Vessel monitoring program to roll out in 2023

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is taking part in a national program to increase vessel and electronic monitoring of commercial fishing vessels which transit or operate in Australian (Commonwealth) Marine Parks.

As such, DPIRD has advised WAFIC of the following key points:

  • They have recently secured a $1.1 million grant through the Australian Government’s Electronic and Vessel Monitoring Systems (EVMS) Assistance Program and will roll out the initiative in WA this year (2023).
  • The federal grant-funded project focuses on improving compliance in Australian Commonwealth Marine Parks to ensure the sustainability of aquatic resources for future generations as well as longevity for commercial operations.
  • The funds will be directed in line with government’s strategic and operational objectives for vessel monitoring systems, which can be implemented within the WA legislative framework, considering current risks and priorities.
  • The roll out of funding will boost the uptake of new and upgraded electronic monitoring systems on commercial fishing vessels to support the management of Commonwealth Marine Parks and commercial fishing management.
  • They expect the number of commercial fishing vessels in WA with a vessel monitoring unit will increase by 57 per cent, as well as upgrading 73 per cent of existing units in commercial fisheries which are already being monitored.

More information on how grant funding has been allocated can be found below.

You can access information about the grants program on the Parks Australia website here.

Future vessel monitoring

In addition to the grant funding, the Director of National Parks (i.e. Commonwealth) has indicated the intent for mandatory VMS on all commercial fishing vessels operating, or transiting, in Commonwealth Marine Parks from mid-2024.

Whilst the Director’s intent has been made known, the details of the draft policy and how the requirement could be implemented has not yet been released and is subject to consultation with industry.

WAFIC reached out to Parks Australia late last year and was advised they will commence consultation with key stakeholders, including the commercial fishing industry and WAFIC, in early 2023. WAFIC will keep you posted when we know more.

Importantly, WAFIC has also been advised that the requirement will not impact smaller fisheries operating within coastal waters, or vessels in Commonwealth waters which never transit across a Commonwealth Marine Parks.

How has the DPIRD grant funding been allocated?

1. Upgrade Existing VMS Technology

This will enable the upgrade of outdated Automatic Location Communicator (ALC) devices on existing VMS managed commercial vessels. The available funding is for a rebate on the purchase of a new ALC and associated installation costs.

The grant project funding availability is backdated to 20 June 2022. Approved and compliant hardware upgrades made since this date will be eligible.

Please note – all eligible operators have been sent a letter from DPIRD about the rebate process.

2. Introduce vessel monitoring into four previously assessed new fisheries

Funding will also be available for new units and installations for operators in commercial fisheries already forecast to have VMS requirements prior to 2024, under WA legislation. This includes:

  • Sea Cucumber Managed Fishery
  • South Coast Line and Fish Trap Managed Fishery
  • South Coast Crustacean Managed Fishery
  • West Coast Deep Sea Crustacean Managed Fishery.

It is anticipated that VMS installation will occur in 2023/2024 with funding made available prior to VMS requirements being introduced.

3. Trial Gear Monitoring Equipment

The grant will enable electronic gear monitoring trials on commercial vessels in the Temperate Demersal Gillnet & Demersal Longline Fishery and Pilbara Trawl Fishery. These fisheries have national Wildlife Trade Operation requirements relating to electronic monitoring by 2024. The Parks funds should cover the installation of compatible electronic monitoring equipment to complement the existing WA legislative framework and VMS monitoring.

WAFIC’s involvement

While WAFIC supports DPIRD accessing grant funding from the Commonwealth for the upgrade and installation of VMS units, it is important to note that WAFIC had no input into the amount of funding sought, nor how it was allocated. The grant process and agreement are exclusively between State and Commonwealth governments.

WAFIC’s clear position is that the fishing industry should be formally consulted and agreement should be secured over any potential compliance arrangements to enforce marine park zones.

Participation of the WA commercial fishing industry in any existing VMS compliance scheme to monitor marine parks (State or Commonwealth) should not infer agreement to accept the same, or similar, compliance arrangements in other fisheries in other WA waters.

It is WAFIC’s view that in instances where VMS technology is mandated under Commonwealth or State marine park requirements, the arrangements should be equitable and commercial fishing industry participants should not bear any financial burden or unreasonable operational restrictions and conditions.

What Next?

In relation to the Director’s intention to require VMS on all commercial fishing vessels transiting in a Commonwealth Marine Park, Parks Australia will soon invite WAFIC and industry stakeholders to comment on a VMS consultation paper.

WAFIC will let you know when this occurs and will continue to keep you informed every step of the way.

WAFIC and DPIRD are liaising closely with Parks Australia and will work to help impacted commercial fishers understand and prepare for the introduction of any new arrangements, if they occur.

WAFIC will also seek to identify other potential grant funding that may be available to industry to upgrade existing or install new VMS units.

Electronic and Vessel Monitoring Assistance Program

The first stage of the Electronic and Vessel Monitoring Assistance Program grant rebates is now open.

You can access the rebate application form here at DPIRD’s website.

The available rebate is for up to $2200 for the purchase of the new ALC and $2000 towards installation costs.

Funding is available for Fishing Boat Licence holders of vessels that can provide:

  1. evidence that the vessel is licenced for/has operated in one of the below Applicable Fisheries since 20th June 2022; and
  2. receipts for the purchase and installation of a new CLS Triton Advanced unit on that vessel after 20th June 2022.
  • Abrolhos Islands and Midwest Trawl Limited Entry Fishery
  • Broome Prawn Managed Fishery
  • Exmouth Gulf Prawn Limited Entry Fishery
  • Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery
  • Kimberley Crab Managed Fishery
  • Kimberley Prawn Limited Entry Fishery
  • Mackerel Managed Fishery
  • Nickol Bay Prawn Limited Entry Fishery
  • Northern Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery
  • Onslow Prawn Limited Entry Fishery
  • Pilbara Trap Limited Entry Fishery
  • Pilbara Fish Trawl Interim Managed Fishery
  • Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery
  • Shark Bay Scallop Limited Entry Fishery
  • South Coast Crustacean Managed Fishery (Offshore Bight Zone only)
  • South Coast Trawl Managed Fishery
  • Southern Demersal Gillnet & Demersal Longline Managed Fishery
  • South West Trawl Limited Entry Fishery
  • West Coast Demersal Scalefish Interim Managed Fishery
  • West Coast Demersal Gillnet & Demersal Longline Interim Managed Fishery

Please review all the terms and conditions in detail prior to submitting your rebate application. If you have any queries, please email [email protected]

If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact Laura Orme, Industry Development Manager, WAFIC ([email protected]) or a DPIRD Vessel Monitoring Officer at [email protected].