Trackers to be fitted to all Northumberland’s fishing boats

The fishing fleet at Amble Harbour.
The fishing fleet at Amble Harbour.

All fishing boats on the Northumberland coast will have to be fitted with trackers in the coming years – but funding should be provided to cover the cost.

Currently, the technology is required on vessels over 12 metres in length, but the Government has said that it is going to extend this to all boats.

Monday’s (April 23) quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), which is responsible for an area from the River Tyne to the Scottish Border and six nautical miles out to sea, heard an update on the Inshore Vessel Monitoring System (iVMS) project.

The responsibility for the roll-out lies with NIFCA and the nine other IFCAs around the English coast, which monitor fisheries and aim to balance social and economic benefits with environmental concerns.

However, the IFCAs are able to bid for funding for the cost of the equipment, thought to be around £1,000 per vessel, from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), so there will be no charge for fishermen who apply within the timescales.

NIFCA’s chief officer Al Browne said that iVMS would need to be installed on around 130 vessels over the next three-and-a-half years, with the new rules set to come into play on a staggered basis – nine-metre-plus boats by March next year, six to nine metres in 2019-20, and six metres and under by 2021.

Chief executive Mike Hardy described it as a significant project for the industry, saying that not only will there be benefits for bodies like NIFCA in being able to track vessel movements, it will also help fishermen with catch certificates after Brexit.

These are required to import fish into the European Union from non-EU countries and detail where and when the fishing took place. They are needed even by countries such as Norway, which is in the European Economic Area (EEA) and single market, but not the EU itself.

Chairman Les Weller added: “There’s going to be benefits all round, it’s about data and it is going to happen.”

At the meeting, members agreed to continue with the project and to submit a bid for funding from the EMFF.

It was also agreed to make a request that the cost, which could total around £130,000 in Northumberland, be underwritten by the county council in case there are any problems.

By Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service