Photo Manual for Fisheries Air Patrols to support Fisheries Aerial Surveillance

This manual covers photography as a supporting function of fisheries air patrol inspections. It is intended to support evidence collection efforts in fisheries law enforcement, with a focus on photography and the understanding and the skills needed to handle camera equipment confidently.


The manual has been developed by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), to support Air Patrols in the Pacific region. It is complementary to

and supports the FFA/PMSP Aerial Surveillance Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).


Download the manual here.


This manual covers photography as a supporting function of fisheries air patrol inspections. Many of the general points covered in the first chapter apply to photography in general and may be equally useful to fishery inspectors using cameras as a tool for evidence collection during sea-borne or land patrols.


The manual is intended to support evidence collection efforts in fisheries law enforcement, with a focus on photography and the understanding and the skills needed to handle camera equipment confidently.


While the manual has been developed with a focus on the Pacific region, the tools, techniques and principles are applicable to anywhere in the world where manually operated cameras are being used from air patrol assets.


The aim is to foster the ability of inspectors to consistently snap photographs that can fulfil their purpose. Photographs taken from patrol aircraft can have several purposes. Two key uses are to assist in the visual identification of fishing vessels when remote identification through AIS, VMS or radar is not possible, and to collect evidence of illegal activities and operations in support of legal proceedings.


Since the advent of mobile phones equipped with photo camera functions, photography has come into reach of a very wide cross-section of the population.


As a result many people today have a better sense of how to snap a picture – and how to avoid common pitfalls messing up shots – but it can leave people with a false sense of knowing enough about photography to do a professional photographer’s job.


The world of fishery law enforcement abounds with shockingly poor photographs snapped from aircraft, that – even though shot from a distance of a hundred meters or less – have led to material that was insufficient to identify the vessel, much less able to be used in a court of law as evidence to support a prosecution.


This manual sets out to minimize those instances, ensuring that money invested in air patrols is not wasted on substandard camera handling skills resulting in poor photos.


Photography by itself – and with it the pursuit to ensure consistent and reliable outputs in the domain of air patrol photography – is a complex matter that requires time and dedication in order to confidently master all of the important aspects.


Skills required of inspectors snapping photos in an air patrol setting include the following:

1. technical understanding of the photo equipment and process of taking pictures;

2. situational awareness – so that adjustments to the camera made in fluid situations

result in picture optimization;

3. attention to detail – ensuring that elements that truly matter are captured;

4. second-nature camera handling skills – so that adjustments to the camera

can be made quickly and confidently.


It is hoped that this manual will both stimulate photo inspectors to hone their critically important photography skills, providing basic knowledge and guidance, and that in time, its implementation will result in the production of high quality fishery air patrol photography in the western and central Pacific Ocean.


The Photo Manual for Fisheries Air Patrol has been developed in part as companion document to the ‘Photo Manual for Fisheries Enforcement – the use of cameras in fisheries operations’ previously developed by TMT and Stop Illegal Fishing. It is strongly recommended that both manuals are utilised to strengthen fisheries personnel photographic capacity.


Download the air patrol manual here.