Electronic system remotely monitors fishing boat catches


February 16, 2012

EM Observe is an electronic system, that remotely monitors fishing vessels' catches

EM Observe is an electronic system, that remotely monitors fishing vessels' catches

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In an effort to save the world's oceans from overfishing, many countries now require commercial fishing vessels to bring along an observer, who checks that the crew aren't exceeding their catch limits. That observer takes up cabin space on the boat, however, plus they require a salary, and probably aren't made to feel particularly welcome by the crew members. This month, however, a Spanish purse seiner became the world's first tropical tuna-fishing vessel to try out something different - an electronic monitoring system. Designed by Archipelago Marine Research, the EM Observe system is already in regular use in the company's home province of British Columbia, Canada.

EM Observe is able to detect fishing activity via multiple sensors placed around the vessel, such as hydraulic and drum rotation sensors, that are triggered when the net is being hauled in. Video cameras then record the type, size and amount of fish that are being captured, while a GPS registers the location and time of each catch.

All that information is stored on an onboard computer, which transmits the data by satellite once an hour. When the boat next returns to port, its hard drive can be removed, so fisheries personnel can have all the data in one place for review. In order to help make sense of the reams of data that may be on that drive, the company's EM Interpret software organizes everything into a single timeline display representing the entire fishing trip.

Along with the current trial run in Spain, EM Observe has additionally been tested on a trawler fishing for whiting in Oregon, and on two halibut vessels in Alaska. The system is also now in continuous use on all of British Columbia's commercial hook-and-line/trap groundfish fishing vessels, of which there are approximately 200.

Source: Archipelago Marine Research

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Great idea. Now how long do you suppose it will take to hack the instrumentation?


We\'ve been using this system in BC for a few years now, at least 3 on my halibut boat.

Cameras activate any time hydraulics come on or drum turns (pressure/optical sensor). The monitoring box is just a mATX system with some camera board hooked up to crummy weather-proof digital security cams. The locked + tamper taped case wouldn\'t keep anyone out.

However, the real reason it works is because that camera/gps/time data is checked against the time/gps/fish count in your fishing log, which is then checked against the fish count validated when you offload.

You get caught intentionally messing with the counts? Say goodbye to your $300k license and (in some cases) millions in quota.

Just not worth it.


at least you don\'s starv onboard when the last fish is pulled out off the ocean, people shoud be ashamed to invent this \'machines\'

Jelmer ten Hoeve

re; dsiple

The man on the boat can be compromised as well through a variety of means. ........................................................................................................................

re; the_goods

Unfortunately there are people intelligent enough to be able to compromise the system, and stupid enough to think they will get away with it long term. When I worked fast food I suffered a manager who thought he could get away with embezzlement because hours later he re-rang orders with coupons; he went to jail.

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