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Ensuring monitoring contributes to the pursuit of management objectives: An Australian Fisheries Management Authority perspective

Geoff Rohan

General Manager Operations Branch, Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), P. O. Box 7051, Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610, Australia.
: [email protected]

Abstract: AFMA has clear management objectives set out in its governing legislation. Data collections are maintained by AFMA solely for the purpose of assisting in the pursuit of those objectives, which include achieving progress towards accountability, biological/environmental, economic, cost effective and cost recovery outcomes. AFMA applies a partnership approach which is fundamental to the pursuit of overall objectives. There is a clear decision making process in place which involves the formation of Management Advisory Committees (MACs) for each main fishery or group of fisheries. MACs make recommendations to the Board of AFMA which determines management arrangements to be applied. MACs rely heavily on Fishery Assessment Groups (FAGs) for advice on stock assessment and evaluation of various harvesting strategies. These groups have members with scientific, economic, industry and environmental expertise. FAGs assess risks and probabilities of management options and MACs make recommendations to the AFMA Board on preferred courses of action on comprehensive management measures. AFMA has well established programmes in place for collecting logbook data from fishing operators, observer data from independent observers, and compliance data by various means. These programmes are essential to the MAC/FAG process and for the pursuit of ongoing objectives. They are under continual review to improve relevance, accuracy, timeliness and cost effectiveness of data collected.



Figure 1. Major fisheries managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The Fisheries Management Act 1991 sets clear objectives which AFMA must pursue in the performance of its functions:

  1. Implement efficient and cost-effective fisheries management on behalf of the Commonwealth;
  2. Ensure that the exploitation of fisheries resources and the carrying on of any related activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and the exercise of the precautionary principle, in particular the need to have regard to the impact of fishing activities on non-target species and the long term sustainability of the marine environment;
  3. Maximising economic efficiency in the exploitation of fisheries resources;
  4. Ensuring accountability to the fishing industry and to the Australian community in AFMA's management of fisheries resources, and
  5. Achieving government targets in relation to the recovery of the costs of AFMA.
  1. Ensuring, through proper conservation and management measures, that the living resources of the AFZ are not endangered by over-exploitation, and
  2. Achieving the optimum utilisation of the living resources of the AFZ.


  1. Day-to-day management is conducted by AFMA as a statutory authority operating at `arms length' from the Minister responsible for fisheries matters. The Authority, through a Board, administers government legislation and policies in relation to fisheries management without the need for the Minister to be directly involved;
  2. AFMA operates on a `partnership' approach with main stakeholders (including industry, environmental and recreational fishing groups; and researchers) and has implemented a number of advisory groups to facilitate that process, and
  3. AFMA management and executive officers service advisory groups which are generally separately responsible for recommending individual fishery/species management objectives, for undertaking risk assessment and determining management strategies; and for reporting to the Board.

3.1 The board of AFMA

3.2 Management advisory committees (MACs)

3.3 Fishery assessment groups (FAGs)

3.4 MAC/FAG interaction

  1. The quality of data, the quantity and relevance of data and the degree of confidence which can be placed in various analyses;
  2. The impact of alternative fishing strategies on short and long term management objectives, and
  3. Research requirements to enable the FAG to carry out its functions.
  1. Clearly defined management objectives.
  2. Performance criteria related to the objectives.
  3. Management strategies or options to be considered.
  4. A means of calculating the performance criteria for each strategy.

3.5 Information requirements


4.1 Logbooks

4.2 Observer data collections


  1. VMS location reports.
  2. Prior-to-landing reports.
  3. Catch disposal records for product landed in port.
  4. Fish receiver records.

5.1 Vessel monitoring system (VMS)

Figure 2. The Orange Roughy Quota Zones of the South East Fishery monitored using the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) operated vessel monitoring system. ORE, Orange roughy eastern zone; ORW, Orange roughy western zone, ORS, Orange roughy southern zone; Nth Remote, Northern remote zone, Sth Remote, Southern remote zone.

