Pacific flavour for international MCS introductory guides

by Francisco Blaha | 6 December 2021 | News

A Solomon Islands fisheries officer quantifies tuna being transhipped from a Taiwanese longliner. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Generally, fisheries inspectors come into the job from an enforcement or surveillance background, for example from the navy, coastguard or police; after graduating from marine sciences at university; or in a few cases are ex-fisheries observers. But they hardly ever come from the fishing industry.

This always struck me as odd, having gone that road myself. Particularly since my insider knowledge has always been welcomed by the officers I work with. As I maintain: “It is impossible to appropriately measure or regulate what you do not understand.”

On that line, over a year ago, Duncan Copeland from Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) contracted me to write in English a set of introductory guides for practitioners of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to help fisheries inspectors, in particular those in western Africa, with the practical side of fishing in a simple, illustrated way

The project took a bigger dimension when the International MCS Network got involved, giving the guides a more international role.

Right from my first draft, it was a collaborative effort with revisions and additions by good friends and colleagues such as Duncan Copeland, Stig Fjellberg and Callum Vale from TMT, Mark Young from IMCS Network, and Hugh Walton from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

Once the text was agreed on, the project moved into the document design phase, including finding pictures to illustrate the topics. I was fortunate to be able provide many of the photos that come from my work with Pacific Island colleagues and vessels over many years. Then I was involved in the review of the Spanish translations, so it was a long but very instructive process.

The first fishing gear-specific guides have been published. Those on Longline FishingPole and Line Fishing, and Purse Seine Fishing, are all pertinent to the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. To further support capacity building for inspectors and others, we worked on a fourth guide, Industrial Fishing Vessel Inspections, which complements the gear guides, and tackles an introductory understanding of the key considerations and needs during vessel inspections. All title are available free in English, French and Spanish.

Two more guides on refrigerated carrier vessels (reefers) and trawl fishing are planned for release in early 2022.

The guides provide:

  • an overview of how to recognise vessels by the specific gear type
  • a description of the fishing operation
  • an overview of the gear and related equipment that is used
  • guidance on vessel positional tracking
  • key issues for fisheries compliance and enforcement officers to be aware of during the conduct of an inspection.

They also make a good resource for people in the media, and non-specialists in NGOs and institutions with an interest in fisheries.

Needless to say, I’ll be always very thankful for (and proud of) the opportunity that TMT and IMCS Network gave me in having this role in these publications.

But I am even more thankful for every fishing boat I have worked in my life, to every skipper and fellow crew member who spent time teaching me stuff, and everyone who did not mind me taking pictures while they are doing their jobs!

Sample spread from Industrial Fishing Vessel Inspections, by Trygg Mat Tracking and IMCS Network

Sample spread from Industrial Fishing Vessel Inspections, by Trygg Mat Tracking and IMCS Network