Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) are international organisations that regulate fishing activities in regions of the high seas. Many of the world’s most valuable fish stocks, such as tuna, which are also the most heavily plagued by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and often subject to overfishing, fall under the purview of RFMOs.
Contracting parties and cooperating non-contracting parties of RFMOs are uniquely positioned to promote and establish anti-IUU fishing measures across the globe, with transparency, accountability, and an effective and deterrent monitoring and sanctioning system being the most effective tools. However, progress has been very slow due to a lack of commitment and compliance with agreed rules, weak coordination between international bodies responsible for fisheries and, as a consequence, the persistence of certain problems such as overexploitation and IUU fishing.
EU fishing activities outside of EU waters and in areas beyond national jurisdiction occur mainly in areas under the competence of RFMOs, accounting for roughly 18% of the EU’s total landed weight of seafood catches (839,000 tonnes) and 19% of the total value (€1.4 billion).
The EU is active in 5 tuna RFMOs and 12 non-tuna RFMOs; while it cannot address the challenges faced within RFMOs alone, it can play an instrumental role in steering all RFMO parties to build consensus and work collaboratively to ensure the long-term sustainability of shared fisheries resources.
The five tuna RFMOs where the EU is active are:
- International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
- Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
- Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
- Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
- Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT)
The 12 non-tuna RFMOs are:
- North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
- Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)
- North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO)
- South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO)
- Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA)
- South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO)
- Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
- General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
- Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea (CCBSP)
- Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC)
- Fisheries Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF)
More details on the EU’s participation in RFMOs can be found here.
Urgent multilateral action and coherent measures across RFMOs are needed to put an end to the many shortfalls currently present in the international fisheries realm. RFMOs are the right fora to implement tools to fight IUU fishing, including catch documentation schemes and increased transparency in procedures that improve compliance with fisheries’ conservation and management measures.
Seafood traceability: Aligning RFMO catch documentation schemes to combat IUU fishing, December 2021
A comparative study of key data elements in import control schemes aimed at tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the top three seafood markets: the European Union, the United States and Japan, January 2020
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Briefings & position papers
Call for the SIOFA Contracting Parties, Cooperating non-Contracting Parties and observers to support stronger transparency and anti-IUU measures, June 2020
Call for the ICCAT Contracting Parties, Cooperating non-Contracting Parties and observers to support stronger transparency and anti-IUU measures, November 2019
Call for the GFCM Contracting Parties, Cooperating non-Contracting Parties and observers to support stronger transparency and anti-IUU measures, October 2019