Effective monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) is critical for the success of marine conservation and management measures. Whereas States have the exclusive right to manage the marine resources within their national jurisdiction, areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) are subject to a complex patchwork of international rules and regulations. Effective MCS of these deep and distant waters is a significant technical challenge and there is growing interest in how MCS tools and policies can be applied to this vast global commons. States at the United Nations (UN) are currently negotiating an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (referred to here as the “high seas treaty”). This brief explores how the negotiations could strengthen MCS in ABNJ and the contribution MCS could make to the implementation of a future treaty.

This policy brief builds on two expert workshops on monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) organised by IDDRI under the STRONG High Seas project that discussed technological tools (July 2018) and policy options (April 2019). The full report on MCS will be published in late 2019.

Key Messages

  • Effective monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) is a prerequisite for the success of area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs), and can play a key role in many aspects of a future high seas treaty.
  • The ongoing treaty negotiations present an opportunity to strengthen and bring greater coherence to MCS rules.
  • MCS provisions in the current draft treaty text could be strengthened by: reinforcing key MCS obligations and principles; specifying a clear role for the clearing-house mechanism in coordinating MCS activities and building capacity; and requiring proposals for ABMTs, including MPAs, to incorporate a MCS strategy.
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