Bringing students up to date with VMS and logbook data

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and EU logbook data training course instructors Niels Hintzen and Katell Hamon talk about the course background, why it was set up and how those already working with VMS can benefit.
Published: 1 April 2015

​​​​​​​​​​​​​What inspired you to set up the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)/EU logbook data course?​​

Niels: In 2008 we worked on an EU tender directly related to the processing and analysis of VMS and logbook data with Ifremer, ​​​DTU-Aqua, Cefas and, IMAR​​​​ES​, and others. After that, the challenge was to collaboratively work on VMS and logbook data amongst fisheries institutes – made difficult because of confidentiality issues and not sharing a framework. This led to the development of VMStools, a package that many people could use and agree on procedures to process VMS data at home, but share amongst countries at aggregated levels.  

Katell: In 2013, we were asked by the fishing industry to explain the methods we used to estimate the economic importance of different areas. They wanted to understand why the value could differ depending on who you asked. So we used VMS tools to run standardized analysis and could then explain to them the assumption underlying the estimations. This was the beginning of the collaboration between the two of us on VMS data issues.
Why is there a need for this course right now?

Niels: The number of (ICES advice) requests that require spatial fisheries information is growing exponentially. Some examples are last year’s OSPAR request, or improved understanding of seabed trawling, or closure of N2000 areas and the related biological and economical effects. With improved computing power, we are now able to process a lot of VMS and logbook data at once and create informative indicators on ecosystem states and pressures which feed directly into the Terms of Reference (ToRs) of many ICES working groups.
Katell: The experience we had with the differences in estimation within the institutes in the Netherlands is also valid between countries. Fleets operate across Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) borders and there is a need to standardize the methods in order to have comparable estimates for the different countries – for example to estimate the total impact on the sea floor or to compare the relative importance of an area for different fleets/countries.
How exactly will the course be able to advance those who are already working with VMS data?
Niels and Katell: For those who already work with VMS but not yet with VMStools, they will likely enjoy working with a ‘standardized’ software package which has a large community of people behind it who keep on developing new tools. All of a sudden, you are not alone in designing new analyses tools, and a lot of handy functions become easily available, which otherwise had to be defined by individuals themselves. Also, many people will have experience with plotting and aggregating VMS data, but doing more complicated economic analyses or linking VMS to other spatial biological datasets is not something done on a regular basis. This year we’ve added tutorials for these more complex economic analysis. 
Which aspects of your professional work and/or skills will help you deliver the course?
Niels: Between us there is 10 years' experience in the field. In my day job, I develop many new analyses types with industry partners (such as oil companies, pipeline engineers, fishing companies) to make the best use of the VMS and logbook data available for their risk assessments. So the background knowledge of these data sources’ potential is well understood. This, as well as publishing in high-quality peer-reviewed journals on VMS​ applications, helps us to be knowledgeable teachers. Also my job at IMARES is a lot about guiding newcomers to data analyses.
Katell: As a fisheries economist, I have been working on expanding the economic and social aspects of spatial analysis using VMS and logbook data for 4 years now in collaboration with international colleagues. We made the choice to integrate the economic and social dimension to the existing VMS tools package to make it available to others. I have experience teaching R/FLR courses and mentoring junior colleagues on modelling issues.
What advice would you give to potential students?
Niels: Come to the course with an idea on or an existing practical application you want to work on or achieve by the end of the week. The tools we provide you can then directly be put into context of your own problem and you may just finish that application during the course! ​​

Updated 29 March 2017:
'Analysing and visualization of VMS and EU logbook data using the VMStools R package' training course runs 23–27 October at the ICES Secretariat in Copenhagen.​
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Bringing students up to date with VMS and logbook data

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