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, CARICOMs 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.
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 ICCATs 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:
CARICOM/CRFM countries, particularly those with a clear interest in developing fisheries for oceanic large pelagic resources, strive to gain either ICCAT contracting or cooperating party status as soon as possible (see Fig. 23).
The CFU/CRFM continues to provide technical and legal support to each CARICOM/CRFM member state and to assist each country in evaluating and achieving the status at ICCAT most suited to its needs and in negotiating catch shares. If the CARICOM/CRFM member state is an ICCAT member, this will be achieved through country representation at ICCAT (participation by a national delegation of one or two persons), supported by a regional (CARICOM/CRFM) delegation of technical and legal experts.
The CFU/CRFM should also continue to be responsible for coordinating the development and presentation of common positions on ICCAT management issues, to ensure that ICCAT management and conservation measures do not impose a disproportionate burden of action on developing states within the CARICOM/CRFM region. The submission and final verbal presentation of common positions will have to be made by CARICOM/CRFM countries that are also members of ICCAT.
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:
National representation at ICCAT will not be necessary each year, as detailed assessments are not normally repeated for all species annually, and hence catch allocation schemes are not usually negotiated every year for all species. This would substantially reduce national costs for ICCAT meeting attendance. Analyses of social and economic data on the fisheries can be used to rationalize the cost of ICCAT participation.
Common positions on any issue could be presented by a single national ICCAT member delegation, obviating the need for attendance by all countries at all relevant meetings.
Recognizing the significantly increased responsibility for fisheries management assigned to individual countries under recent international fishing agreements,
recalling the stronger focus and impact of ICCAT on the management of oceanic resources,
recalling also the ICCAT scientific advice pertaining to management of small tunas or coastal large pelagic resources, and
acknowledging the urgent need to improve management of coastal large pelagic resources within CARICOM/CRFM countries,
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.
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:
maintain a regional database of the fisheries concerned;
coordinate research and assessments of the stocks concerned; and
develop and implement appropriate management measures.
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.
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:
An RWG should be established with the specific mandate of assessing western Atlantic/Caribbean coastal large pelagic fish resources, including those resources not included in the ICCAT mandate. Ideally, it should be established as a working group within ICCAT, except that many of the countries concerned are not ICCAT members. A CRFM or WECAFC working group may therefore be more appropriate.
The RWG should hold all its assessment meetings at venues within the western Atlantic or Caribbean region, making attendance and participation easier and less costly for the countries concerned.
Recognizing ICCATs management authority, the RWG should report either directly to the ICCAT Small Tunas Working Group, or to the ICCAT SCRS. By either means, the results of stock assessments and management recommendations of the RWG would be forwarded to ICCAT for adoption. It would then be necessary to obtain the support of ICCAT member states for ICCAT adoption of the proposed RWG management measures.
Each country with an interest in developing fisheries for oceanic large pelagic resources would need to become either an ICCAT contracting or cooperating party. To do this, national fisheries administrations would have to: (i) evaluate the needs of the fisheries concerned; (ii) develop a justification for the selected level of ICCAT participation; and (iii) present a proposal for approval by the appropriate authority.
The CRFM should establish a working group to provide technical and legal support to country delegations prior to and during ICCAT meetings, and during catch-share negotiations. This working group should also be responsible for coordinating the development and presentation of common positions on ICCAT management issues. A person with good knowledge of international fisheries law should serve as a permanent member of the group. At present, the CRFM LPWG is able to serve this function. To do so satisfactorily, it would need to hold one or two special meetings each year of the countries concerned.
National fisheries administrations would need to develop active management cycles for these resources. In the first instance, the CRFM could be asked to provide advice and support to identify and assist in implementing the required changes in policy direction and legislation, as well as advice on the development or refinement and activation of the required management cycles.
National fisheries administrations would need to incorporate ICCAT meeting participation time and costs into national work schedules and budgets respectively.
Countries should identify the organization that would serve as an RFMO. The CRFM appears to be the logical starting choice here, recognizing that its membership rules would have to change in order to serve an RFMO function.
Countries should develop or refine the mandate and structure of the RFMO (proposal for establishment).
Agreement or resolution for establishment of the RFMO should be developed and submitted for adoption to the appropriate forum.
The RFMO and countries concerned should establish management objectives and management cycles for handling these resources.
The RFMO should enter into an MOU with ICCAT.
The RFMO should establish communication and working linkages (MOUs) with related institutions and organizations within the region for the purposes of coordinating the development of statistics, research, resource assessment and management.
Countries should identify the appropriate RWG (CRFM LPWG or WECAFC LPWG recommended).
Countries should develop or refine the mandate and structure of the RWG (proposal for establishment, including terms of reference).
Agreement or resolution for establishment of the RWG should be developed and submitted for adoption to the appropriate forum.
The countries concerned should establish management objectives and management cycles for handling these resources.
The RWG should establish communication and reporting linkages with ICCAT (an MOU is recommended, but probably not immediately required).
The RWG should establish communication and working linkages with related institutions and organizations within the region, for the purposes of coordinating the development of statistics, research and resource assessment.