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Monitoring, Control and Surveillance securing the JMA

Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) is one of the key components within Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP), necessary for assuring safety of Joint Management Area (JMA) resources and efficient control of all activities in the area in the future. JMA is, however, very spacious (covering over 400,000 square kilometers in the South West Indian Ocean (SWIO)) and in a remote location – from both Mauritius and the Seychelles (ca. 1000 km from each capital to central Saya de Malha bank area) and patrolling the area is a logistical and financial challenge. The JMA Demonstration project aims to develop a marine spatial planning (MSP) process that can form the basis for an agreed management strategy, with adopted decision-making and adaptive management mechanisms. One of the management mechanisms within MSP is Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS).

MCS mechanism has been firstly developed within the fisheries sector, and although it is still most used for the monitoring activities, regulation and enforcement of those regulations within fisheries sector, nowadays its’ use covers more than fisheries. With spread of tools available, modern MCS use is broadened to monitoring, control and surveillance of all activities happening in the areas of marine jurisdiction and beyond – such as, fisheries, as an aid in search and rescue operations, as an aid in fight against criminal activities on the seas (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU)), human trafficking, protected species trafficking and hunting, smuggling of goods, intentional or unintentional oil spills and pollution, and etc.), weather monitoring (e.g. cyclone activity and direction) or climate change adaptation activities, and etc.

The JMA, essentially is the high seas area, has very limited data sources which would help to map all possible activities in the area. A number of international (global and regional) bodies and treaties manage ocean resources and human activity in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). However, these governance bodies vary greatly in terms of their mandate, geographic scope, their objectives, the legally binding nature of decisions they adopt, and whether they regulate one or several activities. Their jurisdictions often overlap, but virtually no mechanisms exist to coordinate across geographic areas and sectors. Most high seas governance organizations operate under mandates that consider only one sector, such as fisheries, shipping, or mining (PEW, 2017).

Some of the activities in the JMA have been identified with great certainty (e.g., fisheries and maritime transport) while others (e.g., certain illegal activities) are suspected from available literature, Internet sources (e.g., marine traffic monitoring).  Number of new activities is foreseen for the near (5 years) to medium distant (10 years) or far more distant future. Effect of those activities is yet to be fully understood.

JMA-MCS System

Basically, there are two basic ways to proceed with building of MCS system for the JMA:

a)     Stand-alone JMA-MCS system

The stand-alone MCS system, would be a self-sufficient system that has all elements of MCS independent from existing national structures. all remote surveillance data, e.g., VMS, AIS, satellite imagery, etc., would be self-obtained and processed for further use. It also requires other two components of MCS – monitoring and control, to be to higher or lesser degree independent from existing bodies. the sole advantage of such system would be independent data control and processing, while disadvantages are numerous.

b)     Regional Network Supported JMA-MCS System

Unlike the stand-alone independent MCS system, regional network supported system is semi-independent system that can take all possible advantages of existing national and regional MCS structures.  

Both countries have existing national MCS systems that are more-less adequate for the existing coastal and EEZ waters. However, JMA is far and vast area of ocean that makes surveillance extremely challenging with assets presently available in both of countries, although not impossible.

The primary benefit of a regional network supported system would be access to regional remote sensing data sets (VMS, AIS, SAR, VIIRS, satellite video and imagery, etc.) and intelligence. Physical surveillance (air and sea) would mostly lie upon Seychelles and Mauritius, since regional structures (meaning, other member states of various regional MCS affiliated organisations) would not have high interests to increase frequency, above usual, of physical presence in the JMA – in other words, members (countries) of regional structures would have no reason to agree with special status of JMA as they would have their own interests and have no special interest in the JMA. Still, even some of physical surveillance could be occasionally covered by the regional organisation(s).

Suggestions have been made to develop JMA-MCS through two phases:

PHASE 1: JMA-MCS shall start operations through existing national structures by extending monitoring, control and surveillance procedures to cover JMA.

PHASE 2: Development of semi-independent Regional Network Supported JMA-MCS System