The International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network offers another tool in the battle against IUU fishing. The Network consists of governmental MCS organizations and others that cooperate with each other and share information and experiences. Purposes of the Network include advancing MCS efficiencies, sharing training, building MCS capacity, and helping countries satisfy their national MCS responsibilities and international commitments. There are no costs to join or participate.
The world's oceans are abundant sources of food and wealth. However, wild capture fisheries resources are under increased pressure throughout the world. Most established fisheries are fully utilized and many have been depleted. Three-quarters of the world's fisheries are either fully exploited or over-exploited. Overfishing, unauthorized fishing and pollution are threats to sustainability. There is an increased recognition by fisheries agencies worldwide of the need to conserve existing fisheries, rebuild stocks where overfishing has occurred and to protect stocks and the marine environment from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Marine fishing takes place inside coastal waters under the control of fishing States. It also occurs on the high seas and on stocks that straddle or migrate across boundaries. Many fish stocks are attractive to IUU fishers, who often have no long-term interest in the preservation of the resource.
All fisheries agencies have a common interest in developing the most cost-effective means of protecting their fisheries resources and regional interests. Investment in research and fisheries management will not be fully realized if measures cannot be implemented and enforced.
Recognizing that fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance professionals from different nations often do not know one another or cannot readily contact one another, and the essential need for such contacts to successfully pursue MCS activities, the need gave rise to the creation of the International Network for the Cooperation and Coordination of Fisheries Related Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance Activities (MCS Network).
There is interest in providing for the long term development of sustainable marine resources around the world, and the benefits derived from cooperation and coordination in fisheries-related monitoring, control and surveillance activities are well known. To this end, the country participants in the International Conference on Monitoring, Control and Fishing Surveillance (Santiago, Chile, January 2000) indicated their intention to create an international network for the coordination of fisheries-related enforcement.
This intention from the Santiago Conference was translated into reality in Key Largo, Florida, in 2001, when the Executive Committee of the MCS Network was convened for the first time. The Committee was tasked with the creation, elaboration and implementation of an international network for coordination and cooperation in fisheries-related MCS.
Draft terms of reference were developed by Chile and these served as a starting point for the Committee in its Key Largo session. The current Terms of Reference were derived from the draft developed by Chile. The details of the operations of the MCS Network are outlined in the Technical Terms of Reference. The terms outline the MCS Network's objectives and functions, organization, protocol for information exchange and information requirements.
Executive Committee participants present in Key Largo included representatives from national organizations/institutions charged by their governments with responsibility for fisheries-related monitoring, control and surveillance. The Executive Committee countries that participated were Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, and the United States of America. The European Commission was also represented. An FAO representative participated as an observer.
The Executive Committee discussed the need for a mechanism to foster enhanced cooperation and coordination on many levels including: basic, working-level contacts, coordination ability, experience exchanges, training, joint cooperation activities, and access to information among fisheries control professionals. Examples were shared on the benefits such cooperation and access have yielded as well as the frustrations and complications that can result when coordination and cooperation were lacking.
The goal of the Network is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of fisheries-related MCS activities through enhanced cooperation, coordination, information collection and exchange among national organizations and institutions responsible for fisheries-related MCS. The Network works to strengthen MCS capabilities in participating countries through coordination and cooperation with the goal of deterring, reducing, and eliminating IUU fishing and other harmful activities to living marine resources in the world's oceans. It is designed to support countries in their attempts to satisfy their obligations arising from international agreements and their national responsibilities in performing MCS functions.
While acknowledging a concentration on fishing, the Network takes a marine ecosystem-wide approach to its activities.
The MCS Network is a voluntary arrangement of national organizations and institutions in charge of fisheries-related MCS activities in their countries. These organizations and institutions are interested in coordinating and cooperating in order to deter and eliminate IUU fishing and strengthen their MCS programs.
Membership is voluntary. Taking into account the many different national situations and organizational configurations, the Network has determined that each country is in the best position to determine the level of participation that is appropriate. Each member may participate within the limits of its current resources, and is encouraged to participate further as resources are available. The Network respects the varying laws, regulations or restrictions each country places on sharing various types of information and confidentiality.
Special account is taken of the needs of developing countries, whose participation in combating IUU fishing is critical.
The Network, like MCS activity, involves multiple disciplines-investigators, agents, inspectors, attorneys, prosecutors, biologists, foreign affairs specialists, and others. All contribute to successfully resolving MCS matters.
Given the sensitive nature of MCS information, those outside of government cannot have full access to all Network information. However, the Network has recognized the value those outside government can often contribute. An appropriate category of membership for such interested entities and individuals is under consideration.
Membership is free. No costs are associated with joining or participating, other than travel to meetings.
The details of the operations of MCS Network are outlined in the Technical Terms of Reference, which were developed at the Key Largo meeting in 2001 and adopted unanimously. The Terms outline the MCS Network's objectives and functions, organization, protocol for information exchange and information requirements.
An Executive Committee guides the Network in its growth and operations. The Executive Committee meets periodically and stays in touch through telephone, fax, mail and electronic communications.
The Network is intended to have an informal and operational level focus. It is not a substitute for formal government-to-government relations. It also does not confer any additional authorities on MCS organizations. However, it does allow more efficient use of existing powers and authorities.
It is intended to complement any existing regional cooperative networks or committees. The MCS Network provides a global mechanism for exchange of information where none has existed in the past.
Much information is already carried on the web and publicly available. The Executive Committee determined the Network should have a website and where possible, include or link to useful information which is already publicly available.
The address for the MCS Network web site is: http://www.imcsnet.org. This address provides access to the "public" portion of the MCS Network web site. The website carries the name of the national contact for each member country as well as useful information about its laws, vessels, permitting requirements and more. General reference material is also located on the website regarding various topics and historical information about the Network itself.
Each member is responsible for working with the web site administrator to update its own submissions.
Though important, the website is not the major value of the Network; contacts and communications are. While electronic access is pervasive, it is not universal. INTERPOL, the international policing organization, has fewer than 50% of its members web-enabled. Just as in INTERPOL, this is not a barrier to membership or participation in the MCS Network.
The Website carries most documents in English and Spanish. To date, Executive Committee meetings have been conducted in English and Spanish. French language materials have also been considered.
To join the MCS Network, or request more information on activities and membership, you can use the application form located on the website, or you can contact the individuals listed below.
 Chair, MCS Network,
Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation, NOAA.|
 The presentation on this subject given at the Expert Consultation highlights a few examples of actual cases and situations from the past, where the resources and contacts now available through the MCS Network could have made a real difference in handling the case, both in terms of outcomes and resources expended. This accompanying paper describes the MCS Network and complements the scenarios described in the presentation.