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Marine Institute - Ireland. Sustainable Razor Clam Fishery

Marine Institute – iVMS for Razor Clam Fishery

Following a competitive tender process by the Marine Institute of Ireland, AST Marine Sciences was awarded a 2-year contract to supply an inshore vessel monitoring solution (iVMS) on over 120 fishing vessels as part of a project to help provide evidence of fishing vessel activity in support of protecting a sustainable razor clam fishery.

iVMS is being trialled more and more throughout the world as a much more inexpensive alternative to the traditional tracking of fish fleets using satellites. As 3G becomes more reliable and secure, it is becoming a more readily acceptable alternative, especially on smaller inshore fishing fleets as cellular coverage can extend as far as 12 nautical miles.

Project lead Dr Oliver Tully of the Marine Institute said the purpose of the project was ‘to evaluate how iVMS could be used to regulate inshore bivalve fisheries particularly in European Marine Sites or otherwise where spatial controls of activity are important. Such control is also relevant to food safety. To use the data to develop fishing effort and fishing pressure metrics on habitats and to map catch performance of the fleet’.

Fishing methods

The razor clam fishery is located near Carlingford Lough, Dundalk Bay, Gormanstown, Skerries and Malahide in Ireland.  Razor clams are traditionally fished using hydraulic dredges, either suction or non-suction.   Waterjets operating at 2-3bar pressure fluidise the sediment in front of the dredge blade in order to dislodge the clams.  The dredge blade may penetrate the sediment to 25cm.  The contents of the dredge are washed for a short period to reduce the sediment content prior to hauling on board.  The impact of this fishing method causes large volumes of sediment to become fluidised and disturbed and in turn, the associated benthic fauna is captured by the dredge and brought on board the vessel which is then sorted and discarded.

iVMS Solution used

The AST MSL robust small form factor IP 67 tracking solution, iVMS (inshore VMS) uses 3G/GSM/GPRS as a communications channel and is set at 5-minute position reporting.   Despite the relatively high-frequency position reporting compared to VMS which is 2 hourly, it is a cost-effective method for vessel monitoring typically suited for smaller fishing vessels below 12 meters fishing in inshore waters.

Cellular coverage in good conditions can extend as far as 10-12 miles offshore and the AST iVMS device incorporates a “Global 3G SIM” which means the device can access multiple “home” cellular networks without roaming charges for maximum cellular coverage offshore.

When outside cellular coverage, the iVMS device will continue to receive GPS positions, however, will store the reports and forward them once the device is back within coverage.

A variety of anti-tamper techniques are used including incorporating an internal rechargeable battery with optional solar power panel and automatically reporting when mains power is lost.

AST has also provided IRIS, a secure mapping platform that has been developed to receive and display in real-time the received vessel positional data. Dr Oliver Tully stated; ‘The data is being mapped to show how fishing intensity varies spatially and seasonally at fine spatial resolution’. IRIS provides real-time vessel monitoring, reports, polling, geo-fencing, the ability to change reporting frequencies as well as course history with remote access if required. Inshore vessel monitoring solution (iVMS) from AST

IRIS showing a geofence zone where a change of reporting can be triggered if a vessel enters or leaves.

Marine Institute and fishing industry viewpoint

As with any Government led monitoring scheme, the industry can sometimes view it with suspicion. Dr Mark Tully said of both the Marine Institute and the fishing industry’s expectations: ‘The data is of good quality and fit for purpose. Solutions to variable frequency reporting based on vessel activity have been very useful. The installation of equipment by AST contractor has been very efficient and the relationship with industry is positive. There is a low level of equipment failure’.

Currently, the project has been extended and is now due to end in December 2017, but there are potentially further requirements and possible expansion of the project. Dr Oliver Tully expects that the requirements will expand to other gears and will become more generally applicable and accepted in the industry. There is a requirement to add on other elements to the data such as information on fishing effort, definitive separation of fishing events from non-fishing events and catch information.

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