SeaWatch Home Page
     |     Site Map     |     What You Can Do     |     About Us    |
VMS will stop boats like the longiner Bluefin from illegally fishing in the Revillagigedo Island biosphere.

Current mexican law prohibits catching species protected for sports fishing (all billfish, dorado, snook, roosterfish) inside 50 miles from coastline (blue area) and in core managment area (orange). Click for more details.

The following areas around the hawaiian islands are closed to longlining and are protected by VMS.

This is a representation of a display tracking various vessels around the Hawaiian Islands. Vessels send a signal every hour, which can be changed to every 10 minutes (for more details) by the receiving station. Email alerts are automatically sent when a boat approaches a no fishing zone and cellular telephones are called when a boat enters a no fishing area. Pictures courtesy NOAA.

A control center costing less than $50.000 including all software and hardware can monitor up to 500 boats for a cost of less than $1.00/day/boat. VMS costs about 2% as much a surveillance by boat and airplane and is 100% accurate. Pictures courtesy NOAA.



The Solution
Vessel Monitoring System

Under current Mexican law, it is illegal for commercial boats like longliners anddrift gillnetters,to take fish reserved for sportsfishing within fifty miles of the coast in the Sea of Cortez, and any fish within 12 miles of the Revillagigedo Islands. Because of limitations in funds, and personnel, as well as the incipient corruption, CONAPESCA, the Navy and PROFEPA have failed to monitor these areas with traditional methods, such as ships and airplanes. Consequently, these fishing laws are not being enforced, and the amazing Sea of Cortez continues to be destroyed.

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) are the only way Mexico will be able to adequately enforce its 50 mile preservation zones and other closed areas. VMS is essentially a Global Position System carried on commercial fishing boats that transmits the ship’s geographic position to various state enforcement agencies. VMS allows one employee to monitor up to 500 boats for about $1.00/day per boat - about 1% the cost of aerial or marine surveillance and much more effective. Setting up the system is also very inexpensive: the cost per boat is about $2,000 and the entire land station, including servers, workstations, and internet connections costs a maximum of $50,000. Similar systems are operational already in the U.S, Canada, the E.U., Chile, and others. Click here to learn about the successful implementation of VMS in Hawaii.

For the last four years SeaWatch, along with the Billfish Fund, have spearheaded a drive to put vessel monitoring systems on the Mexican longline and drift gillnet fleet. SeaWatch advisor Guillermo Alverez has been actively lobbying and working with all levels of government including Congress, SAGARPA, and Baja California Sur state officials. At a public meeting in Cabo San Lucas on Secretary Usabiaga of SAGARPA embraced VMS and agreed to provide all of the financing. VMS is also backed by SEMARNAT, the Navy, Gobernacion, PROFEPA. and CONAPESCA. In March 2003, SeaWatch visited Bob Harman, the head of VMS systems installation and enforcement in the Pacific, and received an in-depth presentation about how the VMS system works.

In May, 2003, the B.C.S. SAGARPA paid for Navy Captain Rogelio and Mr. Soto to visit Hawaii and meet with Bob Harman and other NOAA officials. They also came to understand the benefits and efficiency of VMS during this trip partially organized by SeaWatch.

Shortly after their return, then CONAPESCA Commissioner Ramos asked the U.S. government to provide training and support for a Mexican version of VMS. But even with federal support for VMS, SeaWatch will continue to take a leadership role in urging government to implement this important system. Mexico must make a long-term commitment to provide the necessary political, legal, and financial support. And with over 20% of the entire Mexican coastline, Baja California Sur has the most to gain…and the most to lose.

VMS represents the first step towards a truly sustainable Sea of Cortes.

SeaWatch is working closely with government to:

- Urge the Marine Recreation and Sportsfishing Commission of the B.C.S Conapesca Commission to pass a declaration expressing their total support for VMS.
  - Help draft and oversee a clear set of legal standards for VMS.
  - Educate the public, the fishing industry, and other NGO’s about VMS, its benefits for safety and communication, and its critical role in protecting Mexico’s natural heritage.
  - Establish an effective sportsfishing permit system to provide long-term funding for VMS.
  - Continue lobbying and working with all levels of government to maintain institutional support for VMS.

