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2. Overview

Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) have often been seen as selfexplanatory and not requiring much consideration, as it is perceived as “simply the policing of the various maritime zones controlled by the State” - is it not? This technical document attempts to clarify this erroneous view of MCS and demonstrate how monitoring, control and surveillance are important to the implementation of any oceans related policy, in particular for fisheries management.

There are many influencing factors and global initiatives which have brought the subject of monitoring, control and surveillance to the fore in the international and national fora. The coming into force of the 1982 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea in November of 1994 has recognized the benefits of the Convention and once again raised the profile of the obligations States have with respect to the assessment of their fishing stocks, the allocation of the surplus to national needs to third parties and the further obligation to conserve their fisheries, including the fisheries habitat. The following excerpts from articles of the Convention are reminders of these obligations:

Article 61

Conservation of the living resources

1.   The coastal State shall determine the allowable catch of the living resources in its exclusive economic zone.

2.   The coastal State, taking into account the best scientific evidence available to it, shall ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over-exploitation. As appropriate, the coastal State and competent international organizations, whether subregional, regional or global, shall co-operate to this end.

3.   Such measures shall also be designed to maintain or restore populations of harvested species at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, including the economic needs of coastal fishing communities and the special requirements of developing States, and taking into account fishing patterns, the interdependence of stocks and any generally recommended international minimum standards, whether subregional, regional or global.

Article 62

Utilization of the living resources

1.   The coastal State shall promote the objective of optimum utilization of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone without prejudice to article 61.

2.   The coastal State shall determine its capacity to harvest the living resources of the exclusive economic zone. Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall, through agreements and other arrangements and pursuant to the terms, conditions, laws and regulations referred to in paragraph 4, give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch, having particular regard to the provisions of articles 69 and 70, especially in relation to the developing States mentioned therein.

Article 73

Enforcement of laws and regulations on the coastal State

1.   The coastal State may, in the exercise of its sovereign rights to exploit, conserve and manage the living resources in the exclusive economic zone, take such measures, including boarding, inspection, arrest and judicial proceedings, as may be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by it in conformity with this Convention.

Article 192

States have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.

Article 194

Measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment

1.   States shall take, individually or jointly as appropriate, all measures consistent with this Convention that are necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source, using for this purpose the best practical means at their disposal and in accordance with their capabilities, and they shall endeavour to harmonize their policies in this connection.

Article 197

Co-operation on a global or regional basis

States shall co-operate on a global basis and, as appropriate, on a regional basis, directly or through competent international organizations, in formulating and elaborating international rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures consistent with this Convention, for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, taking into account characteristic regional features.

The Convention details enforcement responsibilities for each of these obligations.

Further, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Brazil in 1992 and the resultant Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 emphasized the urgent requirement to preserve our marine/fisheries environment on a global basis. The initiatives of several agencies on controlling pollution at sea (MARPOL 73/78); the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Environmental Facility Fund and Regional Seas Project and port State control initiatives for the merchant fleet, are all contributing towards global standards to protect our marine resources. The FAO flagging initiative to assist in the control of fishing vessels on the high seas, the potential of extending port State control and international co-operation with respect to fishing vessels, the efforts at responding to the need to establish standards for safety-at-sea for fishing vessels, and the most recent efforts at establishing standards for the control of fishing on the high seas of highly imgratory species and straddling stocks, are all symbolic of the growing global trend and concern regarding fisheries resources and their habitat. Finally, there is also an initiative to establish a “code of conduct”, one might call it, for responsible fishing practices. This is all applicable to fisheries and the fisheries habitat.

As these Conventions come into force and the initiatives gain credibility, so too do the obligations of participating States to implement these agreements to which they are signatories. Many States have, and are, reaping the benefits of these agreements as internationally respected legal instruments, but now as they come into force, a case in point being the Convention, there is a realization that the implementation of these agreements carry considerable obligations for each State. Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), especially for the fisheries sector, is the implementing tool to meet these obligations. MCS, which has often been thought of as a luxury for developed States, has now become an obligation for all States to work together to conserve the marine resources and their environment.

