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Extract from
Report on an Expert Consultation on Monitoring, Control
and Surveillance Systems for Fisheries Management
Rome, 27-30 April 1981


The overall objectives of monitoring, control and surveillance need to be carefully defined and evaluated with regard to each State's special situation. States must determine the relative importance to them of monitoring, control and surveillance for the purposes of: (a) maximizing net benefits from the fishery resources in their zones, with regard to domestic and/or foreign fishing; (b) maximizing net benefits from other resources and uses of the zones (e.g., minerals exploitation); (c) implementing customs and quarantine regulations; (d) producing information on quantity and value of resources; (e) meeting domestic fishermen's demands (realistic or not) for protection from foreign fishermen; (f) exercising national sovereignty; (g) enhancing navigation, search and rescue services; (h) protecting marine environment; and (i) other. Evaluation of the importance of these objectives will help determine optimum kinds and levels of investments in monitoring, control and surveillance.

Benefits and Costs

Benefit/cost analysis (broadly defined and applied) should be used to estimate the appropriate levels of investment in MCS. Since States have limited funds for such investments and since it is generally impossible to achieve 100 percent compliance, it is necessary to determine how much, if any, investment will produce the optimum effects. Theoretically, this would occur where marginal costs and benefits are equal; that is, where the cost of the last additional unit of investment in MCS is equal to the benefit it produces.

In practice this is difficult to measure, particularly when long-term effects are taken into consideration. For example, the analysis should attempt to estimate how much fishing by foreign vessels is likely to occur in the future. On the one hand, increasing prices for fish products may support continued distant-water fishing. But on the other hand, rising costs (particularly for fuel) may considerably decrease distant-water fishing and, therefore, decrease the need for MCS with regard to foreigners.

Difficulties on cost/benefit analysis also results from the problems of quantifying some of the benefits, such as meeting the demands of domestic fishermen for protection from foreigners.

In spite of the difficulties, the effort to identify and evaluate costs and benefits will help in determining appropriate levels of investment, even if the results are imprecise and the analysis is unsophisticated.

Relationship Between Coastal State Costs and Regulations

The costs of monitoring, control and surveillance to coastal States depend upon the nature of the agreements and regulations being enforced, for both foreign and domestic fishermen. For example, flat sum payments for access by foreigners are less costly to enforce than royalties on catch. The latter, however, produces higher revenues to coastal States and greater control over resource exploitation. Also, closed seasons are generally less costly to enforce than mesh regulations and incidental catches. Thus (a) the trade-offs between monitoring, control and surveillance costs and the benefits of the regulation or agreement must be considered, and (b) those responsible for adopting regulations or negotiating agreements must work closely with those responsible for monitoring, control and surveillance.

Relationship Between Fishermen Costs and Regulations

The imposition of monitoring, control and surveillance measures generally creates costs for fishermen (e.g., port inspections, provisions for observers). These costs will reduce the amount that foreign fishermen are willing to pay for fishing privileges or will reduce net revenues to domestic fishermen. These effects should be considered in the choice of regulations and agreements.

Perceptions of Risks of Non-Compliance

Fishermen will comply with regulations and agreements only to the extent that they feel will benefit from them or to the extent that they feel that non-compliance will be more costly than compliance. Their perceptions of the risks will include the chances of being observed, the chances of being apprehended, the likely sanctions that will be imposed, and the chances of escaping sanctions through bribery. Their perceptions of the risks to them of non-compliance must be enhanced in all respects.

Relationships Among Phases of Enforcement

Effective enforcement systems must include surveillance, arrest, the imposition of sanctions, and reporting. Although much attention is given to the first two, the last two are not always adequately covered. If the penalties extracted are insufficient, surveillance and arrest activities will be ineffective. If reporting of sanctions is not adequate, perception of risk will be low. Thus, those responsible for enforcement should coordinate their activities with judiciary bodies and make use of other agencies (e.g., foreign ministries) to ensure adequate sanctions and reporting. The imposition of sanctions can sometimes be facilitated through the provision of discretionary powers to administrators and through the creation of special courts.

Institutional Means for Reducing Costs

Enforcement officials should seek low-cost institutional methods for achieving their objectives or for supplementing investments in monitoring, control and surveillance hardware. Several possibilities can be explored. One is to rely on "good will" and to use diplomatic routes to encourage compliance by foreign fishermen. Many governments will be willing to exercise controls over their fishermen in the interests of maintaining good relationships with other countries. Another technique is to make fleet privileges contingent upon compliance by all individual vessels. A third technique is to require foreign governments to maintain a responsible representative in the coastal State so that communication of violations will be expedited. A fourth is to require foreign vessels to post bond. A fifth technique is to provide incentives for compliance or for measures that facilitate control such as the reduction of fees for fish landed in national ports. In some cases, these (and other similar) techniques may be more cost/effective than hardware and in many cases they will greatly increase the cost/effectiveness of hardware.

