Nearly 130 members of the U.S. fishing industry signed a letter sent earlier this month to key members of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees fisheries policies, expressing their concerns to the United States. subject of a bill that they believe would create technological redundancies, increase their costs and increase privacy concerns.
Members of the industry told U.S. officials Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) And Cliff Bentz (R-Oregon), in September 14 letter they oppose a requirement proposed in HR 3075, also known as the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would require the use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) to track fishing activities in U.S. waters and the high seas.
The Saving Seafood Coalition organized the letter, which was signed by fishermen and other industry stakeholders across the country.
Most US fishing vessels use a different tracking technology, Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS). The letter notes that VMS allows secure transmissions and is already in use by federal agencies such as the US Coast Guard and NOAA Law Enforcement.
Industry leaders have also pointed out that AIS uses radio signals which can be tampered with. It is also open source technology, which means that a boat’s data could be seen by competitors.
âThe primary function of AIS should remain for vessel safety and should only be activated within 12 nautical miles from shore,â they wrote.
The letter also highlighted testimony provided by NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit during the July 27 hearing on the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife which included a discussion on The law project.
Huffman is the chairman of the subcommittee, while Bentz is the leading Republican on the panel.
In his written remarks, Coit said the section of the bill requiring AIS technology was “duplication” since fishing vessels are already fitted with VMS.
“AIS is primarily a collision avoidance system, but VMSs are more efficient at tracking fishing vessel movements and effort, are less likely to be tampered with, and have better tools for two-way communications with ships, âshe wrote.
The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Huffman and US Representative Garret Graves (R-Louisiana).
In a statement to SeafoodSource on Wednesday, September 29, Huffman said he appreciates the industry’s thoughts on the legislation. He added that transparency is essential to stop human rights violations and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. This is where AIS is essential, he said.
âThe European Union and the United States already require that some ships be equipped with AIS and make data accessible to the public, but VMS data is not,â Huffman said. âIf we expand the use of key data such as AIS, we will increase the transparency of our own fishing fleet and force other countries to meet the same high standards by requiring their use as a condition of import. “
Using AIS technology in this way will also have other benefits, he said. As the technology was developed for collision prevention, it may be used in the future for purposes such as setting up offshore wind leases.
Huffman also noted that AIS is a one-time cost for fishermen, while VMS is an ongoing cost.
âMy bill provides funding for the purchase of AIS equipment, so it won’t be a burden on honest American fishermen,â Huffman said.
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