As an initial step, many countries are now focusing on developing and establishing policies and strategies to meet their obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The ideal situation, and a logical approach to implement the terms of the Convention, would be to develop an oceans policy which would establish government priorities and the strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of all marine resources within the zone. From this oceans policy would flow the integrated oceans planning and management framework under which fisheries management would be developed. Most countries do not have the luxury of this longer term development process and have chosen to track in parallel these two initiatives; oceans policy development on the one hand, and fisheries management, including MCS strategies, on the other. Consequently, although countries remain cognizant of the fact that fisheries management must link to overall oceans policy when it is ultimately established, the development of the MCS systems required to implement fisheries management plans must go forward to address the more immediate need to conserve fish stocks and their habit. The parallel tracking of the development of oceans policy and fisheries MCS initiatives will impact on the latter as they are implemented, most probably by forcing the multiple tasking of fisheries MCS resources to address other related, maritime priorities. This impact will also depend on the focus of political will and the priority of fisheries in the overall oceans strategy. These points will obviously serve as an incentive, in the first instance, for countries to develop the most cost effective and appropriate MCS system to meet fisheries requirements, with the flexibility to assume other, secondary, fisheries-related tasking, such as pollution and environmental monitoring, as delegated by the government.

Fisheries management and the resultant MCS activities will depend on the decisions of government as to the level of its involvement in the fishing industry. Government can assume a very intrusive role, such that it actually runs the industry, controls potential income of fishers, and micro-regulates the harvesting sector. Alternatively, it can maintain a less intrusive role, whereby the fishing industry accepts its responsibilities and role within the framework of general government conservation principles and legislation. The South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency has adopted this latter style of fisheries management. In either case, there are several perceptions regarding the fishers and MCS activities which have negatively coloured fisheries management, and fisheries MCS itself. There is the idea that many of the problems with fisheries in each country stem from the illegal fishing activites of foreign fishing fleets. Although foreign fishing fleets have had, and continue to have, an impact on fisheries conservation efforts in the majority of cases, the greater impact on fisheries in each country usually stems from its own domestic fishing industry in the coastal and nearshore fishing zones. Fisheries MCS activities focused solely on the control of foreign fishing efforts will therefore undoubtedly be less than successful as a key component in the conservation of the resources, if the domestic fishing effort is not also being addressed.

Another erroneous perception with respect to MCS is that it is a simple exercise of “activating the military might of the State to arrest the foreign poachers”. Activating the military infrastructure for MCS is an initiative many countries have taken in the past and found to be prohibitively expensive and politically sensitive. Further, MCS activities are not solely enforcement operations, but also include the collection of data, and quality control of that data, for input into the stock assessment, social and economic, and enforcement exercises that comprise the components of fisheries management as well as safety-at-sea. This is not the normal use of military enforcement machinery and is neither applicable, nor appropriate, for domestic fishers.

The expense of MCS activities is usually the primary concern of any government in designing and implementing a system of controls. Cost effectiveness and efficiency are key to successful MCS operations. The surveillance, or enforcement, aspect of fisheries MCS has proven to be most cost effective and responds best to the political sensitivity of international fisheries incidents when it remains a civil action, without the potential involvement of the military might of the nation. Further, on the matter of expense, military machinery costs much more to build and operate than equivalent civilian equipment for a civil action. As an example, this can be verified by those who have attempted to place a civilian radio system on a piece of military equipment. There are significant additional costs associated with such an initiative in order to make the equipment meet the appropriate standards for military acceptance. Another cost consideration is whether a country requires a large armour-plated, heavily crewed vessel with associated high firepower and costs to carry out fisheries patrols and exercise civil police duties of data gathering and enforcement. The latter function can be exercised for all fisheries in a fully satisfactory manner with significant cost savings using a civilian vessel with fewer crew, less armour and firepower and hence, lower fuel consumption and general costs.

The basic needs for fisheries MCS normally include vessels that can remain at sea with the fishing fleets, appropriately equipped aircraft for cost-effective rapid surveillance and information collection and, an adequate coastal support infrastructure for verification of landings and the monitoring of the port trade of fish products.

