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This chapter and the next review procedures and core features of MCS operations that have been applied with some success in various parts of the world, beginning with the use of licensing in the field, vessel marking, data collection, catch verification, and MCS equipment and infrastructure. State fishery authorities or, as appropriate, regional fishery management bodies, will normally need to set out basic MCS procedures and standards to be followed in fisheries officers' operational manuals, as outlined in Annex G. Training of fisheries enforcement officers and observers will also entail thorough familiarization with various types of fishing gear (Annex H), reporting forms and procedures (Annex I) and vessel identification and marking systems (Annex J).

6.1 Licensing

The importance of licensing and its potential use as a mechanism for recovering resource rents was noted earlier. The use of the licence in the field has however, not been addressed. Other than vessel marking and identification, the licence is the first document the MCS officer checks when boarding a vessel. Licences are normally issued to a particular vessel, the individual fisher and a specific type of fishing gear to control all three aspects of the fishing activity. The licence is the field document that verifies the vessel identification, the fisher, and tells the officer the fishing rights and privileges of that vessel, its area of operations, its authorized fishing gear and often, the species permitted to catch. Sometimes the quantity of the catch is also specified (quotas and ITQs).

Licence data, to facilitate verification by the MCS Officer, needs to be up-to-date at all times and must apply to all fishers and vessels. Many States do not require licences for subsistence or artisanal fishers. Failure to license, or at least to register[81] these individuals creates a major gap in the data system for stock assessment and fisheries management. It is recommended that artisanal and subsistence fishers at least be registered. It is further suggested that the registration and licensing system be integrated into a national system for both management and stock assessments.

Another problem often encountered in the licensing of fishing vessels is the involvement of multiple agencies, e.g. transport, harbours, Coast Guard, etc. Without a mechanism for inter-agency coordination (see sections 4.2 and 5.2.2) confusion can be created for the fishers and result in licensing errors. A further problem arises when only mobile fishing gear is licensed, instead of licensing all fishing vessels actually carrying this gear. Finally, there is the problem of lack of controls and licensing for vessels and fishing gear operating outside national EEZs. This creates a serious gap in data for management of the resources and in the information necessary to determine the viability of the fishing fleet. A flag State that fails to exercise control over the activities of national vessels fishing in areas not under its jurisdiction may be in breach of its obligations under international law. As discussed in Chapter 2, UNCLOS, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement, the CCRF, and the IPOA/IUU Fishing all stipulate that flag States should exercise varying degrees of control over the fishing activities of their vessels.

6.2 Vessel Marking

All surveillance activities (sea, air, and satellite) depend on rapid identification of fishing vessels. In the mid-1980s, FAO proposed international standard specifications for a vessel identification and marking system.[82] This system based its markings on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Radio Call Signs (IRCS) that are unique for each vessel. The size and spacing of each character is dependent upon the length of the vessel. The markings must be in visible locations on the sides of the vessel, and the top of the wheelhouse for air identification. Advantages are for both control mechanisms and rapid identification for aerial patrol efforts and safety-at-sea.

One of the better vessel marking and identification systems for coastal waters has been developed by Malaysia (Profile 7).[83] This system has now achieved an International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 rating. It was designed to address several factors, including:

a) the need to identify fishers, gear and boats in a secure manner that is difficult to duplicate;

b) the need for rapid identification of the vessel home state;

c) the need for rapid identification of the permitted area for which the vessel is licensed to operate; and

d) the need for rapid identification of destructive fishing gear.

The Malaysian state in which a vessel is registered is signified by colour coding on the wheelhouse. The operational limits of the vessel are indicated by a highly visible zone mark on either side of the wheelhouse, and the vessel's number (which also identifies the state). In addition, a metal disk with a state marking is hammered into the bow post of vessels and a metal plate with the Fisheries crest and special identification number for each vessel is affixed to the bow post with non-removable nails.

Further details of the FAO system and the Malaysian variant appear in Annex J.

6.3 Data Collection

In the case of data collection (the monitoring side of MCS), fisheries officials should be involved in verifying the fishers' licensing information, the vessel registration, and the catch as part of the effort monitoring system. Fisher and vessel monitoring databases, whether manual or computerized, will allow an initial census of fishers in the State, both domestic and foreign. The information ideally includes the personal identifying data for fishers. Further monitoring information by fishing trip, if included, serves to collect and cross reference fish landings, area of fishing activities, time of fishing, and the returns from the fishing activities.

Profile 7. The Malaysian MCS system

Malaysia is a federation of 13 states comprising two distinct regions; Peninsular Malaysia, and Sarawak and Sabah. Malaysia has a total land area of 329 758 km2 (127 320 mi2) and an EEZ of some 475 600 km2, or more than 1.5 times the land mass. The total population of Malaysia is approximately 21.5 million (1996 official estimate).

Malaysia' fisheries contribute approximately 1.54% of the GDP, but are considered an important source of protein for the State with a production of some 1.2 million tonnes at a value of Malaysian Ringit 3 840 million (US$100 million), with 90% coming from the marine fisheries. Only 18% of the total fleet operates with commercial fishing gear inside 30 nm, but it represents 60-70% of the total national fish production. More than 95% of the 34 000 registered fishing vessels operate inside 30 nm, and 80% of these are traditional vessels with gillnets, hook and line, and traps. The commercial vessels use trawls and purse seines. Only 600 vessels fish outside 30 nm.

