If we cannot measure something, then we cannot be expected to manage it. At least not very well. The same goes for the law: if it is not monitored and enforced, then it may as well not even exist.

How It Works

To make sure that we are not hypocrites of our own design, we need to hold ourselves accountable. This ideal applies to a variety of concepts, including for protecting our oceans from illegal fishing and catching methods. Simply stating that our seas are over- and illegally-fished is not enough. We need to follow these statements up with validated tracking systems, collect the required data, and design effective tools to monitor and control the laws that exist to protect them. Counting and fully documenting what fish we catch is a simple—yet critical—component in effective monitoring. If the numbers are wrong for any reason, any and all efforts to restructure management methods and restore ocean fish stock will resort to nothing.

The use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) is being referred to as the most reliable and cost-effective at-sea monitoring system available today. REM was designed as an answer to the gap in available software and tools for tracking what goes on in our deep seas. The monitoring tool is even able to deliver results for tracking environmental and ecosystem benefits greater than just fish counts. The presence of REM motivates fishers to abide by best practices, avoiding unwanted catch that often goes to waste.

Also known as Electronic Monitoring, simply put, REM is a technology for managing fisheries. It was developed with the idea that management could be improved with better data collection methods for both improved monitoring and control. REM works through an integrated network of remote sensors and video cameras to monitor offshore fishing activities. The technology is able to capture precise locations through GPS sensors as well as information specific to the catch, fishing methods, and if any bycatch or discarding behavior took place. REM is being rapidly picked up and applied across the globe because of its adaptable design for a wide array of applications and settings. It also does not hurt that it is one of the most cost-effective monitoring tools currently available. The vast application of it has coined it a best practice tool for fisheries management.

Why Is REM So Revolutionary?

To effectively manage our oceans and end overfishing, enforcers must be able to collect high-quality data on the health of fish populations or else they will not be able to ensure compliance. The methods that currently exist for monitoring deep sea catch only partially cover fishing fleet activities. This is partially because the methods are still the original ones that have been used for centuries, including patrolling and random landing inspections. Studies on REM have shown that even when historical methods are still applied, the addition of REM can improve overall monitoring as well as reduce costs in both time and labor.

There are tons of benefits of using REM, but here’s how the monitoring tool can help answer three major questions in the fight for sustainability of our seas.

  1. What Are Vessels Catching?

Knowing what we are catching is probably the most important for our efforts. Additionally, it is the very first step to achieving truly sustainable management of our fisheries. We need to know what is being caught in order to determine how healthy our fishing populations are. From this, we can then unpack a plan to properly manage them. When REM systems are used in conjunction with cameras they can gather this information for us. The cameras are able to fully document everything that is caught, further providing us with a snapshot of the fishing methods so that we are able to get an entire picture of the catch. Together, the systems record information on the amount of fish caught, their relative sizes, as well as the different species. All of these details are paramount to successful monitoring and enforcement, and is currently not easy to get a hold of.

  1. Where Are Vessels Going?

REM systems include GPS location receivers that show the exact position of fishing boats. Although this information is already partially collected through existing Vessel Monitoring Systems, when used in isolation, location details only tell us so much. By using cameras on boats to actively track GPS data, we are in a better position to understand what fishing activity actually goes on in the deep seas.

  1. When Are Vessels Fishing?

GPS gives us the necessary information on where fishing boats are situated, while sensors streamlined into REM systems let us know exactly when fishing activity begins and ends. At present, this data is collected simply by comparing different speeds that boats travel at. Quick-travelling boats are most likely to be moving between fishing locations, while slower-moving boats are generally noted to be actively fishing. Although this system technically works, it is time- and labor-consuming, and not 100% effective. Through the addition of REM sensors, we remove the assumption and instead can rely on hard data.

Addressing Current Challenges

Even though it is currently incredibly not—it is still important that all fishing activity become—sustainable. And one of the most effective ways to improve fisheries management is to roll out REM in combination with cameras.

The latest in science tells us that reducing overfishing, using catch allocations more efficiently, and increasing production from under-fished resources could increase future catches by up to 40%. By improving fisheries management through REM-collected data, we can help marine ecosystems become more resilient to the present and future effects of climate change. All this while also increasing long-term yields, profits, and benefits for future fisher generations. The widespread adoption of REM can finally set us on a path to a better future. To summarize, REM is an awesome tool for five reasons: enhanced data, improved compliance, increased profits, reduced bycatch, and cost-effective monitoring.

Research and reports show hard evidence that REM together with closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) should be a key component for all fisheries, supporting the case for REM as a prerequisite fishing condition in all waters.