The Joint Analytical Cell aims to bolster fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance


Costing the global economy billions of dollars in lost revenue each year, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is impacting the health and resilience of our ocean, which play an integral role in stabilizing global livelihoods and ensuring food security. Stopping it will take no small effort. Resources, capacity, information—and above all, political will—are needed to end this unscrupulous practice.

Various tools and data streams to combat illegal fishing have emerged in recent years. New technologies have been unveiled, data offerings have increased, and information sharing has been positioned as a top priority across various calls-to-action. But even with the abundance of technological advances and streams of information, change on the water has been slow. The proliferation of overlapping technologies, data and tools can make it challenging to identify and access the most effective solutions to engage in meaningful action. 

But this is about to change.

Three organizations—the International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Network, Global Fishing Watch and TMT—have come together to establish a new, collaborative initiative to strengthen fisheries monitoring and enforcement. The Joint Analytical Cell, or JAC, aims to bolster national and regional enforcement mechanisms that target illegal fishing and its associated crimes. 

We sat down with Eleanor Partridge, senior analyst, at TMT for an informative conversation about the Joint Analytical Cell, its game-changing approach and vision for the future. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Eleanor Partridge headshot
Eleanor Partridge, project coordinator, Joint Analytical Cell

Q: What kind of problems does the Joint Analytical Cell set out to tackle? 

A: IUU fishing continues to present a very significant threat to food security, governance and the health of the ocean worldwide. The key to tackling it lies in strengthening the monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement (MCSE) of fisheries. But all too often, MCSE efforts are hampered by a lack of data, inadequate information sharing, and limited capacity and resources. These challenges are particularly acute in developing coastal States. Historically it has been extremely challenging to understand what goes on at sea—a lack of visibility provides cover for illegal operators. But this is changing. An increasing number of new technologies and data types are giving us an ever-better ability to detect and monitor human activities at sea. And yet our thinking on how data is collected, used and, most importantly, shared has not kept pace meaning that too often information still does not get into the hands of those best placed to use it.  

The JAC seeks to address this by providing national fisheries agencies and other partners with access to data and intelligence, as well as the training to use them effectively. This approach is based on an assessment of needs and delivered through a collaborative model that channels the combined data, tools and expertise of the JAC partners.

Q: Who makes up the Joint Analytical Cell? 

A: The JAC is a collaborative initiative founded by the International MCS Network, Global Fishing Watch and TMT. We’re not a standalone organization—JAC operations are conducted by staff from the three founding members as well as new partners when they come onboard—which enables us to capitalize on our complementary capacities and find synergies in the way we work. 

Strong working relationships and the development of new collaborations are central to how the JAC operates.  We are currently in the process of signing up two additional JAC partner organizations, both of which will contribute additional data streams, tools and expertise to strengthen our work. In addition to formal partners that are engaged and contributing on an ongoing basis, we will seek to collaborate with a wide range of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations around individual projects. This will help maximize the benefit to various national government agencies who are the primary recipients of JAC assistance. And of course, the role of the International MCS Network, with their 77 government and intergovernmental members, will be key in ensuring that support has global reach.

Q: How is the JAC different from other efforts to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance? 

A: All of the various forms of support that the JAC provides to partner countries are based on tried and tested methods that have been implemented effectively by the three founding members for years. What’s revolutionary is the collaborative approachwe are now actively seeking to work together on a permanent basis, streamlining technology offers and consolidating efforts to ensure States are provided with the information, data access and training that will be of greatest benefit to them. And in doing so, we aim to become more effective and more efficient, maximizing the impact of every organizations’ data and expertise. What this means in practice is giving ourselves the space in projects to develop replicable and scalable approaches that utilize collaboration as their starting point and provide countries with holistic support to ensure that data and information is being used effectively.

Q: How will the Joint Analytical Cell promote equitable access of data and ensure that information gets into the hands of those that need it most? 

A: The JAC provides a range of support operations, including analytical products, training as well as access to various technology platforms. This will be provided free of charge. By operating in this way we can ensure that information is available to those who need it the most and our capacity building efforts are sustainable—centered around data and platforms that will remain free for countries to use and can be integrated into their existing platforms and operations. The JAC will also promote and facilitate data and information sharing between countries—an essential tool in the fight against illegal fishing—as so much useful information remains segregated within a given country or agency. Industrial fishing vessels and their owners operate globally. One benefit of working with multiple country partners and collaborators across different regions is the ability to get information to agencies that can use it to monitor and control high risk vessels— for a single vessel that might mean a coastal State in West Africa, a port State in Latin America, a flag State in East Asia, a market State in North America and a regional fisheries management organization.

Q: What kinds of outputs and services will the JAC provide? 

A: To effectively tackle IUU fishing, the JAC will work in four key areas: provision of intelligence; MCS capacity building; access to data and technology and; the establishment of new collaborations. To the best of our efforts, each of these four work areas will be delivered in tandem. Capacity building efforts, including mentoring and secondment programs, will be built around access to and effective use of intelligence and data. 

Some of our intelligence outputs will be delivered directly to countries and other partners, but we will also seek to make information available to all countries that can use it via the International MCS Network membership or through public reports. While the JAC is operational in its focus, we will also make key findings publicly available to help inform the global debate and evidence-based fisheries management, policy, and legal reform efforts.

Q: Where will the JAC focus its work in the near and long-term?

A: The JAC will initially focus on five priority areas: risk assessment and capacity support for port controls; support for fisheries patrols; transshipment monitoring; MCS capacity building; and provision of intelligence on identified “global issues of interest.”

Over the coming months, our support will be focused primarily on those regions where the founding members already have an established presence—East and West Africa, Latin America and the Pacific islands.  We aim to expand our reach with the integration of new partners and new partner countries, building on the methods already established as well as the tools, expertise and networks that new collaborations will bring. In this way, the JAC represents a significant step towards the universal ability for countries to access and effectively use a combination of information, technology and capacity to make better informed decisions that will strengthen fisheries governance.

Eleanor Partridge is a senior analyst at TMT.

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