Maine Electronic Monitoring

The need for accurate and useful fisheries information is growing, along with harvesters' responsibility for shouldering increasing monitoring costs. The demand for affordable and effective monitoring tools may be best answered with Electronic Monitoring.

Through a collaboration between Ecotrust Canada, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and Maine Coast Community Sector (MCCS), an innovative and cost-effective Electronic Monitoring (EM) system is being developed and operationalized in the New England groundfish fishery to meet federal technical specifications and collect data comparable to the At-Sea Monitor program of the United States National Marine Fisheries Service.
In Year 1 with the MCCS, Ecotrust Canada has developed open source EM data collection software for boats using gillnet and trawl gear, built the hardware, and deployed it during peak fishing periods on two active vessels. In Year 2 the system will be deployed on seven active MCCS vessels. The EM system includes all the necessary equipment for collecting video, vessel tracking, and hydraulic sensor data. The system can also be used to capture and create an electronic log of vessel activity.

Our approach

Building out from the core principles of Ecotrust Canada’s fisheries program, we aim to provide monitoring services that are less expensive and more user-friendly than traditional systems while still meeting the following objectives:

  • Supporting better resource management and stewardship
  • Increasing social and financial equity across fishing fleets
  • Promoting information democracy
  • Building monitoring capacity in rural communities
  • Improving financial viability in fleets and coastal communities



Technical summary

Video Cameras //
Video data is produced by digital IP (Internet protocol) video cameras at a resolution of 720p (1280×720). Currently, the system uses two cameras: one captures close-up images of the sorting tables/haul deck for species identification/length estimation at 15 frames per second, while the other camera captures deck activity to determine what is being landed and what is being discarded at 10 frames per second. These frame rates are configurable in software. The cameras do not capture audio.

The control box supports the use of up to four cameras simultaneously, and there is potential for a third camera to be added in Year 2. This camera would be trained on the side of the vessel to capture anything that is caught and discarded but not brought aboard the vessel.

GPS Receiver //
The GPS receiver begins producing output at a rate of 1 Hz from the moment it receives power. This output, which includes location coordinates, velocity, and heading, is directly logged by the control box.

Hydraulic & Drum Rotation Sensors //
These analog sensors produce varying voltages as output, which are interpreted by an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) in the control box. The control box constantly monitors this digital data and when the hydraulic pressure goes above a certain threshold, it triggers a potential gear hauling state which results in the video data being retained (captured) for later review.

In Year 2, drum rotation sensors may be used in a similar manner: if the drum starts rotating, the system triggers video capture. The combination of these two sensors would provide a failsafe to ensure that all video fishing activity is captured so as to avoid lengthy and costly manual video review should the hydraulic sensor malfunction or provide inconclusive data.

EM Control Box + Monitor //
The control box is the core of the system, receiving and interpreting all of the raw data provided by the previously mentioned sensors into usable information. Removable 500 GB hard drives provide storage for this processed data, which translates into approximately 14-21 full days of recording time with two cameras active. These should be swapped every 7-14 days so as to never fill up during fishing activity. Information is stored on these hard drives at one-second intervals and includes:

  • GPS coordinates, speed over water, and heading
  • Hydraulic pressure
  • Number of GPS satellites in use and quality of satellite signal
  • Horizontal dilution of precision and EPH (one sigma horizontal estimated position in meters)
  • A bitmask of all system states

A wheelhouse monitor provides a graphical user interface for harvesters to monitor the state and performance of the control box. In addition to the above information, the monitor also includes information such as:

  • Current date and time synced via GPS
  • GPS coordinates represented as either decimal degrees or degree hours/minutes/seconds
  • Operational status of the external sensors (via red/green color-coding)
  • Presence of a data disk
  • Percentage used of the data disk, and an estimate of recording time left
  • Video recording status
  • Presence in the home port
  • Technical system statistics such as system load, CPU temperature, amount of free memory (RAM), and the control box’s input voltage from the boat.