International Fisheries Managers’ Response to Performance Reviews Insufficient

Date: May 1, 2019

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Member governments not taking enough recommended steps to improve sustainability

The parties to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) abide by an important principle: They will follow the agreement’s legal obligations to “ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.” The major tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) provide a mechanism for these governments to work together to manage important global fisheries and further the goals of UNFSA.

Combined, these bodies manage pelagic species, including tunas, marlins, and sharks, in 90 percent of ocean waters. Collectively, RFMO members have agreed to cooperate—through their respective agreements—on precautionary, science-based fisheries management within their Convention Areas to ensure fish stock sustainability and ecosystem health. Still, many valuable stocks are experiencing overfishing or are depleted.

In 2006, 2010, and 2016, the parties to UNFSA reviewed the agreement’s implementation to strengthen cooperation and management. Each time, they urged the RFMOs to conduct regular independent performance reviews to evaluate their work, suggest improvements, and identify best practices.1 All of the major tuna RFMOs followed suit. The Pew Charitable Trusts has long supported the review process because its independent nature provides a vital contribution to the regular business of each RFMO. Pew has examined the recommendations included in the independent performance reviews of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Then these recommendations have been compared to subsequent RFMO actions to design and adopt harvest strategies and implement science-based stock management and compliance measures, as well as to end and prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

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