In the early 1990s Malaysia took dramatic steps to gain control of its fishing areas and to deal with problems of overfishing, illegal fishing, and the lack of timely fisheries data for sustainable planning and the enhancement of its fisheries management regime. There are no international agreements for fisheries inside Malaysian waters, but joint ventures are approved. The growing shortage of national fishers has resulted in a high dependence on foreign fishers to crew Malaysian vessels above 40 GRT.

The Malaysian MCS System is definitely the most progressive and successful in the Southeast Asia. It features:

  • a licensing and registration system that has met ISO 9000 standards with all fishers being licensed (including artisanal fishers);

  • a four zone (A-D) coastal and nearshore fisheries management system linked to the vessel marking system;

  • a very clear vessel marking system for rapid identification of vessels using marks for zones, colour coding and a numbering system for provincial identification, and special trawler markings;

  • a marine park system for the protection of nursery areas;

  • approximately 100 patrol vessels of various sizes;

  • a formal inter-agency mechanism called the Maritime Enforcement Coordination Committee (MECC); and

  • a pilot VMS system to control the domestic fleet and address incursions and illegal fishing by foreign vessels.

Foreign vessels that contravene fisheries laws are dealt with quickly and in a strong deterrent manner. Offences are usually punished by confiscation of vessels and gear and by fining the master and crew members.

A summary of the challenges facing fisheries managers includes:

  • illegal (zone incursions) and overfishing in the coastal areas;

  • the need to update legislative tools;

  • control of charter vessels;

  • reliance on foreign fishing crews to ensure the development of Malaysian fisheries;

  • enhancement of direct control and regular practice of inter-agency operations and cooperation;

  • destructive fishing practices (bombing and use of poisons);

  • development and use of new MCS technology, e.g. VMS;

  • investigation and enhancement of regional cooperation initiatives for training, information sharing, control mechanisms, etc.;

  • enhancement of training and career planning for MCS Staff;

  • involvement of the stakeholders in the management exercise.

Malaysia is working on all these issues and promoting regional cooperations in fisheries management through regular meetings with Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vessel registration is intended to capture data which can be linked to the licensing system, such as the description and size of the vessel, home port, call sign, where fish are landed, catch capacity in terms of hold and fishing gear type and any information on specialized equipment, communications, navigation, and processing capabilities, if any.[84]

The census of fishers and vessels active in a domestic fishing fleet must be periodically updated, a task that can be facilitated through annual licensing procedures and standardized reporting during the fishing season.

Most of this information is used to ensure that fishers are in conformity with the agreed fishing plan, but it can also be used by the fisheries managers to assist in stock assessment exercises. Fisheries economists and sociologists can use the information to determine the importance of the fishery to both the national and local economy.

6.4 Verification of Catches

When a management strategy is based on catch and quotas, data collection on harvests from vessel inspections at-sea or in port can be a challenging task. There are many different aspects to the catch verification process. The first concerns the product form of the fish in storage. It may be seen as a simple matter of counting boxes, but in a large fish hold with a capacity of 500-700 metric tonnes of product from several species, the task can be onerous. In most cases, verification of catches becomes a mathematical calculation exercise.

The independent and accurate estimation of total catch by species on a set-by-set basis is the most basic function of a fisheries observer/officer. Often information from these estimates of catch composition provides the only reliable estimate of removals from the stocks. Traditional record keeping methods such as logbooks often fall short of correctly estimating and recording catch data, including those for culling, dumping or discards.

Catch estimates must be both independent of those recorded by the vessel captain, and as representative as possible of what is occurring in the specific fishery. The catch of domestic vessels, which is offloaded in a domestic port, should be easier to verify than that of large offshore foreign vessels. Measuring techniques appropriate to each State can be assessed using various sampling methods on domestic vessels and verifying them against weigh-outs on landing. The following provides a few general methods in use today.

6.4.1 Estimation of total catch of trawlers

While a direct weighing is the best verification of the amounts caught, it proves impossible for most fisheries due to the large catches involved. A number of estimating procedures have been developed to verify the total catch. The two basic methods commonly used on trawlers are:

There are two additional methods to both provide the estimates of the total weight and to verify the previous estimates of total catch:

These methods are further explained below.

Observation of the catch in the codend

An estimate of the total catch may be obtained by knowing the capacity of the codend and approximating the percentage of it filled with fish, by taking a volumetric measure of the catch in the codend, or by separating the codend into smaller volumes to estimate these sections. The estimate comes from a visual calculation. Vessel masters usually place the lateral strengthening ropes on their trawls at stress points along the cod end. These relate to a very rough approximation of fish tonnage per strap when the cod end is full, depending on size of the cod end, and the species and size of fish. This gives the fisheries officer a visual estimate before asking the vessel master for his estimate of the catch. This visual method is the roughest and most inaccurate for estimating catches. The sampling of smaller sections of the codend usually yields a more accurate result.