Effectiveness of operations can be enhanced considerably if only one ministry is responsible, or has the lead role and authority, for the implementation of MCS activities, instead of two or three. This significantly reduces the lines of communications for the command and control, to use military terminology, of the monitoring and surveillance components for MCS activities, making them more efficient and responsive in a timely manner. Further, bureaucracy is usually significantly reduced using vessels under one ministerial control, as opposed to a combined civilian and military operation. These points are not to suggest that a country should completely obviate the use of military equipment as an option where no other options are available, but the military option is one which has fairly considerable consequences in terms of cost and control.

It has also been found through the experience of both developed and developing countries that MCS operations can be expedited with reduced costs and in an effective manner through co-operation with neighbouring countries on bilateral, sub-regional or regional initiatives. Examples of this include initiatives of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and initiatives being established in West Africa. Considerable cost savings can also be realized through the appropriate use of licenses as a control tool, as a source of basic information for management planning, and as an alternative to a free access fishing scheme while minimizing the cost to the resource owners, the taxpayers. As a practical example, licenses can require all transhipment of fish to occur in port, where they can be monitored much more accurately and safely, thereby contributing to MCS in a cost-effective manner. Fishing vessels could be encouraged to use ports by a reduction in administrative and bureaucratic requirements compared to regular transport and shipping vessels. This could also enhance the opportunity of input into port State control initiatives which States may wish to initiate in the future.

These types of cost saving strategies contribute to the implementation of “no [minimal] force” MCS strategies to the benefit of the coastal State.

A point made for years by fisheries officers is the issue of creating unenforceable legislation. Unenforceable legislation, or that which is not understood nor acceptable to the fishers, rapidly destroys the credibility and support for a government in its efforts to conserve its fisheries resources. Such legislation usually results in active subversion of its intended benefits by the fishers and the fishing industry. One example is the prohibition of catching a certain species of fish. Unless the individual is seen in the act, it is almost impossible to enforce. The prohibition would be best stated as it being against the law to be found in possession of this certain species of fish above a certain acceptable bycatch or tolerated level.

A somewhat controversial example of fisheries management systems which are difficult to enforce in developing countries is the legislation creating individual transferable quotas (ITQs). Although this system has all the positive attributes of reducing periodic fishing pressures on fish stocks, it is very difficult to enforce without sophisticated communications and data networks backed up by an expensive, real time, accurate and verifiable monitoring and surveillance system. This management scheme may be appropriate for developed countries, but could prove very difficult to implement in developing countries. Experience has shown that the ITQ management scheme may be appropriate and manageable in small island states with both small populations and fishing fleets, and where the fishery is largely export oriented. To date the system has not been found appropriate in other situations, especially where the fishery has a domestic component.

An initiative which will result in a near, real time vessel monitoring system is being developed by the FFA for use in the South Pacific. Until this system is perfected and acceptable to the fishers, it is suggested that such a quota management system may be found to be administratively difficult to operate and result in a continuation of overfishing.

It has been found over time that no MCS activities will be successful if there is not an understanding and acceptance by fishers of the rationale behind the MCS actions being implemented. Legislation which is unenforceable denigrates the credibility of the entire fisheries management process in the eyes of the supposed benefactors, the fishers, and consequently quickly establishes a “them and us” confrontational attitude on both sides. It must be remembered that most fishers are realists who are fishing for their survival and “whilst sometimes libellously assumed by the ill-informed to be crooks, are perhaps best described as being as honest as the next man, but hard, individualistic businessmen running very competitive and often highly capitalized operations. It is worth remembering that they do so in the face of a largely unforgiving sea that creates a working environment which, in terms of industrial health and safety, [has one of the worst industrial accident rates in the world]: and they operate increasingly in an economic climate of ever increasing overheads countered only by the proceeds of catches which [are] subjected to [greater] quota restriction. All of this is done in the knowledge that the success of their venture and the livelihood of their crews depends entirely on their individual skill, effort and initiative. Given these pressures, it is perhaps not surprising that such independent minds do not always take kindly to bureaucratic controls, especially if these appear to them to have little practical purpose”.1

1 Derham, Peter (1987)

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