fisheries management. The data collected is invaluable and this project will form the foundation of a larger data collection programme that embraces next generation technology and engages other like-minded Governments in the Caribbean."
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it will become necessary for fisheries management and fishing vessel operators to, in the future, promote the use of VMS as an instrument at national level and in cooperation with regional fishing authorities. This comprises one aspect of the FAO's activities to implement an International Plan of Action to prevent, deter or eliminate Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated fishing.
Given such regulations, once data from the GoM's initiative is delivered, it is hoped that Succorfish inshore VMS technology could become an integral management tool for Montserrat Marine Authorities as well as the wider Caribbean region.
Mr. Alwyn Ponteen, Chief Fisheries Officer for the Government of the UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat, added, "We are embarking upon a very exciting project and one that will allow Montserrat to meet its international and regional obligations in improving its fisheries management, accurate data collection and information sharing. As a result, at national level, the socio-economic benefit of fisheries will be recognised for its important contribution to food security and nutrition, livelihood, employment, trade and for monitoring future fisheries management."