Simplicity of Rules and Agreements

Every attempt should be made to keep the regulations and agreements as simple as possible. This will reduce the costs of monitoring, control and surveillance both to the State and to the fishermen (domestic and foreign). In some cases, regulations are deliberately made complicated not for the purpose of protecting resources but for the (hidden) purpose of making foreign fishing uneconomic. These reduce potential revenues to the coastal State and increase the costs of enforcement. Simplicity of regulations and agreements can be achieved by increasing the discretionary powers available to enforcement officials (although means must be found to ensure that such powers are not abused) (see "Support for MCS" below).

Regional Cooperation and National Sovereignty

The costs of monitoring, control and surveillance can be greatly reduced by regional cooperation and the sharing of authority. This is particularly true for shared stocks but is also important where a foreign fleet fishes in the zones of neighbouring States. The benefits of cooperation need no elaboration. However, it is essential to recognize that States are reluctant to cooperate when such cooperation impinges on their national sovereignty. Realistic assessments of national sovereignty constraints must be made and means found to increase cooperation within those constraints.

Bribery and Extortion

It must be recognized that bribery and extortion can significantly impede the achievement of enforcement objectives. Regulation and agreements should be formulated in such a way as to reduce the opportunities for bribery and extortion. For example, the use of on-board observers might be supplemented by random checks or port inspections. Authorities with discretionary powers must be subject to checks and balances to prevent abuse.

Support for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Administration

Monitoring, control and surveillance activities, particularly with regard to domestic fishermen, do not generally receive much governmental or political support. Where enforcement measures are designed to protect the interests of one group of fishermen (e.g., artisanal fishermen) from the activities of another group (trawlers), political support may be weakened. Furthermore, fishery administrators tend to receive more rewards for development activities than they do for management. Efforts should be made to convince high level non-fishery government officials and politicians of the importance of monitoring, control and surveillance. This can be facilitated by pointing out the disbenefits or costs from not having an MCS system.

Incentives for Self-Interests in Compliance

By far the most effective enforcement occurs where it is in the self-interests of the fishermen to ensure enforcement. Self-interests are greatly enhanced if the fishermen perceive that the benefits of the regulations will accrue to them. This, in turn, is enhanced if the fishermen have some form of exclusive rights to the resources. (As an analogy, enforcement is generally unnecessary in agriculture where private property rights are available.) The provision of exclusive rights, such as community franchises to artisanal fishermen or exclusive rights to groups of fishermen, can significantly reduce the costs of monitoring, control and surveillance.

In the absence of exclusive rights, self-interest in enforcement will be enhanced if the fishermen perceive that the regulations are necessary for the realization of benefits in the near future. This means that there must be a high degree of credibility in the scientific justification for the controls.

Conversely, monitoring, control and surveillance costs will be great where fishermen perceive that they will not benefit from the controls. This will occur where the controls are designed to redistribute wealth (as in prohibitions against trawling within 3, 7 or 12 miles). It will also occur if the present sacrifices produce future benefits that can be captured by new entrants.

Establishing Controls Prior to Over-Investments

Monitoring, control and surveillance can be established more effectively prior to over investment than after over-investment has taken place. If the regulations are designed to reduce excessive labour, directly or indirectly, the costs of enforcement are likely to be particularly high. However, the imposition of regulations prior to the time when the needs are accepted by the fishermen is extremely difficult to do. Development programmes should, therefore, seek to establish the basis for control prior to the development of a new fishery or new technique.

Effect of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance on Accuracy of Data

Certain kinds of regulations and agreements (e.g., tax on catch) provide an incentive for fishermen to misreport their catches and/or effort. This effect should be anticipated and means must be found to ensure accuracy of reporting or, if this is not likely to be effective, alternative regulations should be considered.

Appropriate Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Technology

The need for appropriate technology is just as relevant for monitoring, control and surveillance activities as for fishing and should be considered when recommending monitoring, control and surveillance activities for developing countries.

Checks and Balances

Reliance on a single technique for monitoring, control and surveillance should be avoided. Wherever possible, a variety of techniques should be used to ensure effectiveness. For example, requirements for log books should be supplemented with other techniques to verify the accuracy of the log books.

Surveillance to Determine Enforcement Needs

Before investing in monitoring and control capability, it is desirable for coastal States to determine the degree, type and seasonality of poaching by foreign vessels. This can be achieved by some investments in surveillance. Such surveillance could indicate that poaching is so negligible that no further investments are warranted. Or if poaching is significant, it can determine the type (trawling, longlining, purse seining, etc.), the location, nationality, and the seasonality of the poaching so that monitoring and control capabilities can be designed appropriately.

Periodic Re-evaluation

It is important that enforcement systems be periodically re-evaluated to ensure their effectiveness and as a means for testing alternative techniques.

Attitudes Toward Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

Monitoring, control and surveillance activities will be more effective if they are viewed by fishermen in a positive rather than a negative manner. Monitoring, control and surveillance activities should not, therefore, be solely restricted to the apprehension of offenders. Instead, monitoring, control and surveillance forces should provide services beneficial to fishermen (e.g., navigational aid, search and rescue services, collection and dissemination of information) and should respect their bona fide interests (e.g., waiting completion of a haul before boarding).

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