A basket of known volume and weight should be used to take samples of the fish in the codend. The vertical strengthening straps divide the codend into a number of sections. Each section should be broken down to an estimate of the number of sampling baskets of fish contained therein. Thus, the estimated number of baskets should be multiplied by the average weight of fish per basket, allowing for variations in catch densities. The sampling procedures used in a particular fishery should be scientifically based and tested. The sampling method and calculations used to estimate the catch should be understood and accepted by fishers.

Volumetric calculation of pre-processing holding bin capacity

The catch is usually stored in holding bins or bunkers prior to processing. This presents an opportunity to verify the initial estimate obtained by viewing the codend. The volume of the bunker must be determined and multiplied by the density of fish to calculate the capacity. The density of fish can be easily calculated using a small container/sampling basket. Once the bunker capacity is known, the amount of fish in the bunker can be determined by estimating the percentage of the bunker filled with catch.

Capacity of fish storage hold and use of production figures

The capacity of the storage area can be used to verify the initial estimates. The total fish hold capacity can be obtained by interviewing the captain, from ship's drawings or previous inspections. Estimating techniques vary considerably, depending on whether the fish storage is wet or dry. If it is dry and the fisheries officer has access to the hold, it is a matter of sampling the fish, probably frozen in boxes, and averaging weights of the product in the boxes. If possible, the number of boxes in the hold should be counted and the weights calculated using the average for each species. If it is not possible to count all the boxes, the vessel drawings should provide enough information for the officer to estimate the number of boxes in the hold using a simple mathematical formula to compensate for the vessel contours.

This estimate can be cross-checked against the number of boxes in the hold, which should be recorded on the storage manifest. Conversion rates (discussed later) will be required for estimation of processed fish.

Assuming, however, that hold measurements and access to the hold are possible, the production log and storage logs become further checks as to the estimate of fish in the hold. On factory-type processing vessels, the units of production (i.e. boxes) from a specific set can be tabulated, multiplied by the unit net weight and converted to round weight to check the accuracy of the initial estimates. The production log should note the fish processed to the current date and the storage log should note the fish boxed and stored in each hold. It becomes a matter of calculating the daily totals for the period and comparing these to the estimates in the hold to verify if the records seem to be reasonably correct.

6.4.2 Catch estimation for other fisheries and product types

Other fisheries, using different gear, may necessitate a totally different approach to catch estimation. Below is a brief description of procedures used to estimate the catch in longline and purse seine fisheries.

Wet or salt fish

The estimates for wet or dried fish (such as salted fish) are very difficult to obtain. The duration of the catch in the salt, density, and hold capacities again come into play in these estimates. Some States have attempted different methods for these estimates using volumetric methods, salt densities and hold conversion factors. Canadian fisheries officials have developed a computer programme for estimating salt fish in the hold of a vessel.

Longline fishery

The nature of the longline fishery rarely allows one to see the whole catch at one time. The entire longline set recovery must be completed. Fish are coming on board individually and the number of fish may be easily counted and multiplied by the average weight of fish (determined through sampling) to obtain the estimation of the total catch of each species. Occasionally, the fish are stored in a holding bin on deck before processing. This provides an opportunity for volumetric calculation estimates.

Some longline fisheries (e.g. tuna, shark) present an opportunity to weigh all fish caught, provided appropriate scales are on board or available at the time of landing. In the absence of scales, vital measurements such as fish lengths can be obtained and translated into corresponding weights using scientifically established conversion tables.

The estimate of the weight of large fish that are frozen whole, such as tuna, is often difficult to obtain due to the manner of storing the fish on board the vessel. A sampling of the fish can produce an estimate for extrapolation, but these estimates are only approximate. The best figure one can expect is from the landing weights and through a cross check of the fishing and storage logs.

Purse seining

In the case of wet fish storage, such as refrigerated circulating sea water (CSW) systems for herring and mackrel, or refrigerated brine systems for tuna, several catch estimation methods have been used. Herring and other "wetfish" have a tendency to move to the bottom of the tank or fish well in a CSW system. Estimates before landing can be time-consuming and may result in damage to the fish.

One method is to weigh the herring as it is removed from the vessel after draining, but this is not always possible if the inspection is at sea, or in a port other than that designated for offloading.

A second method designed in cooperation with herring seiner captains themselves is most common. This method requires a pre-season calibration of the fish hold with the vessel in a stable, upright position. Marks are then placed on the bulkheads of the hold to indicate the level of water and fish in the space. These marks are then equated, through pre-set volumetric calculations using a common fish density, to a calibration card that provides an estimate of the amount of fish in the hold.

A third method relies on the detailed information available for a particular fishing vessel that lists confirmed hold and fishing well capacities. This information should be periodically verified throughout the season as landings are physically monitored.

6.4.3 Estimation of catch composition

While estimating total catch is not an easy task, an accurate determination of catch composition may present an even bigger challenge. The following four basic methods have been developed to derive a breakdown of catch by species:

Actual weighing of the catch by species

This method can be utilized for small catches or with small amounts of by-catch species present in the total catch.