5.2 Prior-to-landing reports

5.3 Catch disposal records

5.4 Fish receiver records




8.1 Integrated electronic data management

8.2 Upgrading VMS

8.3 Achieving consistency in logbook programmes

8.4 Performance information


  1. Relevant;
    i. Contributes to meeting management objectives, and
    ii. Reduces uncertainty.
  2. Cost effective;
    i. Makes the greatest contribution to decision making on funds invested.
  3. Accurate;
    i. Provides for good decisions, and
  4. Timely;
    i. Is available in the time frame required by decision makers.

In pursuit of the above requirements, AFMA must continue to observe the confidentiality of information received and to ensure the government's policy on cost recovery is met.


SMITH, A.D.M. 1993. Management strategy evaluation - the light on the hill. Population dynamics for fisheries management. Australian Society for Fisheries Biology, Workshop. Western Australia. August 1993.


FAO 1994. Reference points for fisheries management: Their potential application to straddling and highly migratory resources. Information paper prepared for the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

HILBORN, R. & WALTERS, C.J. 1992. Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: choice, dynamics and uncertainty. Chapman and Hall, New York, U.S.A., 570 pp.

DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY 1989. New directions for commonwealth fisheries management in the 1990's: a government policy statement. Australian government publishing service, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

ROHAN, G.V. 1995. The decision making process in the Australian fisheries management authority in applying ESD to commonwealth managed fisheries. Sustainable Fisheries. The 1995 Obihiro Asia and the Pacific Seminar on Education for Rural Development. Japan.

Monitoring fisheries for better research and/or better enforcement

Alain Laurec1

Director for Conservation and Enforcement, European Commission, Directorate General XIV, Fisheries, 200, rue de la Loi, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium.
Email: [email protected]



2.1 Possible ways to improve compliance

2.1.1 How to achieve reasonable cost efficiency in the detection and establishment of infringements

2.1.2 Sanctions and penalties

2.1.3 Other components favouring compliance

If equity is a legitimate and growing concern, it cannot be guaranteed without full transparency. Although this is an absolute priority it is not an easy task, especially when more than one country is involved. In all cases it must be demonstrated that inspection services follow a rational and balanced strategy and that procedures are available to assess the efficiency of the enforcement and control regime implemented by any party involved in a fishery.

2.2 Monitoring and compliance

2.2.1 Securing the proper integration of monitoring programmes within a global strategy

2.2.2 Direct contributions from monitoring programmes to compliance

Many fisheries related actions and activities can be considered to have a monitoring component. Although fishery specific, the analyses of these activities and the potential benefits which they may possess for improvements in enforcement, costs, cost-benefits and possible integration with other actions should not be dismissed.

  1. Logbooks remain a crucial source of information. They can be useful for output as well as for input management and benefit from logistic costs being relatively low. Logbooks must be fishery specific and must be cross-checked with various external data (e.g. VMS, landing declarations, sales notes, etc.). This process may easily be achieved through the use of computerised databases with future developments in this area (e.g. computerised logbooks) making it easier for skippers to provide the required information. Cooperation and acceptance by fishermen can also be significantly improved if feedback of information of direct interest to them is regularly disseminated.

  2. VMS offer considerable opportunities for monitoring the distribution and movements of fleets. They are of direct use for effort based management, including those regimes which consider geographical allocation of fishing effort, and/or closed areas. They can be decisive instruments in the implementation of a transhipment ban, or a restricted landing port scheme. In the case of output based management, they must be part of a larger enforcement programme. In addition information gathered from this source can also be used in a very cost/effective manner to cross check other data (e.g. logbooks), and decisively improve the efficiency of patrol vessels and planes. VMS are becoming increasingly inexpensive and affordable. They are user-friendly, and can even bring to fishermen very significant and positive side-effects (e.g. increased security at sea). They also have a significant deterrent effect, and can significantly modify behaviours towards increased compliance whilst maintaining an overall attitude of transparency.

