Inshore fishing boat operators in the North East have only days left to claim Government grants of more than £1,000 for essential new monitoring equipment – and could be risking prosecution and substantial fines if they don’t install it.
New legislation is set to come into force early next year which requires fishing vessels under 12 metres in length to have an Inshore Vessel Monitoring System (IVMS) onboard, so that their location can be constantly monitored while they’re fishing in English waters for environmental, conservation and regulatory reasons.
To help cover the cost of this new requirement, grant funding of up to £1,050 per vessel has been made available through the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which works to protect and enhance the UK’s marine environment and which will be responsible for enforcing the new regulations.
But with the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund closing for good for boats under 12m in length on 30 November, and on 18 December for vessels under six metres in length, a significant proportion of operators have yet to apply for the grants that are available to help buy the required equipment.
Once the new laws come into force, any boats found to be fishing without an IVMS can potentially be impounded, with their operators facing prosecution and substantial fines.
North Shields-based technology business Succorfish, which manufactures one of just two Inshore Vessel Monitoring Systems that have been accredited by the MMO, is now urging operators in the region to move quickly before the grant application deadline passes and they miss out on the funding available.
Manufactured in the UK, the Succorfish’s SC2 Gen 2 iVMS system provides an easy-to-use, cloud-based monitoring platform that is accessible from tablets, desktop computers or a smart phone app, and gives crews accurate guidance on whether their vessels are in an area in which they’re permitted to fish.
It also provides the fishing authorities with real time data on whether vessels should or shouldn’t be in particular areas, enabling appropriate action to be taken against any that are potentially fishing unlawfully in restricted conservation zones.
Succorfish devices integrate with a range of wireless sensors, such as Gear In Gear Out and others that are expected to form part of future fishing licence conditions, while all the data collected is securely stored within the UK.
Mark Ward, operations manager at Succorfish, says: “The government is making IVMS equipment compulsory for environmental, conservation and regulatory reasons, but has recognised that the cost of installing it could be a barrier to adoption for the operators of smaller fishing vessels.
“Grants have therefore been made available from the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund to help address this issue, but there are still a substantial proportion of operators that haven’t applied to it and there’s now only a very limited amount of time left for them to do so.
“Operators need only show that they’ve purchased the IVMS to qualify for the grant, rather than having to have it installed before they can make a claim, and the MMO has now streamlined the claims process to ensure grants are paid out within just a few working days.
“Succorfish’s SC2 system is proven technology that delivers the usability, reliability and technical specifications that fishing boat operators need, and with it being a small, sleek one box option, it is easy to transport and install on board, whether on the wheel house or pole mounted on the mast.
“The device is already in use in ports right across the UK, as well as in locations as far afield as Norway, Malta, the US, Australia and New Zealand, and the grants available through the MMO will more than cover the cost of operators buying it for their vessels.
“The legal requirement to transmit data when a vessel is operating in English waters will definitely be in force early in the new year, and any operators that are found not to be complying with it will face a range of costly penalties, including potentially having their boats impounded.
“We would therefore strongly urge any North East operators that haven’t got this issue in hand to move on it as quickly as possible and to claim the financial support to which they’re entitled before it’s withdrawn.”