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The functions of the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries' observer programme

Andrew France

Observer Programme Manager, Ministry of Fisheries, P.O. Box 297, Wellington, New Zealand.
Email: [email protected]


The observer programme exists because of its expertise in providing high quality and independent statistical and biological data. This data is used by fisheries scientists and policy makers in determining the state of particular fish stocks and has a direct bearing on the livelihood of commercial fishers and quota holders.


Monitoring, control and surveillance in developing countries and the role of FAO*

Andrew R. Smith

Fishery Industry Officer, *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome 00100, Italy.
Email: [email protected]

Abstract: One of the roles of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is to assist developing countries to manage their fisheries. This is particularly the case in countries which are unable to fully harvest the resources within their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and thereby allow access to the vessels of other flag states in order to harvest these resources under the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Under such conditions there is a requirement for the coastal state to monitor the activities of these vessels, and their own industrial vessels, to ensure that they are complying with the conditions of access and to collect data on catches. An additional reason for position monitoring of these larger vessels is to ensure that they do not come into conflict with the artisanal fleet. The ability of developing countries to conduct monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) and the activities of FAO in this regard is the subject of the following review. The national or regional needs for MCS depend on a range of factors. In order that administrations can carry out a preliminary analysis of the various costs of monitoring, control and surveillance, a hypothetical case study is presented listing the main advantages, disadvantages and costs of the various MSC methods available in order that developing countries can adapt their "shopping" list to meet their budget.


1.1 FAO Activities

1.2 Regional bodies

Table 1. Conventions, Agreements, and FAO Regional bodies of particular concern to developing countries.

IMO Conventions impacting on Fishing Vessels International Fishing Agreements and Conventions FAO Regional
Multi-lateral Agreements






FAO Compliance Agreement * (not in force) 1993

UN conservation and management of straddling stocks and highly migratory fish stocks Agreement (not in force) 1995

FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (voluntary) 1995


CCSBT etc.

Table abbreviations: SOLAS: International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, MARPOL: International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, STCW: The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (1995 - not in force), SFV: The Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, (See also:, UNCLOS: United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, *Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, WECAFC : The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission, CECAF : The Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic, GFCM : General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, APFIC : The Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, IOTC : The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, IOFC : The Indian Ocean Fishery Commission, CARPAS : The Regional Fisheries Advisory Commission for the Southwest Atlantic, EIFAC : The European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, CIFA : The Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa, COPESCAL : The Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America, ICCAT : International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, CCSBT: Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.



3.1 Vessel monitoring systems

  1. The adoption of standardised message formats, and
  2. The use of electronic logbooks.

3.2 Vessel marking



5.1 Africa

  1. To ensure more efficient and more profitable aerial surveillance with corresponding maritime controls;
  2. To strengthen the secretariat of the CSRP in its role of general co-ordination and more particularly support, training and planning with regard to MCS;
  3. To establish a Surveillance Operations Co-ordinations Unit (the SOCU) under the auspices of the CSRP, and
  4. To pursue resources to generate sub-regional funds to promote lasting common activities.

5.2 Latin America

5.3 Caribbean

5.4 Middle East and South East Asia



BURKE, W.T. 1982. Fisheries regulation under extended jurisdiction and international law. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No.223, Rome, FAO, 23pp.

CLEVELAND, B.C. (ed.) 1986. Adjustments to changes in fisheries law and economics. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No 269, Rome, FAO, 115pp.

DOULMAN, D.J. 1994. Technical Assistance in Fisheries monitoring and surveillance: a history perspective of FAO's role. FAO Fisheries Circular, No. 882, Rome, FAO, 22pp.

FLEWWELLING, P. 1995. An introduction to monitoring, control and surveillance for capture fisheries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No. 338, Rome, FAO, 217pp.

HANNESON, R. 1990. Studies on the role of fishermen's organisations in fisheries management. Theoretical considerations and experience from industrialised countries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No. 300: 1-30.

KONSTAPEL, K. & NOORT, L. Fisheries in Developing Countries: Towards sustainable use of living aquatic resources. Sectoral policy document of Development Cooperation No 9. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, Netherlands.

KURIEN, J. 1990. Studies on the role of fishermen's organisations in fisheries management: The role of fishermen's organisations in developing countries (with particular reference to the Indo-Pacific region). FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No. 300: 31-52.

