International management of tuna fisheries: Arrangements, challenges and a way forward

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 536

International management of tuna fisheries
Arrangements, challenges and a way forward

FAO Consultant
Blenheim, New Zealand


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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2010


Allen, R.
International management of tuna fisheries: arrangements, challenges and a way forward.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 536. Rome, FAO. 2010. 45p.

This paper reviews the current management of tuna fisheries by the five tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), focusing on the management of target species in the light of international standards and modern expectations for fisheries management. The key international standards used flow from the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea via the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. Subsequent to those instruments, other expectations of best practices have been gathered into the expectation that RFMOs undergo performance reviews.

The paper discusses the status of the stocks of the major species of tuna for each of five tuna RFMOs and examines the management response of each RFMO. According to the recommendations of the scientific bodies of the RFMOs, 14 of the major market species are in need of management action. Of those 14 species, the commissions of the RFMOs took action commensurate with the scientific advice in only five cases, and in three of the five cases, the actions only reflected other circumstances.

Conditions that provide incentives for participating governments to take (or not to take) cooperative actions to conserve resources are discussed. Apart from complying with global obligations and expectations, the major necessary condition for successful negotiation is that all participants in a negotiation should benefit from agreement to cooperate rather than from unrestrained competition. The fishery in the eastern Pacific Ocean is used as an example to show that this condition generally cannot be expected to be met.

The use of rights-based management systems is discussed and these systems are advanced as a means to facilitate the addressing of shortcomings in the current conservation and management of tuna fisheries. The elimination of the need to compete for a share of the available catch allows individuals to optimize their investment in fishing effort to match their share of the catch, providing them with the incentive to avoid overcapacity. Secure, exclusive and long-term rights provide fishers with a collective interest in the conservation of the fisheries and the efficient use of the resources. Transferability of rights allows fishing opportunities to be used by those fishers who produce the greatest economic benefits and can provide a means of reaching an agreement among different sectors of the industry via a transfer of fishing rights.


Preparation of this document
Acronyms and abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Modern standards of management for tuna fisheries

3. The tuna RFMOs and the stocks for which they are responsible


Management and status of major tuna stocks


The Commission for the Conservation of the Southern Bluefin Tuna
The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
Cooperation between the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
Summary of the management responses of the RFMO commissions

4. Incentives and disincentives for cooperation in international tuna fisheries management

5. A way forward – Rights-based management

6. Conclusion


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The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of FAO.

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