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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Strengthening RFMOs: key insights from the case studies

The analysis in this study highlights the challenges that RFMOs face in strengthening and modernising their structure and operations. Each RFMO is imbued with a different set of historical, cultural, social, environmental and economic circumstances that strongly influences the viability, stability and success of reform. Issues such as lack of political will, disparate national agendas, divergent economic priorities, different time horizons, and scientific uncertainty combine to hamper the ability of coalitions for change from developing and pushing through improved methods of operation. In recent years, however, a number of RFMOs have been moving forward to strengthen their organisations, with varying degrees of success in terms of ensuring stable cooperative agreements and improved management of fisheries resources.

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