  3. Observer programmes may be the only way to implement some regulations, especially where sophisticated output based management regimes are in place, or by-catches regulations require a continual monitoring presence (e.g. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) regulations related to dolphins, or discard rules in other fisheries) Observer programmes are usually expensive and where these are passed on to the fishermen they are considered to be a heavy burden to the industry. In such circumstances individual costs can be prohibitive for very small vessels and significant for vessels with small crews. Although observer programmes can bring in a decisive element of deterrence and transparency they are ideally used in combination with other monitoring and compliance elements. Independent inspections, conducted by conventional or other means are generally necessary in order to maintain appropriate pressure on the observer and to avoid "biases" as, even the most enforcement dedicated observer cannot see everything.
  1. Patrol vessels, carrying and deploying enforcement officers, are often the only way to obtain some crucial and legally acceptable evidence of infringements. Between boardings, patrol vessels are generally considered to be monitoring the fishery, either visually, or by radar. In most cases, however, they combine monitoring and control in such a way that any attempt to separate monitoring from their combined activity is almost irrelevant. What matters is their final contribution to enforcement and compliance. In this respect patrol vessels are costly but, in many cases, irreplaceable. Hence they must be integrated in a global strategy, and efforts made to optimise their costly use.

However, if the possibility of inspections after landings is of paramount importance for a number of fisheries, it is not at first glance a domain where systematic monitoring, either through a census or a sampling procedure, can play a major part in enforcement. Nevertheless, it may be very useful to know or estimate, inputs to the processing industry, import and exports, and consumption figures for the cross-checking of related landing data.


3.1 Possible synergies between research and enforcement

3.1.1 Data of common interest for enforcement and science

When considering fishing activities, the relationships between fishing effort and fishing mortality, and the equivalent links between CPUE and abundance must receive special attention. The limits of conventional stock assessment techniques (e.g. V.P.A.) have been fully appreciated in this regard, and efforts to improve resolution in stock assessments during the last 15 years have been proposed to include effort and/or CPUE data. The efficiency of these methods depends on reliable data and the establishment of a "good" relationship between partial fishing mortality and partial fishing efforts for one or more fleet units. Usually, it is impossible to establish such relationship without detailed information and any significant improvement in this area would have several major results.

3.1.2 Other contributions from enforcement programmes to fisheries research

3.1.3. Possible contributions from scientific to enforcement monitoring programmes

It is undisputed that scientists would benefit from an efficient validation process for official statistics and monitoring data and they would also benefit from being active contributors such data sets. Much of the data resulting from scientific sampling can be used for comparisons with official figures and declarations and scientists can bring in a technical expertise, especially a statistical one, which often lacks within services in charge of monitoring and control.

An appropriate statistical analysis of data can be very useful for enforcement purposes, although in the majority of cases, such analyses would not be legally acceptable, should they indirectly reveal individual infringements. However, analyses of this sort can reveal anomalies on which the inspection services can focus, in order to collect further evidence. In essence, the utility of statistical analysis is becoming all the more important given the need to validate and cross-check the ever increasing amount of data which is now being collected in many fisheries.

3.1.4 Monitoring as an opportunity for increased dialogues

3.2 Diverging interests

3.2.1 Nature of the information required

3.2.2 Diverging approaches for the "same parameters"

Scientific and enforcement monitoring programmes identify and demand different priorities (i.e. complete geographical coverage Vs partial coverage, sub-sampled data Vs total census, aggregated Vs individual data).

Moreover, scientists are interested in a neutral appraisal of what is going on and they do not want to modify normal behaviour, by their data collection methods. The first purpose of enforcement is exactly the opposite, that is, to eliminate illegal behaviour where possible. This leads to contradictory circumstances where in order to obtain reliable estimates, scientists have to be trusted by all fishermen, including those who do not comply with regulations. Likewise, an observer whose priority is to contribute to enforcement may collect some data of scientific interest.

3.2.3 Diverging priorities



ANON. 1993. Council Regulation (EEC) N 2847/93 of 12 October 1993, establishing a control system applicable to the Common Fisheries Policy. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Official Journal L261, 20.10.1993, page 1, Luxembourg.

ANON. 1998a. Communication from the European Commission to the Council and European Parliament. Fisheries monitoring under the Common Fisheries Policy. COM (98) 92, final, 19.2.98

ANON. 1998b. Improving the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy. An action plan. SEC (1998) 949 final, 5.6.1998.

