Digital monitoring of commercial fishing

Read about this new technology, what’s involved, how it will help, and what permit holders need to know. Find out about the costs, consultation process, and advisory groups.


Deferral of digital monitoring implementation

As announced by the Minister of Fisheries on 10 November 2017, the start of digital monitoring of commercial fishing will be deferred. The extra time is to make sure we get it right.

The deferral affects 2 regulations that all fishing methods had to comply with by 1 April 2018 for:

  • electronic catch reporting
  • geospatial position reporting.

We expect electronic reporting and geospatial position reporting won't take effect now until after 1 October 2018.

MPI is working on new timing options for the programme. We'll let you know as soon as we make a decision. 

Digital system will lead to better decisions 

MPI is rolling out a new digital system for tracking, monitoring and reporting of commercial fishing. It is made up of geospatial position reporting (so we know where fishing is happening), electronic reporting through e-logbooks (so we have more accurate and up-to-date information about fishing activity), and electronic monitoring (cameras), so we can verify what’s being reported.

Better information will mean we can make better fisheries management decisions, which will ensure the sustainability of New Zealand's fisheries.

This new system will give confidence to New Zealanders, and consumers from around the world, that fish from our waters are being managed and caught sustainably. And where evidence of illegal activity is captured, the information can be used to prosecute.  

The first 2 elements of the new system, geospatial position reporting (GPR) and electronic reporting, have been rolled out for trawl vessels over 28m.  Implementation for all other methods is likely to be rolled out after 1 October 2018.  Timing for implementing electronic monitoring (cameras) is currently being considered.

Video – An overview of digital monitoring (2:18)

This video looks at how new technology will change the way we monitor and manage commercial fishing.


[A title appears: ‘The Future of our Fisheries. Te Huapae Mataora Mo Tangarao’]

[Music, and the sound of running water. Throughout the video, there are shots of fishing boats at sea.]

Narrator: The Ministry for Primary Industries is making changes to the way we monitor commercial fishing activity.

Sustainably managing our fisheries is a vital part of MPI’s job to grow and protect New Zealand. That’s why we’re introducing a new digital system for tracking, monitoring, and reporting of commercial fishing activity.

Monitoring commercial fisheries is a unique challenge, and until now, ‘out at sea’ has often meant ‘out of sight’. The current paper-based reporting method is complicated and slow, resulting in a lot of work for skippers, and delays and mistakes in the information that gets to MPI.

Putting state-of-the-art technology on every boat is going to change all that. Every commercial fishing boat will have geospatial tracking, digital reporting of their catch, and cameras on board to verify their reporting. This system will provide MPI with accurate and timely information, which means we can make better fisheries management decisions. It will also act as a significant deterrent to illegal activity, as the information it captures can be used to prosecute when the rules are being broken.

All commercial fishing activity will be tracked using a geospatial position reporting system. This system will keep individual information secure, and give MPI important data to manage each fish stock. Reporting on catch and effort will have to be filed electronically through e-logbooks. This will make reporting easier for skippers, and provide more accurate and up-to-date information for MPI.

Electronic reporting and geospatial tracking will be regulated from the 1st of October 2017, and will be required for all permit holders from the 1st of April 2018. Cameras will be phased in across the commercial fishing fleet from the 1st of October 2018, so that MPI can verify what is being reported.

This new approach to fisheries management will ensure this important and special New Zealand resource remains available for everyone to enjoy.


[End of transcript]

E-logbooks and GPR for >28m trawl permit holders

  • MPI has finished the circulars for GPR and e-logbooks for trawl vessels over 28m. 
  • Some issues raised during the consultation process require further work and consultation. MPI has issued temporary exemptions (listed below) until work is completed to resolve these issues.
  • Trawl vessels over 28m in length are required to have reporting systems in place and operating for trips starting on or after 1 October 2017.
  • The Geospatial Position Reporting and E-logbook reporting user guide is available to help those reporting from >28m trawlers meet the new electronic reporting and GPR reporting requirements.
  • The second edition of the User Guide (12 October 2017) contains one significant change to language in the Reporting timeframes table on page 5.  To more accurately reflect the regulations, the Processing Report and the Disposal Report sections in the table now state that reports 'must' (rather than 'can') be completed within the stated timeframe. 
  • The user guide is also available in Korean and Russian.

