Communique 26 August 2021 - Meeting 2

Objectives of the Vessel Tracking Working Group (from Terms of Reference):  

To provide operational advice and recommendations to:

  1. Support the review of the implementation of vessel tracking.
  2. Support the review of the effectiveness of the current administration of vessel tracking.
  3. Provide options and advice to improve the ongoing management and administration of vessel tracking.

Key Feedback from Meeting 2:

The Vessel Tracking Working Group (VTWG) met for the second time from 10am-2.20pm on Thursday, 26 August 2021.

PWC consultants engaged to undertake the Post Implementation Review (PIR) of vessel tracking implementation presented a draft consultation plan for VTWG feedback.  The purpose of the plan is to engage with industry representatives to get input and feedback into their experiences with the implementation of vessel tracking. This engagement will commence over the coming month.

Key issues in this discussion were:

  • The VTWG noted that the plan includes detailed one on one interviews with industry members of the VTWG, along with other opportunities to be provided for broader industry and stakeholder input.  It was noted that individual inputs would be treated confidentially so that individuals can candidly and openly contribute to the review.  The reporting of feedback will be done by PWC thematically, rather than by identifying individuals’ inputs.
  • Industry members strongly advocated for port visits to be included within the consultation process to engage with industry beyond VTWG members.  It was put that this will promote openness, transparency and trust in broadening engagement with more industry participants within the Review.  PWC and Fisheries Queensland agreed to consider this request.
  • Industry members highlighted the critical need to differentiate between stakeholder cohorts when reporting on feedback obtained through the consultation process.  This recognises that different stakeholders have different sets of interests (e.g. general public v. industry, and different segments of the industry, such as trawl, line, net, crab).  This feedback was acknowledged and PWC confirmed their process would differentiate at the stakeholder cohort level.
  • PWC highlighted the need for it to scrutinise inputs to the review from all parties with a focus on seeking evidence to support positions that are put forward by any individual stakeholder or stakeholder cohort.
  • PWC will continue to engage with the VTWG throughout the PIR process, getting input along the way.

Fisheries Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) provided presentations to the VTWG about the use, disclosure, management and security of vessel tracking data.

This was to follow up on the first VTWG meeting, at which industry members requested information to be provided about data management and security (who accesses it, limitations and opportunities of the data, use of the data by different Government agencies, and sharing agreements, data privacy, oversight of data integrity, access and management, intellectual property, rights and management associated with the data).  Further information was also requested regarding use of VMS data for analysis, fisheries management, planning and compliance purposes.

In response to the above, presentations covering these issues were provided which led to substantial discussions.

Key issues discussed were:

  • Data security, privacy and ownership of data/information are critical issues for industry and that many of the measures outlined in presentations were not generally well understood by industry.  This included the legislation that governs Government agencies and officers regarding data including their powers, privacy and other legislation at Federal and State levels, codes of conduct applying to staff, limitations and controls regarding who accesses and uses information and the purposes for which they are able to do this.  The VTWG requested that Fisheries Queensland develop a fact sheet that would assist.  Having more information available to industry may improve confidence and allay concerns.
  • The VTWG noted that there are various complaints avenues for fishers and members of the public to pursue regarding data management and security when there are tangible concerns.  Fisheries Queensland agreed to collate information on the different mechanisms for lodging such complaints relating to the conduct of Government agencies/ officers.
  • Both Fisheries Queensland and GBRMPA stressed that proper management, use and securing of data is taken extremely seriously and that any complaints regarding misuse of data would be fully and properly investigated.
  • Industry members also expressed interest in a presentation that was provided by Fisheries Queensland, about how vessel tracking data is currently used and possible future uses of data in scientific/fisheries management activities, including optimising fishing footprints and catches.  Industry members requested that Fisheries Queensland make more information available (e.g. through a fact sheet) to fishers about this work.  It was noted that the Fisheries Queensland is seeking to develop closer engagements with fishers to improve the data and its accuracy using their information and knowledge added to vessel tracking data.
  • Fisheries Queensland highlighted the importance of improving data quality and integrity as it is critical to decision making about fishing catches.  At the most senior level these can be difficult decisions to make and having high quality and accurate information is critical to good decision making.

The VTWG will hold its next meeting at the end of September.  Key priority items for discussion at that meeting will be:

  • Further discussion regarding information ownership rights (fishers, providers, Government agencies), building on the discussions at this meeting, and
  • Malfunction of units at sea and fishers’ ability to continue fishing, and supplier/contract arrangements.

Other future agenda items identified relevant to industry concerns which were raised at Meeting 1 and will be considered by the VTWG are:

  • Fit for purpose of VMS units currently in use and future – functionality, costs, resilience (including to weather), interchangeability, lifespan before replacement
  • Benefits of VMS for fishers – including useful features that VMS may be able to provide such as for safety
  • Inviting FQ ideas on how to improve vessel tracking – for discussion with VTWG
  • Post Implementation Review (VTWG to be used as key consultation and discussion forum)
  • Supplier issues – how these are intended to work and actually work, now and into the future

Feedback from VTWG members about the meeting was: there was useful information presented (with a lot to get through); it is important to stay on track with the agenda and stay on task (easy to digress given the number of issues and topics of interest); the benefits of disseminating information more widely e.g. through fact sheets; the value of better understanding data ownership issues – which requires further discussion by the VTWG; the value of better understanding catch data and how it is used for scientific/fisheries management purposes; the need for VTWG to move beyond problems and focus on problem solving and improvements for the industry.  Due to the amount of discussion and depth of issues the meeting overran the time available and it was suggested that a longer meeting may be needed for September.