If you too would like to see VMS implemented and want to help get involved, visit the What You Can Do page or contact us via email.

The following explains how the system actually works in Hawaii and how Mexico can learn from the mistakes that Hawaii made:

NOAA Law Enforcement’s Pacific Islands Fishing Vessel Monitoring System

Brief Description

Since June 1994, NOAA Fisheries (also known as National Marine Fisheries Service), Southwest Law Enforcement Division, has used an automated, satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) on a routine basis. The VMS program was developed and implemented in response to concerns about effective monitoring of large, geographically isolated regulated areas in the US Pacific Islands. In close cooperation with the fishing industry, fishery management council and other government agencies, NOAA implemented remote monitoring techniques to enhance management of the pelagic longline and lobster fisheries.

The Pacific Islands system was the first large-scale vessel tracking application in a US domestic fishery. All pelagic longline vessels in Hawaii (currently about 145) are required to carry and operate the shipboard VMS units (sometimes called “transponders”) as a condition of obtaining a permit to fish in Hawaiian waters or land their fish in Hawaiian ports.

The hardware, software and communications components of the system are all commercially available. The Pacific Islands VMS program combines the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) with the Inmarsat-C satellite communications network to send information about fishing activities to a shore side control center. NOAA pays all costs for equipment purchases, repairs and position reporting in the Pacific Islands program. The shipboard unit can be linked to a personal computer, which provides the vessel operator with navigational information and secure two-way communications. The vessel pays these personal communication costs.

The VMS unit, a Trimble Galaxy Inmarsat-C/GPS transceiver, is mounted in the vessel’s wheelhouse and the antenna is mounted on top of the wheelhouse or on a mast. The cost of the antenna, transceiver and installation is less than US$2000. The GPS position is included in a data message that contains the vessel’s identity, date and time. The data message may also contain other parameters such as course and speed, and special codes for antenna blockage, power failure, and others. This data message is transmitted automatically at pre-set intervals to an Inmarsat satellite. NOAA can remotely change the reporting interval, which can range from 10 minutes up to 24 hours. The message is received at a land earth station, which processes the message into usable form, and makes it available to the VMS control center in Honolulu.

The control center that would cover all the Eastern Pacific Ocean (the whole world for that matter) would cost a maximum of US$50,000, which would include servers, internet connection, analysis workstation, graphics monitor, software applications for VMS (database, base maps, office applications, mapping, etc.), service contracts, etc. Data are received and stored in a database and displayed on a mapping program, which allows storage, archival, manipulation and display of the vessel position information. A list of exception reports are available in the software so information on any vessel of interest, for example, one approaching a no fishing zone can be sent automatically via email or cellular phone call to the Navy or other authorized personnel. In Hawaii, Coast Guard watch standers are tasked with reviewing the control center every few hours to monitor system functionality and identify vessels of interest.

The program has been a success. All of the law enforcement cases relating to violations of the closed areas have been initiated by the VMS. The system also enhances search and rescue operations in the region.

Comparisons of the cost-effectiveness of the VMS versus traditional methods for surveillance and enforcement (ships and airplanes) show that the Hawaii VMS can monitor the activities of the fleet for less than 1% of the cost of traditional methods. The VMS also offers a level of surveillance coverage that far surpasses traditional methods.

Fishing laws are not being enforced and the amazing Sea of Cortes continues to be destroyed.

VMS allows one employee to monitor up to 500 boats for about $1 a day per boat.

SeaWatch has been actively lobbying and working with all levels of government, including Congress, Sagarpa, and Baja California Sur officials.

With over 20% of the entire Mexican coastline, Baja California Sur has the most to gain…and the most to loose.


Contact Us | Join | Advisory Board | Sea of Cortes Overview | Bibliography | Newsletter | Maps [Coming Soon] | Newsroom