Extrapolation from the surface area occupied

This approach involves the estimation of the percentage of the known area (usually surface of fish as it rests in the well) occupied by each species in the catch. The percentages are applied to the total estimated catch to obtain the estimated weight of individual species. This method should be used with caution, as some species may not appear on the surface.

Extrapolation from the random sample

A random sample is gathered from the catch and the estimate of the percentage weight of each species is made. This percentage breakdown is then extrapolated for the entire catch. This method has proven to be very effective for catches composed of fish of uniform size.

Monitoring the catch exiting the holding bin

This approach involves tallying an estimated weight of by-catch species exiting the holding bin. The figures are subtracted from the total estimated catch to arrive at the estimated catch for the major species.

6.4.4 Estimation by production category

Once an estimation of the total catch and its composition by species is made, the final estimation, by production category, is performed. It involves determining a round weight of species retained for further processing and round weight of species discarded. Discards are subtracted from the total catch weight to determine the retained weight.

A final variable in the calculation for fisheries records is the conversion of the product weight back to the round weight of the catch, for this is the figure most often used in determining the total catch that has been retained. The conversion factor from whole fish to product form depends on the efficiency of the processing equipment. Sharp and well-maintained equipment, or experienced manual plant workers, can make a considerable difference in the conversion factor of the final product form.

The maintenance of the processing machinery can increase production by a significant percentage, and thus the conversion factor from processed to round weight will reflect a considerable difference in the estimate of fish onboard the vessel. If the factor for fillets is estimated to be 1.4, then 20 tonnes of product would convert to 28 tonnes of round fish. If however, the real efficiency of the plant is 1.6 for fillets, this same 20 tonnes of product becomes 32 tonnes of round weight, a significant difference. It is necessary to carry out such calculations to determine the production efficiency of the vessel, which allows a more accurate calculation of the catch. This is important when assessing the catch efficiency in a particular fishery and determining quota species caught by a particular vessel.

There are several variables in the rough estimation methods that should be noted. These include: the space occupied by the fittings in the hold; the space between boxes; and the contour of the vessel bottom and estimates of capacity for storage of boxes (especially if they vary in size and weight). There is also the variance in the weights of the boxes themselves. The difficulty in determining the species of fish once processed, such as fillets, is another potential problem. These points are noted to emphasize that without monitoring offloading, it will be very difficult to make a completely accurate estimate. It is for this reason that the Fisheries Officer must use judgement when making the estimates, anticipate these variables, and consider the final figures carefully before making a decision regarding bringing the vessel to port under an allegation of misreporting. The latter creates a considerable loss of fishing time and cost to the large vessel fisher, and without justification, can undermine the credibility of the Department to carry out its duties effectively. The bottom line is an acceptable level of tolerance. This may vary according to the potential impact on the management plan, circumstances at the time, the amount of fish onboard, the value of the fishery, the location of the vessel, past performance of the vessel and master, etc.

6.5 Transshipment

Transshipment of fish at sea is one of the most difficult fisheries activities to monitor. It cannot be done effectively without at least two persons, one on the delivering vessel and one on the receiving vessel. The fisheries official should ensure that there is an accurate account of the fish onboard the receiving vessel before the transfer, and to have an accurate recording of the fish transferred. This will necessitate an inspection of the vessel receiving the fish before the commencement of operations and very accurate monitoring of the fish transshipped. The difficulty in verifying the species and weight of the fish moving from one vessel to another is a challenge, as this may require the officer's presence in the hold of the vessel, making observation from the deck of the movement of the fish impossible.

If a State refuses to permit the transshipment of fish inside its fisheries waters, then the vessels will, in all likelihood, tranship the cargo outside the zone and then re-enter to continue fishing. This can result in the loss of important data on the fish removals from the zone. Such data can sometimes be calculated from other records, but it cannot be verified and on some occasions is lost from the system. It is recommended that Fisheries Administrators, in designing their MCS strategy, use negotiations to encourage the fishing vessels to tranship in their ports. This might be accomplished through an incentive of reduced port administration costs or reduced docking and offloading fees. The State would then be able to monitor and accurately document the transfer of fish and fishery products.

Another international concern that can partly be addressed through the encouragement for fisheries transshipment in port is the issue of obtaining information on fisheries support vessels involved in the transshipment. The tool of the fisheries licence, supported by appropriate legislation which also regulates support vessels (e.g. by including support vessels in the definition of fishing vessels), can also assist in implementing international standards and control of these vessels for safety-at-sea purposes.

6.6 MCS Equipment

The equipment requirements for an MCS system must reflect the needs of the State and its fisheries priorities. Consequently equipment answers vary according to the intent and degree of commitment of the State involved, its geography, its fisheries and their value, the extent of external threats, etc. One can, however, provide estimates of various equipment and operating costs on a per unit basis for planning and budgetary purposes, noting that costs are subject to change due to demand and changing technology. States will need to determine the system best suited for them, and hence the number of units and combination of tools to develop an appropriate cost-effective MCS system. Inter-agency linkages and information sharing to benefit other agencies will always assist in justification of the costs of system development. Each State should assess its current infrastructure and marine resource situation prior to making commitments for new equipment, as MCS equipment is often expensive, both in procurement and in maintenance and operations. Assessments should be made through feasibility studies prior to the procurement of particular equipment items.