MARASHI, S.H. 1996. The role of FAO regional fisheries bodies in the conservation and management of fisheries. FAO Fisheries Circular, No. 916. Rome, FAO, 65pp.

VAN HELVOORT, G. 1986. Observer program operations manual. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap., No. 275, 207p.


Effectiveness of different types of vessel monitoring

Type of
Description of Monitoring No of
Effectiveness of Monitoring of Amount of Time Observed Effectiveness of Detection of Unlicensed Vessels Coverage at Sea Cost
Power of Arrest
      Position Fishing
Days at
By Vessel Identification by sight and boarding for Inspection 12/day High High Medium Low Low High 300 sq. miles per hr $500 - $140,000 per day Yes
By Air Limited to daylight and identification 60/day High Low None None Low High 3000 sq. miles

per hr

$400 - $3000 per hr No
Shore-Based Inspection of catch and fishing gear. Coastal Surveillance 15/day None High High High Medium Low None $150/day Yes
Observers on Vessels Continual observation of activities 1 High High High High High Medium High $200/day No
Vessel Moni-toring System Periodic Monitoring of Vessels Position


High None None High High None Complete for Vessels Fitted $100,000 +$8,000




MCS Recommendation and costs for various types of fishing fleet

Type of
Type of MCS
Amount of MCS Recommended Capital Costs
Running costs/vessel monitored/day
Artisanal Fleet Shore based 1 Fishery Officer per 100 boats None 2
(vessels < 12m) By vessel 1 Small Patrol Boat (4 crew)/500 boats 500,000 2
Domestic Industrial Fleet Shore based 1 Fishery Officer per 40 vessels None 5
(12m<vessels<24m) By Vessel 1 Medium Patrol Boat (10 crew)/500 boats 2 million 6
  By Air 1 small aircraft/1000 vessels 1 million 5
Large Domestic Vessels Shore Based 1 Fishery Officer/20 vessels None 10
(Vessels >24m) By Vessel 1 Large Patrol Vessel (30 crew)/100 vessels 10 million 20
  By Air 1 Medium Aircraft/500 vessels 10 million 25
  Observer 2 Observers per Vessel (if necessary) None 400
  VMS Recommended for all fleets >50 vessels 100,000 20
Foreign Fleet Shore Based 1 FO/ 10 Vessels for Port State Control None 20
  By vessel 1 Large Patrol Vessel (30 crew)/50 vessels 10 million 40
  By Air 1 medium aircraft/100 vessels 10 million 25
  Observer 2 Observers per vessel None 400
  VMS Recommended for all fleets >20 vessels 100,000 20


Hypothetical estimation of MCS requirements (A) and costs (B) (from Appendix II)


No and Category of vessels Fishery Officers 1 Vessels Aircraft Observers VMS
2,000 Artisanal 20 4 inshore      
500 Medium Domestic 15 1 medium 1 small    
200 Large Domestic 10 2 large 1 medium 400 (if necessary2) Recommended
50 Foreign Vessels 5     100 Recommended

1 Observers should only be considered for domestic vessels if considered necessary for environmental reasons or in cases where there is a high probability of non-compliance

2 This is only for inspection and the total establishment for data collection, administration should be doubled


Capital costs
(Million US$)
Running costs
(Million US$)
Inshore vessels (4) 2 1
Medium vessel 2 1
Large vessel (2) 20 20
Aircraft, small (1) 1 6
Aircraft, medium (1) 10  
VMS 0.1  
Fishery Officers (100)   7
Total 35.1 35


Advantages and disadvantages of the various MCS systems

Type of MCS Advantages Disadvantages
By Vessel Provides at sea verification that fishing gear and catch is legal. Most important to control Transhipment and arrest particularly of foreign vessels Very costly
By Air Can provide the best coverage for identification of illegal incursion of unlicensed vessels and also of observation of boxes Very costly. No ability to arrest. No ability to inspect the catch or fishing gear.
Shore based Lowest running costs and low capital costs. Can monitor landed catch and quotas. Only power of arrest in port. No possibility of monitoring foreign vessels that do not call at port. No possibility of monitoring transhipment
Observers Can observe all operations High cost. Only viable on larger vessels.
Vessel Monitoring System Provides almost real time monitoring of position for fitted vessels and can reduce interception times for enforcement craft. Relatively low capital cost and running costs borne by fishing vessel No coverage for vessels not fitted with the system. Involves cost of 10,000 for the fishing vessel. No detection of unlicensed vessels.

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