ANON. 1998c. Council Regulation (EC) N 2846/98 of 17 December 1998, amending Regulation (EEC) N 2847/93, establishing a control system applicable to the Common Fisheries Policy, Official Journal L358, 31.12.1998, page 5, Luxembourg

SUTINEN, J. & ANDERSEN, A. 1985. The Economics of Fisheries Law Enforcement, Land Economics, Vol. 61, N 4, pp 387-397.

Fisheries observers on fishing vessels

Karl Laubstein

President, World Maritime University, Citadellsagen 29, P.O. Box 500, Malmo S 201 24, Sweden.
: [email protected]


The freedom of the high seas is one of the fundamental principles of international law. However, in order to ensure that the principles of unrestricted access do not lead to abuse, international law lays down rules that provide a framework for the exercise of that freedom and for individual States to enforce compliance with those rules through the jurisdiction exercised over their national vessels. It follows, therefore, that a ship using the high seas must have a national character and this applies equally to a fishing vessel. In this regard, it would be important to note that the principle of having a national character has been tested in law. In such cases, it was accepted that "In the interest of order on the open sea, a vessel not sailing under the maritime flag of a State enjoys no protection whatsoever, for the freedom of navigation on the open sea is a freedom for such vessels only as sail under the flag of a State".

The underlying principles governing the operation of any type of vessel is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982). Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships carrying its flag. The actual application of the general principle varies greatly between Flag States and is reflected in their ability to implement international conventions and agreements in relation to safety at sea, prevention of marine pollution and conditions of work and service on board ships to which they may be a party. With regard to fishing vessels, the issues also include the degree of Flag State compliance with internationally agreed conservation and management measures in regulatory fishing areas. Experience has shown, however, that the degree of Flag State compliance is not satisfactory and this is evident from reports to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and, in the case of fisheries, to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

In relation to high-seas fisheries, the matter became so grave in the late 1980's, that the International Conference on Responsible Fishing in Cancun, Mexico, 1992, called for the elaboration of an international legal instrument to deter the reflagging of fishing vessels. This was undertaken by FAO and the `Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas' was adopted by its Conference in 1993. Since then, the `Agreement for the Interpretation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea' of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries have been elaborated. However, the Agreement is not yet in force, while the Code is largely voluntary.

Notwithstanding these international efforts, the question of promoting compliance with international conservation and management measures has yet to be fully dealt with and workable answers have yet to be provided. Indeed, fisheries are currently monitored in a number of different ways and no single way can give the breadth of cover required for effective fisheries and ocean management. Although it seems to be accepted that an integrated approach to monitoring, control and surveillance should be followed, the elements of such a programme have yet to be established and international standards agreed.


In the maritime sector, the transportation of the cargo in a safe and sure manner has always been paramount. Indeed as far back in time as the Phoenician traders, early standards for marine insurance were instituted and merchant ships carried representatives of the owners of the cargo. The common term to given to such a person translates as "supercargo" in English or "sobrecargo" in Spanish.

The supercargo supervised the loading and stowage of the cargo on board the ship but did not have executive powers when the ship was at sea. Nevertheless, the supercargo would control the condition of the cargo and maintain a constant check that the ships' bilges were kept dry. Although performing such technical duties, the supercargo was rarely a navigator but more often a trade expert. Decisions with regard to the destination of the cargo and where or how it would be sold would have been made by the supercargo, as would those on the purchase of new cargo.

In more recent times, the background of the supercargo has changed. Most will be experienced and qualified seafarers who have moved into ship or cargo management. Their role has been more clearly defined and the principles governing the conduct of a supercargo are internationally recognised. These principles cover the relationship with the stevedores ashore as well as with the master of the ship, the officers and crew. They also set out privileges in relation to communication with the shore base of the supercargo, the entry of the daily position and speed in the logbook, weather reports and access to the cargo holds at sea.

The supercargo no longer works alone or in isolation and, in recent years, improvements through international agreement in port management and ship management practices have enhanced the capability of the supercargo to exercise his or her role as custodian of the cargo on behalf of its owner or owners.