Annex B provides estimates for MCS equipment in the following list. Pre-procurement feasibility studies are especially needed if MCS staff members are not familiar or are only partially familiar with any of the types of equipment noted therein.

a) Air Surveillance options.
b) Radar for coastal areas.
c) Patrol vessels - coastal, and offshore (7-9, 17, 22, 27 m vessels).
d) Safety equipment including:

i) Radio communications;
ii) Global positioning systems (GPS);
iii) Binoculars and night vision equipment;
iv) Cameras - still and video;
v) Flashlights;
vi) Vessel safety flares and emergency equipment; and
vii) Solar electrical systems and generators for isolated locations.

e) Office equipment.
f) New technology:

i) Vessel monitoring systems (VMS);
ii) Satellite imagery; and
iii) Geographical information systems (GIS).

VMS is relatively new, but has gained increasing acceptance as an MCS tool since the early 1990s. Digital technology has enabled most electronic equipment to be miniaturized, making it much more flexible to use, providing higher levels of security and reducing costs. Computers, cameras, telecommunications and even satellite technology are more accessible to fisheries administrations throughout the world. Other innovative advances that are now becoming more affordable include satellite imaging technology; the automatic integration of information into visual presentations through geographic information systems (GIS); and over-the-horizon radars. Other remote sensors and remotely controlled surveillance vehicles, although available, are presently beyond the budgetary limits of most fisheries administrations.

Hand Held Global Positioning System

GPS Familiarization for Coast Watch in Mumford - Ghana

A few remarks on the newer radar, VMS, satellite imagery and GIS tools are provided below, prior to discussing the minimum MCS equipment requirements.

6.6.1 Radar

A land-based option for monitoring coastal (and in some cases offshore) areas is radar. Radar technologies include the more expensive over-the-horizon radars that permit surveillance from a land base to areas far offshore, with the advantage of being able to direct patrol vessels to prime target areas. Inexpensive coastal radars can be utilized to protect coastal zones from incursions and are being utilized in Senegal. They are also being set up in coral reef areas as a pilot project in Indonesia.[85] The advantage of coastal radars is the potential for involvement of local fishers in the conservation of their coastal zones through cooperation with fisheries monitoring systems.

Coastal Radar - Indonesia

6.6.2 Vessel monitoring systems

VMS for fisheries appeared in the early 1990s. A VMS in its basic form is essentially a global positioning system (GPS) linked to a satellite communications transponder, with a small processor to poll the vessel automatically and transmit information on the vessel position, course and speed. In 1998, FAO looked at the three major systems available: ARGOS; INMARSAT and EUTELTRACS, and then formed a working group of specialists to summarize their experiences into guidelines for VMS for fisheries administrations. The 1998 FAO Technical Guidelines on Vessel Monitoring Systems[86] is an excellent guide for any Fisheries Administrator contemplating the introduction of this technology. It must be noted that VMS is a satellite tracking system that will only provide information on those vessels carrying the equipment. Non-licensed vessels and all other vessels without compatible transponders will not be shown on the VMS. However, VMS is one of the better tools available to assist in monitoring closed areas when all licensed vessels are equipped and maintain functioning VMS units.

Concerns in developing a VMS include:

a) the confidentiality of information;

b) preventing access to the information by third parties (i.e. how to maintain the security of commercially sensitive information); and

c) admissibility of evidence (i.e. whether the information obtained from VMS can be used in court).

Legislative measures to address these concerns are discussed in Chapter 2.

Features that are a concern to officials are similar to those mentioned above:

a) the security of the system:

b) whether or not the VMS is a tamper-proof system, or at least can record attempts to tamper with it;

c) the reliability of the system under all environmental conditions;

d) the timeliness of data;

e) the back-up systems in case of onboard system failure; and

f) the development of new features, which can benefit fishers.

The FAO VMS Guidelines respond to these concerns and further note that VMS units can be protected against tampering (or indicate that tampering has occurred), can be highly reliable (over 99% of the time), and can be provided with back-up manual systems to accommodate any system failures. A VMS system, designed with currently available software, can automatically respond with an alarm to indicate a monitored vessel has entered into a closed area or zone. Individual vessels or entire fleets (e.g. FFA VMS system) can be polled to immediately report position, course and speed requests. The automatic polling interval between reports can be decreased down to a few minutes, but this will result in a corresponding increase in telecommunications charges. Any VMS implementing legislation should include the authority for Fisheries Agencies to establish parameters and acceptability of system components for their MCS system, e.g. Automatic Location Communicators (ALCs) on vessels to ensure they are compatible with the designed system.

