The roll-out of on-board cameras on 1 November 2019

On-board cameras are in use on some commercial fishing vessels operating off the west coast of the North Island. Find out how it works.

Types of vessels and area chosen

A key aim for this roll-out of on-board cameras, which took effect from 1 November 2019, is to verify any interactions with critically endangered Māui dolphins.

The area chosen includes the highest density of Māui dolphin distribution, as well as some low-density areas and potential habitat. This West Coast North Island (WCNI) area lies between Whanganui and Kaitaia (General Fisheries Statistical Fishing Areas 40 to 42, 45, and 46).

Coastal set netting poses the highest fisheries risk to Māui dolphins. Trawling poses the second-highest risk, with captures of Hector’s dolphins being reported from the South Island.
On-board camera regulations have been applied to 28 vessels that reported fishing in this defined WCNI area during the 2017/18 fishing year. These are:

  • trawlers no more than 29 metres long, and
  • set netters of 8 metres or more.

As of 1 November 2019, these vessels must have cameras operating if they trawl or set net in this area.

If any other vessel decides to fish this area, it may need to carry an observer – based on where and how it will be fishing.

Observer coverage expected to continue

Since 2014, there have been observers on trawlers fishing in the core area of Māui dolphin distribution. In 2017/18, this achieved 95.5% observed coverage. Additionally, since 2012 there’s been mandatory observer coverage on any commercial set-net vessel that operates from New Plymouth (Waiwhakaiho River) to Hawera, between 2 and 7 nautical miles offshore.

The use of observer coverage is expected to continue, to test the effectiveness of on-board cameras and their ability to detect protected species interactions. Observers also perform other critical activities at sea, like biological sampling. These activities will continue.

Government media release: Cameras on vessels to ensure sustainable fisheries

Download a map of fishing areas (image) [JPG, 1 MB]

Download a map of fishing areas (PDF) [PDF, 31 MB]

Purchasing and funding of on-board cameras

The government has met the initial purchase and installation costs of this on-board camera roll-out. Maintenance and support costs will be covered for at least a year as this is a bedding-in period that will allow us to refine systems and processes.

Electronic Navigation Limited (ENL) was contracted in August 2019 to provide the electronic monitoring technology solutions for this roll-out. Its partners are Marine Instruments Ltd (for equipment) and Archipelago Marine Research (for capture and review software). Archipelago has over 30 years’ experience in on-board camera technologies, and have been part of on-board camera solutions in Australia, Canada, England, and Alaska.

Collecting footage from on-board cameras

On-board cameras are positioned to record fishing activity and give us the best chance of verifying if there are any Māui dolphin captures. All footage is captured electronically and automatically encrypted so that nobody can access the footage without the decryption ‘key’ that is held and controlled by MPI.

The recordings are stored on a removable drive on the vessel.

Monthly, while a vessel fishes in the area, the fisher needs to:

  • swap out the current drive
  • replace it with a blank drive
  • pack the drive in a protective case
  • courier it to MPI using tracking.

On receipt of a drive, MPI will courier the fisher another replacement drive, protective case, and courier bag.

Reviewing footage from fishing vessels

All drives are decrypted and stored in batches, to be reviewed by authorised Fisheries New Zealand staff. Reviewers look at all fishing that’s occurred in the defined WCNI area.

This fishing footage is reviewed for protected species interactions (primarily for encounters with Māui dolphins). Also, a sample of this footage is reviewed to verify species catch composition. Information collected from these footage reviews is then reconciled with fisher reporting.

Any footage of interest, including reporting discrepancies and workplace safety, may be identified. Information relating to this is then passed on to fisheries management, fisheries compliance, or any other relevant government agencies so that they can follow up. Fisheries infringements and prosecutions follow existing MPI processes.

Privacy of information collected

Privacy is the most frequently raised issue by fishers, and we have well-tested systems and tools in place to protect private and commercially sensitive information.

Note that cameras only monitor areas of a vessel associated with fishing-related activities. Vessel owners and skippers have been involved in each camera installation from the beginning, to ensure they have full transparency of the process and the footage captured is as targeted as possible. A viewing screen is installed in the wheelhouse of the vessel so fishers can see what’s in each camera’s view.

A privacy impact assessment (PIA) was undertaken for vessels which would require on-board cameras. A PIA is an essential part of many projects and proposals, and can be used to help agencies or businesses identify the potential risks arising from their collection, use, or handling of personal information, to find out if they are meeting their legal obligations.

Having a PIA ensures we can make sure we are being respectful of our customers and putting them at the centre of how we manage their information.

An implementation advisory group that includes representatives from the broader fishing industry has been consulted with, and has provided feedback on the PIA.

To help meet our Official Information Act and Privacy Act obligations, MPI has guidelines for the release of fisheries information. These guidelines have been updated to include the information gathered by on-board cameras.

been updated to include the information gathered by on-board cameras.

Protecting information collected through electronic monitoring [PDF, 690 KB]

Video - Protecting information collected through electronic monitoring

On-board cameras project: Privacy impact assessment [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Guidelines for the release of fisheries information [PDF, 359 KB]

Guidance documents

Electronic monitoring: Key information for commercial fishers [PDF, 147 KB]

Important information for fishers with on-board cameras in the WCNI area.

Electronic monitoring of commercial fishing guide [PDF, 1.7 MB]

An overview of the WCNI on-board camera system and instructions for its operation.

To request printed copies of the guidance documents, email

What to do if your equipment is broken

If your camera equipment is broken but you want to go fishing, phone MPI immediately on 0800 00 83 33

How to apply for other exemptions

If you are seeking an exemption for reasons other than broken equipment, use the form in the Fisheries (Electronic Monitoring On Vessels) Circular 2019 [PDF, 1 MB]

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