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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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Introduction

The pressure for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to improve their performance has increased significantly over the last decade. According to the FAO, approximately 30% of stocks of highly migratory tuna and tuna-like species and nearly two-thirds of straddling and high-seas fish stocks are overexploited or depleted. There has been extensive public airing of issues such as the depleted state of many high seas stocks, reduced profitability, overcapacity and disagreements within RFMOs over conservation and management measures. This has been communicated to the public through the popular press, leading fisheries industry journals, and press statements from environmental non-governmental organisations, all of which regularly headline management failures by RFMOs. It also goes to the heart of the debate over the credibility of sectoral management of fisheries, and the pressure for other international processes to play a greater role in managing fisheries.

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