Many new VMS features found in the more advanced systems have benefits for fishers. These include: catch and effort reporting (electronic logbooks); weather reporting; and two-way communications for fleet management, marketing and trade; internet access; and two-way communications for safety-at-sea. The use of sensors on equipment at sea to automatically monitor activities is another innovation being tested at this time. A key initiative, endorsed by FAO, is to develop a common message format so that systems on vessels can be used in all regions of the world without the need for re-programming. A challenge for FAO and legal officers is to have VMS data accepted by the courts as being generally reliable (i.e. unless proven otherwise) so that it can be admissible as primary evidence of a violation as opposed to supporting evidence as is now the case in most States.

6.6.3 Satellite imagery

Available satellite imagery includes "optical/infrared" and "Synthetic Aperture Radar" (SAR) technology. The latter appears more useful for fisheries, but until recently the cost was prohibitive for most fisheries budgets. Satellite imagery provides a scanned image of an area in a time period but does not provide vessel identification. If it is used in conjunction with VMS, however, it can rapidly point out larger vessels that are not licensed, assuming that the latter are required by legislation to carry VMS. This permits a focussing of MCS resources to identify the latter vessels and their activities. A further advantage of the SAR technology is its all-weather capability, thus increasing its utility as the prices decrease. As the cost of SAR technology decreases, and a focused MCS response is desirable in a particular area, it can be combined with VMS to become a very efficient tool to monitor larger offshore vessels.

6.6.4 Geographic information systems (GIS)

Geographic information systems have the ability to transfer data rapidly from many sources to a visual image with flexibility to respond quickly to several different queries. It is an ideal analysis tool to address the myriad of MCS queries as to the status of activities and projections for fisheries management. The capability of GIS is limited only by the availability of information and funds to develop the system, and it will become the analytical tool for the future for both longer-term management and for immediate operational matters. However, each system must be developed to meet the express needs of each State's fisheries administration.

6.7 Operational Infrastructure for MCS

The basic MCS infrastructure required for operations is discussed below.

6.7.1 Land-based activities

National headquarters

A central headquarters near the departmental decision-makers for the coordination of fisheries operations is usually preferred. Ideally, this headquarters would house the offices for the administration of fisheries, and the operations headquarters situated adjacent to the operations room.

A central operations room where the current status of the fishing operations can be shown through maps, plots and computerized equipment is recommended, e.g. VMS, satellite imagery, etc. This centre would need offices and personnel, with communications to appropriate field offices and other enforcement agencies, and direct communications to the Minister responsible for fisheries. This becomes the situation briefing and de-briefing room when a sensitive fisheries matter arises. The Fisheries Administrator should thus have the capability, through the equipment and information accessed from this centre, to show the situation to decision makers and thus obtain authority for timely responsive actions. These centres can be staffed by as few as two or three persons trained in communications, computer access and display techniques.

The communications system would ideally have telephone and appropriate radio communications to all fisheries centres and mobile platforms in the field for both safety and control of operations. Some MCS systems also incorporate satellite communications into their networks through two-way VMS, or simply communications satellites. The modern digital HF radio and data systems on the market could assist in minimizing costs without losing effectiveness and are an effective back-up system. The increasing versatility of reasonably priced cellular phone technology should be evaluated

Computer data systems for licensing and vessel registration, data collection and analysis are now very affordable, with several licensing and vessel registration systems in use today. The Fisheries Administrator must choose the system that best meets the State's needs.

It is anticipated that the procurement of other major MCS equipment will be co-ordinated from the central headquarters to realize cost savings in bulk purchasing as well as the advantages for standardization for operational planning and maintenance.

Field offices

Office space is required for the field staff and supporting administrative staff. The office should be equipped with communications equipment to maintain contact with the headquarters and also with staff while on patrol. A radio communication network is usually sufficient for these activities. The office also requires the capability to collect and transmit data to other offices for compilation and analysis, and to receive results for local action. Ideally, this capability can be achieved through a computer system with communication to these other offices. Transportation is required for staff for patrol purposes, either along the coast at sea, or by land, and also along the rivers and lakes where there are active fishing operations. This transportation can range from small boarding type craft, to motorcycles or other types of vehicles. It is highly recommended that staff patrol in pairs for safety and personal security.

Key documents for each field office

Every Fisheries Administrator should ensure that each field office has a reference library containing the necessary documents and publications to assist officers in the performance of their duties. These should include the following:

a) current fisheries legislation, acts, regulations, notices and the official publication in which they were published (e.g. the Government Gazette);

b) departmental guidelines for MCS activities including those for prosecutions;

c) copies of any applicable treaties including those between States in the region, and current license and permit information for the area of responsibility;

d) a set of charts with updated baselines, territorial seas, EEZ and any specifically noted areas for fisheries management;

e) past fisheries cases, details and penalties for reference during the preparation of a case; and

f) safety procedures and guidelines for MCS.[87]

Each officer should have in their possession, at all times, an official photographic identity card that clearly identifies the individual as a government-authorized fisheries officer. This requirement should also be in the fisheries legislation. Each officer should be issued communications equipment to maintain contact with the base of operations. Each officer must have the appropriate equipment to record findings during the patrol; e.g. a patrol book with clear identification of the owner and sequentially numbered pages. This notebook could be used in court proceedings for identification of events, and as an aide-mémoire for the officer. It is essential that it is properly maintained.

