Strengthening Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

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With the development and entry into force of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 1995, the international community made a commitment to strengthen Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), established to deal with the management of shared high seas resources. This study takes stock of the changes made in RFMOs, highlighting a gradual process of improvement that has translated into significant success stories.  While there is no single recipe for this process, ensuring that the fundamental building blocks are in place to help create and maintain the economic and political momentum for change is important. Altering the underlying economic incentives may help to better align the interests of member countries, allowing coalitions for change to develop within the membership. The study and its analysis is built on evidence from a range of case studies of RFMOs, most notably the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CSBT), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC).

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The effective management of international fisheries remains one of the great challenges in achieving long-term sustainable fisheries. Many shared fish stocks, including transboundary, highly migratory and high seas stocks, are under significant pressure and concerted international action is required if these resources are to be exploited on a sustainable basis. The development of stable cooperative regimes to manage international fisheries has been a central feature of international policy debate over the last few decades. The international community has sought to strengthen regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). However, there remains concern over the effectiveness of RFMOs and there have been repeated calls for improvements in the way in which RFMOs operate. The international community also examines other measures to address specific issues in the management of international fisheries (including, for example, the development of port state controls and flag state controls).

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