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Electronic monitoring (EM) is the process of using computers, video cameras, gear sensors, and GPS on fishing vessels to continuously watch, record, and transmit data about their activities to governments, tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), and other oversight organizations.

EM technology is a powerful monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) tool that can substitute for or supplement onboard human observer coverage. Electronic monitoring systems (EMS) can track catch, bycatch, transshipment, and landings, for example. They also can be used to detect overfishing, safety violations, and other forms of noncompliance, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

IOTC Adoption of EM Standards

Read an op-ed in EM4Fish by ISSF scientist Dr. Hilario Murua about the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s landmark adoption of EM standards.

Our Contributions

RFMO Benchmarking & Advocacy

In addition to publishing original research on EM/ER best practices, ISSF assesses tuna RFMOs’ related regulations for fleets.

In our “RFMO Best Practices Snapshot” series, for example, we examine how each RFMO performs against ISSF benchmarks — including on vessel monitoring systems and observer coverage requirements. We publish related reports identifying best practices in observer programs and vessel monitoring systems.

When we identify gaps between RFMO policies and best practices, our advocacy and science teams share detailed analysis and recommendations in position statements, which are circulated ahead of RFMO meetings. We also cover EM/ER in our annual priorities lists for RFMOs.

EM Standards & VOSI Vessel List

Electronic monitoring and reporting (EM/ER) is critical for seafood industry transparency, and RFMOs are responsible for setting EM/ER requirements for the vessels in their regions.

To help RFMOs define EM standards for vessels in their purse-seine and longline fisheries, ISSF publishes scientific reports. We also have researched the value of EM for monitoring supply vessels’ FAD activities.

Vessels that participate in EM programs can apply to be identified on ISSF’s Vessels in Other Sustainability Initiatives (VOSI) list. VOSI is a seafood-sourcing tool that identifies tuna vessels that have made public commitments to more sustainable fishing beyond the commitments reflected on ISSF’s ProActive Vessel Register (PVR).

Guidance for Companies & Vessels

Several ISSF conservation measures address EM and observer coverage in tuna fisheries.

To help ISSF participating seafood companies best leverage EM technology and comply with requirements, we maintain a list of EM providers. Our Electronic Monitoring Vendors and Data Submission Information (PDF) also includes guidelines and contact information for submitting FAD tracking, echosounder biomass, and bycatch data.

Other resources — such as a visual showing EMS features and processes that should be in place before, during, and after a fishing trip — are listed on our Resources for Electronic Monitoring & Reporting page.

Related Resources

EM Vendors & Data Submission PDF

ISSF participating seafood companies can download our “Electronic Monitoring Vendors and Data Submission Information” PDF — a helpful tool for complying with ISSF Conservation Measure 3.7. 

Susan Jackson on Electronic Monitoring

World Fishing & Aquaculture published an op-ed by ISSF President Susan Jackson, “Make 2024 the year that EM becomes ‘business as usual’ in global tuna fisheries.” (Subscription required to read)

RFMO EM Requirements

Our infographic shows the status of tuna RFMO work to develop electronic monitoring requirements for fisheries in their regions.