Purse seine vessel tracks can be most easily distinguished by periods of searching for fish at higher speeds followed by periods of fishing at lower speeds.

Try it out: See a fleet of Mexican purse seine fishing vessels with their search and fishing patterns.

Purse seine vessel movements can be less distinctive during fishing than longline vessel movements. The setting of a purse seine net can be done quickly, in around eight minutes¹. Therefore, unless the AIS reporting is very frequent, it is unlikely that the vessel’s detailed movements during setting will be observed.

Closing the net, hauling the net and harvesting the fish can take several hours but this will depend on the size of the net and the quantity of fish caught².

Changes in vessel course and orientation followed by a reduced speed for several hours can align to the setting and hauling of a purse seine net. The purse seine nets are up to 3km long so the area covered by this activity is fairly confined¹.

Try it out: See the movements of a purse seine fishing vessel that is likely setting and hauling its net as it changes course, forming a small semi-circle in the vessel track, and then slows down for several hours.

Purse seine vessels can sometimes use additional boats for searching out free schools of fish or setting and monitoring fish aggregating devices (FADs).

Try it out: See a Purse Seine vessel with its associated high speed craft’s vessel tracks.

Learn more: The MCS Practitioners Introductory Guide to Purse Seine Fishing, developed by Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) in cooperation with the International MCS Network (IMCSN; MCS means monitoring, control and surveillance) and Francisco Blaha (Fisheries Consultant), provides detailed information on purse seine fishing as well as further information on purse seine vessel tracks observed in AIS and VMS.


  1. International MCS Network. (2021). The MCS Practitioners Introductory Guide to Purse Seine Fishing. Retrieved from https://imcsnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/TMT-IMCSN-MCS-guide-Purse-Seine-English-DIGITAL.pdf

  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d.). Fishing Techniques Tuna Purse Seining. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.fao.org/fishery/fishtech/40/en

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