Have your say on changes to mandatory VMS requirements

Consultation is now underway on Parks Australia’s proposed changes to Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) requirements for commercial fishers.

WAFIC published an ITEM IN ITS FEBRUARY NEWSLETTER advising on proposed changes to the VMS program in 2023, including the proposed mandatory VMS requirement for all commercial fishing vessels operating in, or transiting through Australian (Commonwealth) Marine Parks from mid-2024.

Parks Australia’s consultation is now underway

Parks Australia have now released a Consultation Paper and are seeking feedback from the commercial fishing industry on issues and opportunities associated with the implementation of mandatory VMS for all commercial fishing vessels that operate in, or transit through, Australian Marine Parks.

Consultation is open until 26 May 2023.

The CONSULTATION PAPER touches on the following key points:

  • A rationale for why Parks Australia is considering making VMS mandatory as a requirement for a commercial fishing vessel to enter an Australian Marine Park;
  • A timeline for the program and consultation;
  • Level of funding allocated across Australia regarding the Electronic and Vessel Monitoring Systems Assistance Program, as noted in WAFIC’S PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER;
  • Data sharing arrangements;
  • How Parks Australia intends to implement the arrangement through an amendment to commercial fishing Class Approvals.

Note – the intended requirement only relates to Australian (Commonwealth) Marine Parks, not State Marine Parks.

A copy of Park Australia’s Consultation Paper, example Class Approval and a cost-effectiveness analysis can be found HERE.

What does this potentially mean for your fishing operation?

The information below is correct at this point in time and is presented to help fishers understand the potential reality of the Parks Australia’s requirement, if implemented. Distribution of this information does not constitute endorsement by WAFIC.

If decided, the requirement for VMS will apply to all commercial fishers entering an Australian Marine Park – whether for transiting or conducting fishing activities. Fisheries that operate in nearshore/coastal waters (i.e. within three nautical miles), or never operate in or transit through an Australian Marine Park, will not be impacted.

Fishers with VMS already installed.

Fishers who access Australian Marine Parks and already have a VMS unit installed, and are operational under state fishery management arrangements, will not need to do anything new to comply. However, it’s important to note that a data sharing arrangement between the Director of National Parks and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) will need to be discussed and agreed upon in order for the Commonwealth to access your VMS data, if the proposed VMS requirement is implemented.

Fishers who currently do not have VMS

Fishers who access Australian Marine Parks, and currently do not have VMS installed (or have not been flagged to have VMS installed soon for the purposes of state fishery management arrangements), will be required to have a VMS installed under this proposed arrangement.

Importantly, if this scenario eventuates, it is understood that your VMS data will only be monitored by Parks Australia (i.e. Commonwealth). DPIRD would not have access to your VMS data and will continue to manage your fishery based on current state arrangements. For example, if you submit returns/nominations via paper logbooks or Fisheye, you will still be required to adhere to those requirements, in addition to having a VMS unit installed for Australian Marine Park monitoring purposes.

Furthermore, these fisheries would be required to purchase and install a VMS unit at their own expense.

Data Sharing and confidentiality

Section 9 of the Consultation Paper touches on how Park Australia intends to protect your VMS data if the requirement is implemented.

WAFIC will directly liaise with both DPIRD and Parks Australia to further understand the arrangement in both cases of data being provided directly to the Commonwealth, or indirectly through DPIRD as part of their data sharing arrangement, as we understand confidentiality is critically important and sensitive to the commercial fishing industry.

Next steps

As Parks Australia’s Consultation Paper has only just been released, WAFIC will seek to find out more information including:

  • identifying those fisheries to which the arrangement would apply (if implemented),
  • data sharing arrangements (further to what is outlined in the consultation paper),
  • identify potential additional grant funding that may be available for those fisheries who were not allocated grant funding through the EVMS program,
  • how the intended requirement overlaps and correlates with DPIRD’s state fishery management arrangements, as well as their Fisheries Digital Transformation Project,
  • if the intended requirement is flagged to coincide with compliance of proposed state marine parks.

Additional information will be updated below, for your reference as it becomes available.

Please note – written feedback on the proposed new requirement is sought by Parks Australia by 26 May 2023, and we encourage you to reach out to WAFIC well before then to share your concerns on the proposed arrangement.

Furthermore, WAFIC will also consider the suitability of convening an VMS working group with industry to discuss the proposed arrangement, with the view to provide consolidated industry advice and feedback to Parks Australia.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact WAFIC’s Industry Development Manager, Laura Orme, at [email protected] or visit the Parks Australia website HERE.