If we look at fisheries, the common expression used to indicate responsibility over the living resources of the seas is stewardship. Although this does not imply ownership, in the same way as the cargo of a ship, there is a link with the term "custodian" as used in shipping. In a sense, an observer placed on board a fishing vessel is the representative of the fisheries management regime concerned, whether it manages a fishery resource within an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or within a regulatory area of high seas. Obviously there has to be a legal basis for the appointment of observers, but, in much the same way as the supercargo, they should be the representatives of the custodian of those resources to which conservation and management measures have been applied. In like manner, therefore, the principles governing the recruitment, qualifications, training and conduct of observers on board fishing vessels should be internationally recognised and applied.


Article 62 of UNCLOS (1982) requires coastal States to conduct research in its EEZ and permits them to place observers on board such research vessels. In the same article, the coastal State is required to set terms and conditions relating to joint ventures or other co-operative arrangements concerning fisheries operations. Article 18 of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks provides for measures to be taken by a flag State that include requirements for verifying the catch of target and non-target species through such means as observer programmes. In addition, arrangements for the monitoring, control and surveillance of such vessels, their fishing operations and related activities should include, inter alia, the implementation of national observer programmes and subregional and regional observer programmes in which the flag State is a participant. The arrangements for such vessels permit access by observers from other States to carry out the functions agreed under the programme.

The Code of Conduct sets out that States, in conformity with their national laws, should implement effective fisheries monitoring, control, surveillance and law enforcement measures, including where appropriate, observers programmes, inspection schemes and vessel monitoring systems. Such measures should be promoted and, where appropriate, implemented by subregional or regional fisheries management organisations and arrangements in accordance with procedures agreed by such organisations or arrangements.

The actual role and terms of reference of an observer are not given in any of the above references. This would appear to be a serious omission if the provisions of the Code of Conduct are to be implemented, as they relate to the duties of coastal States, flag States and port States. There are, of course, some regional or subregional agreements that do provide for observer programmes, in some cases, the conditions for the assignment of an observer to a vessel are indeed set out in detail. However, this has probably been influenced by the form of the contractual services agreement entered into by such observers since very few are staff members of fisheries administrations.


The need for an integrated approach to fisheries management was clearly identified by the FAO World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development in Rome (1984) and strategies were developed accordingly. Unfortunately, early successes were overtaken by rapid developments in high-seas fisheries and the drift-net issue. By 1989, the FAO Committee on Fisheries realised that there might be a need for a code for responsible fishing and this led to the Conference in Mexico in 1992.

In the meantime, interest in fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) took on a new emphasis with the possibility of utilising satellite communications systems for tracking the positions of a fishing vessel. Observer programmes were adopted and FAO sought to harmonise fisheries legislation in relation to the implementation of the Compliance Agreement.

At IMO, safety of fishing vessels was again addressed; a Protocol to the Torremolinos Convention was adopted in 1993, and a new convention was elaborated for the training and certification of fishing vessel personnel (STWC-F). IMO also amended the `Convention for the Prevention of Maritime Pollution (MARPOL 73/78)'. In particular, attention was given to Annex V which has a significant impact in relation to fishing vessels. These initiatives taken at IMO and elsewhere were taken into consideration during the elaboration of the Code of Conduct. The Code, which is voluntary, contains principles for an integrated approach to fisheries management and provides for observer programmes. It also provides for a wider interpretation of measures to be taken by a Port State than is contained in other fisheries agreements. Indeed it is probable worthwhile to give the text of Article 8.3 `Port State Duties' in full to obtain a clear understanding of the implication these principles as they relate to monitoring, control surveillance and enforcement in fisheries and to oceans management in general. The pertinent paragraphs are:

8.3.1 Port States should take, through procedures established in their national legislation in accordance with international law, including applicable international agreements or arrangements, such measures as are necessary to assist other States in achieving the objectives of this Code, and should make known to other States details of regulations and measures they have established for this purpose. When taking such measures, a port State should not discriminate in form or in fact against the vessel of any other State.

8.3.2 Port States should provide such assistance to Flag States as is appropriate, in accordance with the national laws of the Port State and international law, when a fishing vessel is voluntary in a port or at an offshore terminal of the port State, and the Flag State of the vessel requests the assistance of the Port State in respect of non-compliance with subregional, regional or global conservation and management measures or with internationally agreed minimum standards for the prevention of pollution and for the safety, health and conditions of work on board fishing vessels.

