RFMOs must overcome COVID-19 challenges and strengthen efforts for increased transparency and better anti-IUU measures

Date: May 12, 2022

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have an important role to play in increasing transparency and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing globally, as they work to effectively manage and conserve species under their jurisdiction, especially high-value fish stocks in remote areas. This is why the EU IUU Fishing Coalition strives to promote better transparency and anti-IUU fishing measures in RFMOs by identifying gaps and weaknesses in their governance frameworks, supporting the adoption of effective measures, and monitoring their progress. 


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In its 2019 report, Achieving transparency and combating IUU fishing in RFMOs, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition identified a series of indicators to evaluate the current performance of transparency and anti-IUU measures in RFMOs and has developed an annual scorecard tracking progress in four different RFMOs: the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA). Using these indicators, the Coalition conducts a comparative analysis to highlight best practices and shortcomings in each of these RFMOs. In order to track their progress, the comparative table from this report is regularly updated to account for the new conservation and management measures adopted during annual RFMO meetings. 

The 2022 update of this comparative analysis takes into consideration the transparency and anti-IUU measures adopted in 2021. Key improvements are preceded by an *asterisk in the scorecard.

The analysis shows that the effective functioning of RFMOs remains significantly hindered, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a contributing factor. Meetings were postponed and held remotely with agendas often limited to the most urgent matters. The work in tackling IUU fishing and improving transparency has therefore often been sidelined at a time when the risks of IUU fishing have likely increased, due to the impact of the pandemic on monitoring, control and surveillance efforts worldwide (e.g by restricting the operations of observer programmes).1

Whilst the situation will hopefully improve, the ongoing health crisis cannot continue to delay the work of RFMOs, which must strive to adapt to the current, persisting and future challenges associated with the pandemic. The laudable progress made in certain RFMOs, such as the adoption of the GFCM 2030 Strategy or the ICCAT ban on at-sea transhipments, shows that this is possible and the EU IUU Fishing Coalition calls for others to follow suit. 

To further promote transparency and tackle IUU fishing in 2022, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition asks the contracting parties and cooperating non-contracting parties:

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC):

  • Adopt a transparent compliance mechanism by amending Appendix V of the IOTC Rules of Procedure (2014) – the Compliance Committee Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedure
  • Amend Resolution 21/02 Establishing a Programme for Transhipment by Large-Scale Fishing Vessels to further improve monitoring, control and surveillance and reduce opportunities for IUU fishing activities
  • Adopt a new Recommendation to improve traceability through an electronic Catch Documentation Scheme 
  • Amend Resolution 14/05 Concerning a Record of Licensed Foreign Vessels Fishing for IOTC Species in the IOTC Area of Competence and Access Agreement Information to increase transparency of reported information
  • Adopt a (partially) centralised Vessel Monitoring System
  • Support the work of the IOTC Working Group on the Development of Electronic Monitoring Standards by endorsing its terms of reference and work plan
  • Amend Resolution 07/01 To Promote Compliance by Nationals of CPCs with IOTC Conservation and Management Measures in order to prevent nationals from further deriving benefits from or supporting IUU fishing
  • Adopt a new Recommendation on reporting on operational incidents at sea and consider taking other measures to ensure safe and decent working and living conditions on board vessels
  • Enforce Resolution 19/04 Concerning the IOTC record of vessels authorised to operate in the IOTC area of competence to increase transparency and enhance capacity to fight against IUU fishing

Read the full position paper here.


General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM):

Coming soon


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

Coming soon


Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA):

Coming soon


 (1) OECD, Covid-19 And Multilateral Fisheries Management (2021), available at: <https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/topics/fisheries-and-aquaculture/documents/covid-19-mulitlateral-fisheries-management.pdf>


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