The world of commercial fishing is changing, and the tools for catching fish are changing too. As natural fish stocks dwindle, countries all over the world are regulating catches and tracking boats to avoid overfishing. Without sophisticated tracking equipment, a fishing crew could easily be violating the law without realizing it.

In fact, a large number of coastal nations already require vessels operating in their protected fisheries to be equipped with Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) that record and transmit their position coordinates to authorities ashore.

The European Union (EU), for example, requires that all fishing fleets operated by member states must maintain logbooks and electronically transmit daily reports of catch, transshipments, landings and sales to national fishing authorities. The e-logbook requirements apply to all vessels more than 12 meters in length.

In response to these new regulations, Iridium and our partners have developed a suite of cost-effective and reliable maritime solutions. Iridium provides a unique value proposition for fishing VMS and e-logbook applications with the world’s furthest reaching communication network. A number of our partners have used this technology to develop systems specifically adapted to local regulations.

I work closely with our partners to develop these solutions and would like to tell you about some of the most exciting new developments.

In April, KANNAD launched its Iridium-based VLINK VMS, which automatically transmits catch reports and position coordinates to French fishing authorities. The VLINK system has been certified by the French government and complies with EU regulations.  Also CLS’s Thorium system is successfully deployed on a growing number of fishing vessels and is fully certified in France and most other European countries.

Meanwhile EMA is installing its BlueTraker® VMS transponders on more than 200 Albanian fishing craft. BlueTraker is an intelligent tracking device that uses the Iridium short-burst data (SBD) service whenever a ship is out of range of shore-based GSM networks. By switching between SBD and GSM, the BlueTraker offers a cost-efficient way to stay connected.

Of course, an Iridium data link can do more than simply fulfill legal requirements. A growing number of fishing fleets are choosing to outfit their boats with Iridium OpenPort® broadband satellite terminals. This device can meet eLogbook regulations while also providing a complete solution for ship-to-shore voice and data communications. One partner, Zunibal, has fitted several hundred Spanish fishing vessels with Iridium Open Port.

In a related development, CLS has won a contract to install Iridium-based ship terminals on some 3,000 Vietnamese fishing vessels. The Iridium devices will also allow the government of Vietnam to protect fishing boats by linking them with maritime surveillance centers for typhoon warnings.

Iridium is constantly creating new developments in this area, so the next time you order your favorite seafood dish at a restaurant, I invite you to reflect for a minute on how much technology is involved in bringing food from the ocean to your plate.