Field Base - Take Bone Rate, Indonesia

6.7.2 Air surveillance

The air surveillance requirements for MCS may appear expensive, but are still seen as one of the most effective methods to receive time-critical surveillance information with respect to fishing and fish habitat information. As a minimum, it is highly desirable to have a twin engine turbo-prop aircraft for reasons of safety, endurance and to minimize maintenance costs. These aircraft should have common marine frequencies in their communications system to contact the patrol vessels directly from the air. The navigation system of the aircraft must be accurate, for it will form the basis for prosecution of any closed area infractions. It is desirable to have an endurance capability of 4-6 hours at economical speed. The speed for transit should be reasonably fast to maximize the time in the assigned patrol area, but the aircraft should be able to go slowly enough at low levels to identify and photograph fishing vessels. Photographic or video equipment for the identification and recording of vessel activities is necessary.

More expensive air surveillance platforms are available. Additional equipment could include navigational equipment that can be used in combination with the photographic evidence for court purposes. Night photography lights and instruments for Instrument Flight Rating (IFR) flights are very desirable for surveillance purposes. Onboard computers linked to accurate navigation systems, communications systems, radar, infrared tracking, day and night photographic systems, and the capability to access VMSs are now available, and can result in a technologically advanced air surveillance platform. However, these are expensive tools that might be inappropriate for the budgets of developing States. The expense would be easier to accommodate through multi-agency or regional cooperation and shared use.

The choice and equipping of the aircraft will depend upon the selected equipment and the ongoing costs of operation and maintenance. The latter two factors are often lost in the considerations for air surveillance, but they are the most significant cost for the MCS air activities. Aircraft operations and lease costs can vary from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per air hour depending on the configuration of the aircraft and equipment. It is highly desirable to ensure there are local resources capable of supporting and provide long-term maintenance for the aircraft.

The added advantages of GIS has already been noted. If it can be afforded it continues to be a recommended tool for MCS and fisheries management.

6.7.3 Surveillance at sea

The sea-going requirements will vary considerably between States, depending on the MCS strategy. The offshore fishery will require larger, and hence more expensive, sea-going platforms in the infrastructure for fisheries MCS. These vessels can range from deep-hulled trawler type vessels, to offshore oil supply vessels with helicopter landing facilities. The key in the choice is, again, the capital cost for the vessel and equipment and, equally important, the operating and maintenance costs. Large vessels, by their very nature, require considerable fuel and provisions to operate for extended periods at sea. Wherever possible, the management strategy should attempt to keep the need for these expensive sea-going platforms to a minimum, but it must be realized they are necessary for most traditional fisheries management schemes.

The primary concern when considering the acquisition or use of patrol vessels should be cost-effectiveness and affordability for the primary task of fisheries surveillance. One golden rule for cost-effectiveness is that the patrol vessels should have at least the same sea going capability as the fleet they are monitoring. There may be a temptation to procure fast, expensive vessels. However, it must be remembered that the purpose of these vessels is to transport the authorized Fisheries Officers to the fishing vessel for boarding and inspection. Although a quick transit to the patrol zone may be desirable, this capability must be balanced against the high fuel and maintenance costs for such vessels. There may be a requirement to overtake a departing vessel where there are no other diplomatic arrangements in place to halt an alleged violator, but this capability should not overshadow the need for staying at sea and cost-effectiveness on a daily basis. Vessel charters may be a viable option when compared to the capital costs of purchasing patrol vessels. In this manner, variables such as fuel, maintenance, insurance and other vessel associated costs become the concern of the contracting firm and not the government.

Most offshore vessels for fisheries would best be equipped with twin diesels of a dependable model, with trained engineers, up-to-date navigation equipment, radar, photography equipment and radio communications. The communications system should have a back-up system such as satellite communications, possibly computer linkages to the base and ideally linkages to the air surveillance platforms. These vessels are intended as boarding platforms and their regular duties should not require them to be armed vessels.

Coastal and nearshore patrol vessels do not need to stay at sea for prolonged periods and hence are usually faster craft for a rapid response capability. Smaller patrol vessels with one or two days sea keeping capability, or rapid response shore-based craft, might serve the purpose. These vessels would be best equipped with a good communications system, and possibly a radar system. It is strongly recommended that for safety at sea, all patrol vessels have two engines, even if the second is a smaller engine. These patrol boats should have both marine radio frequencies and an additional commonly agreed frequency to communicate with air surveillance platforms when these are operating in the same vicinity.

Equipment for boarding and an appropriate boarding craft are recommended. Most States use smaller rigid hulled inflatable boats to transport boarding teams. The boarding boat should have two outboard engines, or one inboard/outboard and a small outboard engine for safety. The boarding boat requires communication equipment to remain in contact with the patrol vessel at all times.

Thailand is advancing rapidly in its MCS system development and fisheries management, taking advantage of FAOs assistance in training and legal assistance. A summary of the Thai fisheries situation and MCS arrangements is shown as Profile 8.

