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 the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

The dynamics of RFMOs are often complex and difficult to disentangle. This is certainly the case with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) where the workings of the RFMO and the process of change are made more difficult by a relatively large number of Contracting Parties, a dated Convention, disagreements over scientific assessments, and continued concerns over the overexploitation of key tuna stocks. There is particular concern about the effectiveness of ICCAT’s conservation and management measures for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock. For example, at the meeting of stakeholders and managers for East Atlantic Bluefin tuna, held in Tokyo in March 2008, the ICCAT Chairman noted that “grave concerns are being raised about ICCAT’s competence to manage the tuna stocks in the region” (OPRT 2008). The US has repeatedly expressed frustration at the slow pace of change within ICCAT and the reluctance of the membership to address pressing problems (Hogarth, 2007).

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