New Report Shows Ending EU Overfishing and Protection of Privacy Achievable With Remote Electronic Monitoring


New Report Shows Ending EU Overfishing and Protection of Privacy Achievable With Remote Electronic MonitoringBrussels, March 7, 2019:- A report published today, Legal Opinion on Video Monitoring on Fishing Vessels with Special Focus on Other Comparable Cases, shows that the use of video monitoring, or Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM), can be used on board EU fishing vessels to ensure proper catch reporting, and to end illegal discarding of fish under the EU’s Landing Obligation, without impinging on privacy, or contradicting data protection rules.

The report, commissioned by Our Fish, demonstrates that while there are justifiable concerns around REM, these are not reason for inaction. Other sectors, such as the meat industry, are dealing with the same challenges, showing that it is possible to have effective monitoring while conforming to data protection requirements.

“Protecting privacy while ending the wasteful practice of discarding dead and dying fish at sea can be achieved by using video monitoring on board fishing vessels”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director of Our Fish.

The EU’s ban on discarding dead or dying fish back into the sea, known as the Landing Obligation (LO), was part of the 2013 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, and strongly supported by EU citizens. The aim of the Landing Obligation is to end discarding and drive change in fishing practices, e.g. avoid catching unwanted and non-valuable fish, incentivise improvements in selectivity, count everything that is caught, and promote ecosystem-based management.

However five years on, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has assessed that a majority of fishing activities using active gears, e.g. trawling, are still at risk of discarding, along with increased illegal and unreported fishing. In response, the European Commission is proposing to use a review of its Control Regulation to introduce Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM)  [1]; however concerns have been raised over privacy and data protection.

“This legal analysis demonstrates that privacy and data protection are not barriers to video monitoring of fishing. Programming and video technology can avoid impinging on privacy and personal data, vessel operators can own the footage, and governments and scientists can utilise the data to audit records allowing for greater knowledge of catches, fish stocks, and ultimately achieve better fisheries management”, continued Hubbard.

“It is essential that EU decision-makers take a solutions-based approach to implementing onboard video monitoring, so that we put an end to widespread illegal, unreported fishing, which undermines ocean health, consumer trust and the industry”, said Hubbard.

For video monitoring on board fishing vessels to comply with the Landing Obligation and to fully document fisheries, Legal Opinion on Video Monitoring on Fishing Vessels with Special Focus on Other Comparable Cases suggests that legislators and operators should consider:

  • CCTV surveillance of risk groups: When there is cause to suspect non-compliance with legal requirements, temporary monitoring of the fishing activities would be appropriate.
  • Avoiding personal data: Monitoring only the technical process without making individuals identifiable. This would also mean the GDPR would not apply [2].
  • Anonymisation: Monitoring the entire process and pixelating any recorded persons in such a way that identification is not possible.
  • Data minimisation: Limit the video monitoring to a minimum time i.e during landing, sorting and processing the catch.
  • Data ownership and review: Vessel operators may be the owners of the footage, the review conducted by a third party, and the resulting data provided to governments for auditing purposes of catches and landings. This audited data could also be shared with other interested or relevant parties such as scientists.

For more details: Legal Opinion on Video Monitoring on board EU Fishing Vessels



[1] Control Regulation:

[2] Since May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covers data protection and privacy for all individuals in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), and covers the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA. It gives control of data to individuals while simplifying the legislative framework for data managers.

Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data


Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, +34 691826764

Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director, +34 657669425

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish works with organisations and individuals across Europe to deliver a powerful and unwavering message: overfishing must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.


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