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Options for achieving successful, sustainable management of large pelagic fish resources in the CARICOM region

Susan Singh-Renton and Milton Haughton


ICCAT was established in 1969 to coordinate the management of tuna and tuna-like resources within the ICCAT Convention Area, which includes the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. Since then, the development of the LOSC and the Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as other related legal instruments (e.g. the Compliance Agreement), compels all fishing countries to play a larger role in ensuring optimal and sustainable exploitation of the resources within their EEZs. In respect of highly migratory and straddling fish resources, these agreements also oblige countries to establish appropriate regional management arrangements and to cooperate fully with such arrangements where they exist and are relevant.

Considering this, it is important to recognize that current ICCAT efforts in statistics, research and management are mainly focused on the oceanic large pelagic resources. It is also important to recall that scientists of ICCAT contracting parties have noted that there is a general lack of adequate data with which to assess the status of small tuna resources (i.e. coastal large pelagic resources), and they have highlighted the need for studies at local and regional levels to determine the state of these resources and the best way to use and manage them. To date, Mexico and the United States have worked together to assess and manage shared stocks of coastal large pelagic resources. Within the Caribbean, CARICOM’s recently established CRFM has stated that the management of shared stocks is one of its highest priorities. In working towards this goal, the CARICOM Fisheries Unit (CFU) established a Working Group on Large Pelagic Fish Resources (LPWG) in 2000. Since then, the CRFM LPWG has held two large pelagic fish-stock assessment meetings, during which limited data analyses were conducted on coastal large pelagic species.

Management of oceanic large pelagic resources

At present, ICCAT provides the most appropriate forum for coordinating the management of Atlantic stocks of oceanic large pelagic resources. In accordance with the new ICCAT catch allocation criteria, a country will receive catch shares only if it qualifies as an ICCAT contracting or cooperating party. Noting this qualifying condition, and recalling the legal obligation to cooperate with international fisheries management organizations, CARICOM/CRFM countries should consider becoming fully involved in ICCAT’s activities for management of oceanic species.

The ICCAT membership-contribution calculation scheme is likely to be revised in the very near future, and this will make membership more affordable for developing countries. In view of this, it is desirable that:

Flow chart indicating proposed approach of CARICOM/CRFM countries to management of their large pelagic resources. The CFU/CRFM plays a key role in each option considered, both for oceanic and coastal resources

It is envisaged that:

Management of coastal large pelagic resources

CARICOM/CRFM countries should adopt a proactive approach to the establishment of an effective regional management regime for these species. The establishment of a regional fishery management organization (RFMO) should therefore be considered. If this is not immediately possible, a regional working group (RWG) could be established to address the relevant issues insofar as possible. Figure 23 shows the potential range and level of interaction between the RFMO and ICCAT, and between the RWG and ICCAT.

Regional fishery management organization

An RFMO could be established to coordinate statistics, research and management of coastal large pelagic resources occurring within the Caribbean region. To achieve this task, the proposed RFMO would have to:

Recognizing the inclusion of many of the same resources in the ICCAT mandate, the RFMO should work in partnership with the commission. It would submit data to ICCAT on behalf of its member states in accordance with ICCAT reporting requirements. It would also be responsible for reporting to ICCAT on research developments and the adoption and implementation of agreed conservation and management measures for the stocks. The CRFM could serve as the required RFMO.

Regional working group

Alternatively, or as an interim measure, an RWG could be established to coordinate research and assessment of the stocks concerned at the regional level. Specifically, the following approach is proposed for consideration:

Proposed next steps

Management of oceanic large pelagic resources

Management of coastal large pelagic resources



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