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As part of the FAO EEZ Programme, FAO's Fisheries Department in April 1981 convened an Expert Consultation on Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Systems for Fisheries Management, at the Organization's headquarters in Rome. Experts from 12 States (Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Iceland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, and the United States of America) participated in the consultation. It brought together a good balance of (i) regional perspectives, (ii) developing and developed States' interests and points of view, and (iii) experiences in MCS policy and operations.

The significance of the expert consultation was not only that it provided a comprehensive international assessment of MCS needs, problems and constraints vis-a-vis post-UNCLOS fisheries conservation and management requirements, but the consultation also laid the foundation for, and established the thrust of, FAO's MCS technical assistance activities.

The purpose of the expert consultation was to examine the basic concepts and issues for MCS systems for fisheries conservation and management, and in particular to (i) review the experience of present practices for MCS systems, (ii) analyze the various approaches to those practices, (iii) compile an inventory of the kinds of advice on MCS that could be available to developing countries, and (iv) formulate possible programmes for advice, training and assistance by FAO.

For the purpose of the consultation the following definitions for monitoring, control and surveillance were adopted. These three inter-related activities were defined as:

Monitoring - the continuous requirement for the measurement of fishing effort characteristics and resource yields.

Control - the regulatory conditions under which the exploitation of the resource may be conducted.

Surveillance - the degree and types of observations required to maintain compliance with the regulatory controls imposed on fishing activities.

The expert consultation considered a comprehensive agenda, developing recommendations for the type of MCS technical assistance that FAO should provide. The consultation noted that regional cooperation in MCS had distinct benefits, though there were difficulties with such cooperation in the area of enforcement because of sovereignty issues. The consultation agreed that FAO should continue to focus on strengthening the MCS capacities of its developing members through (i) the selective assignment of experts, (ii) providing investigative missions on a request basis, and (iii) the preparation and implementation of regional training courses. In this connection the consultation advised FAO to conduct MCS workshops within selected regions as a means of identifying the type of specific training and development required by particular regions and States within it.

With respect to regional training the expert consultation proposed that three levels of training be undertaken. These were (i) policy level training whereby senior policy makers would be involved so as to better understand the concepts and practices of MCS in terms of meeting the objectives of the coastal State, particularly within a regional context; (ii) system level training whereby individuals responsible for the subject in whole or in part (such as fisheries managers, coast guard etc) would be trained, including a possible sharing of facilities and courses that have already been established in other States, and (iii) operational level training whereby the staff involved in the day-to-day practical application of MCS systems would be trained within their respective regions.

FAO was further advised by the consultation to exercise extreme caution in the selection of MCS experts and advisers to be recruited for its assistance to developing members so as to ensure that biases for, or representation to acquire, certain equipment for MCS activities, were avoided. It was further recommended that FAO continue to prepare case studies of individual MCS systems as a means of generating information for the use of developing States in planning MCS systems. Significantly, the consultation highlighted the link between the cost of MCS systems and likely benefits to be accrued from enhanced fisheries conservation and management.

Although the expert consultation was convened more than a decade ago the recommendations made to FAO remain sound and valid, despite changing national and international fisheries circumstances, fleet movements, gear development and usage, and major advances in MCS technology.

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