We all know how fishermen love to boast about the big one that got away. Unfortunately, too many fish are getting away from commercial fisheries the world over, thanks to illegal poaching. Poaching has a serious impact not only on the income of legitimate commercial fishing companies (especially when local agencies react by bringing the fishing season to a premature close) but also on local marine ecosystems, many of which receive critical protection from fishing regulations. Fortunately, modern GPS technology can now make it easier to throw a net over the poachers for a change.
The idea is to install GPS tracking devices in commercial boats, not unlike the Asset Trackers from Track What Matters that protect so many of our clients’ vehicles and goods. Local authorities can then monitor the movement of boats that appear to be fishing in prohibited waters and/or outside of approved hours. Just knowing that a commercial fishing boat has a tracking device installed in it somewhere serves as a powerful deterrent to illegal activity.
This concept seems to be catching on. Many U.S. and Canadian commercial fishing boats are now equipped with GPS tracking devices, and the Maryland Reporter noted a few months back that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering such a program for 2012, beginning as a voluntary situation but possibly moving to a requirement for the state’s fishermen.
Will privacy come up as a potential objection in the Maryland case, particularly since government agencies would be the ones doing the monitoring? It might, but when these professionals consider how deeply their livelihood is impacted by illegal poaching, they will most likely decide that an extra pair of eyes on law-breaking boats could make all the difference between a healthy catch and an empty net.