6.7.4 Provision of firearms

A final item for careful consideration is the provision of firearms to trained Fisheries Officers. There are many considerations with respect to this matter but in general firearms are not recommended for fisheries MCS. However, it is recognized that there are situations when it could be very dangerous for fisheries officials to do their job. A State's laws and Fishery Department policies may regulate when a Fisheries Officer should be armed to ensure their ability to adequately protect themselves. It is also important to continually assess compliance trends in the fishing industry and the history of difficulties with fishers, both domestic and foreign, regarding the safety of Boarding Officers and fisheries staff. The protection of fisheries MCS staff is a priority requirement. Where possible other non-lethal means of protection are encouraged. The issuance, carriage and use of firearms should be considered as a tool for staff protection only.

If it is determined that firearms will be issued to Fisheries Officers, new considerations apply. The first of these is the specific designation of the individual officers who will carry firearms. The Canadian experience in fisheries recognized this fact, and they now administer a battery of psychological tests as part of their selection process to screen fishery officer applicants for their suitability to carry firearms. The second major consideration is the initial training, and the need for ongoing refresher training and weapons qualification (at least annually).

The decision to arm patrol vessels for fisheries enforcement purposes is one that should not be taken lightly. This decision may be necessary where fishing vessels commonly do not comply with the orders to halt for fisheries inspections. Such a situation may arise if no other enforcement strategies or agreements to ensure compliance have been established with the flag State of the vessel and diplomatic relations to address the situation are not available or have failed, or other means are not available. In such a case it may be necessary to permit police action to apprehend alleged offenders. It is essential that the boarding vessel is appropriately identified as being on government service and that it has properly identified itself to the vessel which it intends to board.

Profile 8. Emerging MCS system in Thailand

The population of Thailand was estimated at 61.4 million in 1996. The agriculture and fisheries sector contributes approximately 12% to the GDP (US$454 billion for 1995) with fisheries being 2% of the total. The Department of Fisheries (DOF) appears to receive only 0.4% of the agriculture budget and the MCS Conservation Programme receives 5% of the fisheries budget. The total number of fishers was estimated at 320 000, comprised of 70 000 full-time commercial fishers; 180 000 small-scale fishers; and 70 000 engaged in fisheries related activities. The small-scale fishers accounted for 73% of the fishing gear. A 1995 census revealed 54 715 fishing boats within the country, while the DOF had registered only 17 657 vessel fishing gear for that same year. A situation of open access wherein many vessels go unregistered coupled with the practice of registering only mobile gear contributed to the inaccuracy of the DOF figures. According to the registration records for 1995, only 154 vessels (less than 1% of the total 17 657 fisheries registered vessels) were over 25m.

Trawlers and gillnetters comprised 75.5% of the total gear registered in 1994, with a further 3.7% identified as push netters. Total production was 2.9 million tonnes with 380 000 t from the aquaculture sector. An increasing percentage of the capture fishery is for "trash species" (estimated as high as 70%+). Pressure thus mounts on fishers to catch more fish in order to maintain their economic status. The incidence of illegal fishing also increases, especially when the perception of deterrence is low.

It is estimated that more than 4 000 Thai fishing vessels fish outside national waters. The current Eighth National Economic and Development Plan has established targets of 1.58 million tonnes for fish production from Thai waters, and a further 1.8 million tonnes from outside waters through joint ventures, etc.

Fisheries in Thailand are over-exploited. Control of the fisheries is hampered by;

  • the open access policy;

  • outdated fisheries legislation (but this is being addressed);

  • licensing and gear conflicts within the domestic fleet internal and external to Thai waters;

  • overfishing of Thai fisheries stocks;

  • lack of judicial and political support and commitment for this sector; and
  • an inefficient and complex licensing system;


MCS operations in Thailand are well planned, and while under-funded for their 80 vessel patrol fleet, they are professionally executed and staff appear very committed to the work. Annual MCS goals and priorities are set for each conservation station and general patrol plans for the utilization of its equipment and human resources. These priorities currently cover, in order: marine sanctuaries (preservation areas); reserves or special use areas such as mangroves and sea grasses; and other public fishing areas. The patrol units address public and community awareness, illegal fishing activities, gear conflicts, training of staff, and general conservation patrol and protection duties.

Thailand has taken very positive steps to enhance the training and hence capability of its field staff in MCS activities both on a national basis and also by hosting a regional (six State) MCS Training Course in July 2000. Further, Thailand have recently opened discussions with Malaysia to address fishing and MCS concerns of both States.

It is an aim of the Government to ensure compliance of its vessels in their activities outside Thai waters.

[81] For the purposes of this document it is suggested that licensing of subsistence fishers be without a fee of any sort, at least initially until the benefits of such a system become apparent.
[82] Endorsed by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in 1989, and updated in 1999.
[83] Salehan (2000). Also see Annex J.
[84] The potential for regional and other international cooperation on developing and implementing standards for vessel registration has already been noted with regard to the common terms and conditions that apply for FFA foreign licensing (Section 5.1).
[85] The World Bank, ADB and AusAID Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program, a US$263 million, three phased 15 year program is pilot testing coastal radar in Take Bone Rate in South Sulawesi and also in Padaido in Irian Jaya in the year 2001.
[86] FAO (1998).
[87] Paraphrased from: Coventry (1991).

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