The Code of course, has to be to applied in a manner consistent with the relevant provisions of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks, mentioned above, and in accordance with other applicable rules of international law, including the respective obligations of States pursuant to international agreements to which they are party. The Code should also be interpreted and applied in the light of the 1992 Declaration of Cancun, the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21 adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in particular Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, and other relevant declarations and legal instruments.

Given such a wide mandate, States will have to ensure that administrations will not only have to adopt an integrated approach to fisheries management; they will also have to interact with other entities responsible for maritime and social matters in relation to fishing vessels. In effect, in addition to addressing issues of non-compliance with conservation and management measures, fisheries administration will also have to take on board aspects of safety of fishing vessels, MARPOL, the certification and manning requirement for crews of fishing vessels as well as conditions of work and service in the fishing industry. Appendix 1 provides examples of conventions and agreements that affect fishing operations in many fisheries; from this it is clear that most administrations will have to overhaul their monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement arrangements and the way in which the necessary intelligence is obtained. Since much of the evidence in relation to compliance can only be obtained through on-board inspection, observer programmes can become an important management tool. To be effective, however, they must be an integral part of the monitoring system and reflect the necessary linkages with units responsible for MCS, Port State control and data collection. Furthermore, the observers must be suitably qualified and trained for the task.


The general trend, as reflected in the two IMO conventions on training and certification, the STWC and the STWC-F, is to underline the competence of personnel awarded a certificate or dispensation (as the case may be). The certificates so awarded are issued under the provisions of the international conventions and so follow a common format. The same is valid for Port State Control officers whose qualifications, experience required and training to be provided are set out in the IMO publication on `Procedures for Port State Control'. It should follow that any officer associated with monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement should be suitably qualified and trained in conformity with internationally agreed standards, but this is not always the case.

If observers are to be an integral part of monitoring, control surveillance and enforcement programmes, they should have a broad understanding of the responsibilities of the administration they represent in relation to legal instruments or agreements to which the State is a party. Furthermore, they should all have a common understanding of the interpretation of the provisions of such legal instruments or agreements; this is particularly important where observers serve on board foreign flag fishing vessels. The competence of an observer must be established and accepted internationally through standardised training and certification programmes, not unlike, for example, the STWC-F.

Thus, should the report of an observer result in litigation, the question of the competence of the observer, which would normally be raised by the defendant, may be more readily set aside. This would almost certainly happen in relation to alleged non-compliance with the conditions of an "authorisation to fish" or alleged deficiency in relation to IMO or ILO conventions that could lead to the detention of a vessel. In most cases, however, the report of an observer would be passed to the relevant authority either in the Flag State, Port State, subregional or regional organisation or whatever the case may be. Nevertheless, in the event of litigation, the observer may be called to testify and his/her competence may be challenged.

Obviously an observer cannot be an expert in all matters in relation to fisheries, fishing vessels and oceans management, but the duties that may be expected of an observer could provide the basis for standard training and certification programmes.


As and where applicable, the carriage of an observer should be included in the conditions attached to an authorisation to fish. In such cases the agreement, setting out the role of the observer and the expected co-operation of the skipper of the vessel concerned, would also be included in the authorisation to fish.

The provision of suitably qualified observers is the responsibility of the administration that issued the authorisation to fish and, to date, the various arrangements in use are not all acceptable. Some success has been achieved in certain regulatory areas through a contractual service agreement with a commercial company. These companies, in turn, hired ex-fishing skippers who require little more than a briefing, as opposed to training, to perform the limited duties allocated to the observer. In too many other cases, however, individuals with no training have simply been directed to perform as observers by administrations, often with no great degree of success.

Understandably, fisheries managers have been reluctant to create a cadre of observers on a permanent basis even when the perceived need was long term. In future, however, administrations must face up to the fact that where appropriate, observer programmes can play an important part in an integrated monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement programme, but they would be effective only if internationally agreed minimum standards of training and certification are applied. This does not mean that private commercial companies should not be used. It does mean, however, that these companies must supply observers that meet the required standards.

A review of the role of observers on board fishing vessels, their rights and obligations may be one way to identify the recruitment process for observers in relation to qualification, experience and training.