Circulars and user guide

Important information for all other fishers

  • During the consultation process on the draft circulars, common issues were raised about privacy, intellectual property, cost, health and safety and making sure the rules were practical across all fishing types.
  • Some of these issues require further consideration by MPI, and more consultation with industry.
  • MPI has issued a temporary exemption for all fishers (other than >28m trawlers) so the GPR and Electronic Reporting circulars do not apply to them for the time being.
  • This means it won’t be possible to start using e-logbooks or GPR yet, so you must continue to report as usual using paper forms.


Monthly reports

Monthly Harvest Returns and Monthly Harvest Return amendments can be submitted electronically. Continue to submit your monthly reports as you have been doing, either electronically or on paper. 

MPI's next steps

  • Finalising the electronic reporting and Geospatial Position Reporting requirements for all other types of fishing.
  • Reissuing the circulars, and lifting the exemptions. 
  • Consulting with industry on the requirements for cameras in the coming months.
  • Supporting all fishers to get these systems up and running. [XLSX, 28 KB]

Codes for QMS and non-QMS managed species

Use the relevant species codes for reporting.

Electronic monitoring – cameras

Electronic monitoring (cameras), will be phased in across the industry from 1 October 2018.

Cameras will not be required:

  • on vessels used for hand-gathering
  • for tenders solely engaged in purse-seining
  • for land-based operations, such as eeling
  • on vessels solely supporting divers.

Fishers will need to assess and decide how many cameras are required to cover the operational parts of the vessel.


  • Permit holders will choose and pay for the systems of their choice.
  • GPR systems are expected to cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per vessel and up to $1,000 per year to operate.
  • The price of the electronic reporting systems has not yet been determined.
  • Electronic monitoring (cameras), is expected to cost between $5,000 and $18,000 per vessel, depending on size and function, with an annual cost of $2,000.
  • Permit holders will be responsible for installing the systems on their vessels.
  • Permit holders will be responsible for the cost of transmitting their reporting to FishServe (this cost may be incorporated into the e-logbook systems that are available).
  • MPI will pay for the cost of GPR transmission from vessels.
  • Permit holders will be responsible for the cost of transmitting their electronic monitoring data to MPI. 

How will MPI manage privacy and commercial sensitivity?

MPI must meet standards set in the Privacy Act, to protect the private information in the reporting it receives from fishers. MPI must also meet the requirements of the Official Information Act (OIA) to manage the release of information that is requested by the public. Under the OIA, the release of information must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To help meet MPI's OIA and Privacy Act obligations, we have a set of guidelines for the release of fisheries information. These guidelines will be reviewed in the near future to ensure they are fit for purpose for the digital monitoring environment.

As is done now, all future OIA requests will be assessed individually.

Release of information

Information will not be released if it:

  • is considered commercially sensitive, and releasing it would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the permit holder who supplied it
  • would impact on the supply of similar information in the future, and it’s not in the public interest to release it.

Where MPI does release information in response to an OIA request, we have clear guidelines for the type of information that can be released:

  • location data must be truncated to 1 degree of accuracy (or statistical area)
  • date and time data must be truncated to month and year
  • information that could be used to identify a vessel will not be released
  • information that could be used to identify a person or company will not be released.

MPI would not release information about individual fishing spots.

The Fisheries Act allows MPI to require the installation of camera on fishing vessels to observe fishing and transportation. Cameras can only cover areas on-vessel where these occur.

What happens if a system breaks down?

Fishers will need to contact MPI to advise of the failure, and to seek permission to continue fishing. We'll provide the process and criteria for this shortly.


The regulations to enable digital monitoring and innovative trawl technology were gazetted on 13 July 2017, and are available here:

Upcoming consultation on electronic monitoring (cameras)

MPI will be consulting with industry and permit holders on the development of circulars for electronic monitoring (cameras). We'll be starting this process in the coming months and will contact industry directly.

Advisory groups

There are 2 advisory groups helping MPI develop the new reporting systems.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about the information on this page, email

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