Launch of Mobile Transceiver Units for commercial fishing vessels

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Often times, fishermen are at the mercy and potential danger of the elements while out in the open seas. These are the sentiments which Elmer Rodriguez, Chairman of the National Fishermen Producers Cooperative Society Limited, shared at the official launch of use of Mobile Transceiver Units (MTUs) on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. The MTUs, also known as Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), will be installed on commercial fishing vessels, including skiffs and sailboats, and will provide a number of capabilities which will ensure not only the safety of fishermen but also that they practice sustainable fishing.
MTU/VMS are being pioneered in Belize, only the second country in the region to be using this technology, by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). It is a collaborative effort with the Belize Fisheries Department, the Belize Port Authority (BPA), and the Belize Coast Guard, all entities with different goals and responsibilities in this project. With more than 2,500 active fishers and 750 licensed, small scale vessels, the WCS’s job of conserving wildlife and natural habitats can be more difficult. These devices make it possible to more efficiently and effectively track to movement and fishing habits of fishermen who, oftentimes, fish outside of areas in which they are licensed to fish. Through the device’s geo-fencing capacity, managers of the WCS and other partners can better deter illegal fishing. The BPA’s interests and tasks under this project are different, seeing that their prime objective is to respond to maritime emergencies. They will be responsible for the hosting and 24/7 monitoring of the system which provides a GPS location of vessels every fifteen minutes. This makes the job of the BPA easier and more efficient and it also allows them to engage the Belize Coast Guard. This partner agency is mandated to make our maritime areas and resources as safe as possible. The MTUs help to safeguard the integrity and safety of the sea while enabling patrols conducted by the Coast Guard to increase their working relations with persons within the country’s fishing sector.
Aside from the real-time GPS tracking made available through these rugged and resistant devices, which are individually mounted onto vessels, there is also a panic button, audiovisuals, data on the devices history, and other features. These help in emergency responses where a fisherman might be in distress out in the open sea and the officers of the monitoring center will then be responsible to coordinate with local authorities to provide assistance to them. Given all these facets, fishermen across the country are encouraged to install these devices and so far, as many as 48 have been installed with 38 pending.