The observer should have certain rights and duties, such as the following, that would require the competence of the observer to be established.

A: The right to inspect documents:

  1. The authorisation to fish, to verify its validity and that the details of the vessel conform with the information given in the certificate of registry;
  2. Certificate of Registry, to verify that it is valid and that the marking of the vessel for its identification agree with the name of the Flag State given in the certificate;
  3. Minimum Manning Certificate as issued by the Flag State, to confirm whether or not the vessel is manned accordingly;
  4. Safety Certificate as issued by the Flag State, in the event of a vessel being in class, the certificates issued by a classification society may be viewed in relation to any conditions of class that may have been applied;
  5. Navigation and Fishing log; and
  6. Garbage Record Book, with regard to compliance with Annex V of MARPOL.

B: The right of visit:

  1. To establish whether or not the vessels carries the appropriate identification marks;
  2. To inspect fishing gear for compliance with the authorisation to fish and to ensure that any additional fishing gear not so authorised is put ashore or properly secured on board, fishing gear markings to be inspected for identification of ownership;
  3. Stowage of catch, and
  4. To the wheelhouse to verify navigational equipment and the operation of the vessel monitoring system (VMS) where fitted and/or where required under the authorisation to fish.

C: The rights to collect catch data:

  1. Retained on board; and
  2. Discarded.

D: The right to communicate while the vessel is at sea:

  1. With the Flag State;
  2. With the State or Regulatory body that issued the authorisation to fish, and
  3. With the monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement unit with responsibility for the fishery.

E: Right of Sea Protest:

  1. When the vessel is in a port of the Flag State;
  2. When the vessel is voluntarily in the port of a State other that the Flag State, and
  3. When the vessel is forcibly in the port of a State other than the Flag State.

In the execution of such duties, the observer has obligations in maritime law with regard to the authority of the skipper of the fishing vessel. In addition, the observer has an obligation to act responsibly under the authority vested in an authorised boarding officer. The most important obligation is the recognition that the observer is the representative of the "custodian" of the resource or resources that the vessel is authorised to fish. This also implies that the observer has an understanding of the relevant conventions and agreement, both fisheries and maritime in nature to identify non-compliance and or deficiencies. It also implies that the observer is capable of reporting, in an appropriate manner, in relation to:

  1. Catch data including species composition;
  2. Non-compliance reports in connection with the authorisation to fish;
  3. Deficiency reports in connection with pollution, safety and conditions on board fishing vessels for action by the appropriate authority;
  4. Sighting reports of other fishing vessels suspected of non-compliance with conservation and management measures, and
  5. Formulation of a sea protest.


  1. The formulation and acceptance of global standards of training and competency of fisheries observers;
  2. The establishment of a process of certification and verification of the competency of fisheries observers, and
  3. The identification and provision of appropriate training capability for both observers and the instructors of observers.

Similarly to recent developments in the maritime transportation sector, the standards and principles for the conduct of fisheries observers on a fishing vessel, and for the corresponding training and certification of such observers, should be elaborated through international consultation and approved by the appropriate international organisations such as FAO and IMO.

As for the actual training programmes and particularly the training of the instructors of fisheries observers, this could be undertaken by recognised international educational and training institutions in the maritime sector with experience of providing specialised technical education and training for the international maritime community (e.g. World Maritime University (WMU) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)).

1 The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the European Union.

2 The present document is mainly based upon experience gained within the Common Fisheries Policy (C.F.P.) of the European Union, where the improvement of monitoring and control has become a high priority during the last number of years. This has led to a number of detailed documents analysing the enforcement problems encountered within the C.F.P., suggesting possible solutions, and has led to a number of specific regulations. The reader should refer to these documents (Anon. 1993, Anon. 1998a, 1998b, 1998c) for further details in this regard.

3 Following pilot studies launched in 1994, the European Community decided (in 1996) to move towards the comprehensive use of satellite tracking. Carrying the appropriate equipment will become compulsory after the beginning of the year 2000 for all vessels over 24 m long, and will also apply from July 98 to some specific categories of vessels (i.e. vessels operating in international waters; and vessels conducting industrial fisheries for fishmeal).

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