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What is the vessel monitoring system?

The vessel monitoring system (VMS) is a satellite surveillance system primarily used to monitor the location and movement of commercial fishing vessels within U.S. jurisdiction and treaty areas. The system uses satellite and cellular based communications from onboard transceiver units, which certain vessels are required to carry. The transceiver units send position reports that include vessel identification, time, date, and location, and are mapped and displayed on the end user’s computer screen.

VMS is used to support law enforcement initiatives and to prevent violations of laws and regulations. VMS also helps enforcement personnel focus their time on areas with the highest potential for significant violations. It is used as evidence in the prosecution of many environmental laws and regulations including regional fishing quotas, the Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The VMS program currently monitors more than 4,000 vessels. It is the largest national VMS fleet in the world. The system operates 24 hours a day with near-perfect accuracy. Learn more about vessel monitoring.