The importance of regional fisheries management
Strengthening RFBs and their performances in order that fish stocks may be better conserved and managed remains the major challenge facing international fisheries governance. This is reinforced by the overall state of exploitation of marine fishery resources where the situation is more serious for certain fishery resources that are exploited solely or partially in the high seas and, in particular, for straddling stocks and for highly migratory oceanic sharks.
The maximum wild capture fishery potential from the world’s oceans has probably been reached and reinforces the calls for more cautious and effective fisheries management to rebuild depleted stocks and prevent the decline of those being exploited at or close to their maximum potential.
RFMOs - gaining force
In recent years the international community has focused on the need to strengthen RFBs -- in particular the RFMOs. This is reflected in international fisheries instruments (both binding and voluntary) and in international fora.
Many RFMOs are taking steps to strengthen governance through implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries and adopting the precautionary approach. They are also working to strengthen international cooperation, promote transparency, address non-members, and enhance monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) measures, including the implementation of mandatory vessel monitoring systems (VMS), the adoption of regional schemes for port State measures and the development of vessel lists.
However, the role of RFBs with an advisory mandate -- and their relationships with RFMOs -- should also be fully taken into account. Their activities may lead to improved national fisheries governance and harmonized regional measures. They contribute to the efforts of RFMOs in key areas such as MCS, information exchange and scientific advice and otherwise interact with RFMOs.
Though RFBs are composed of independent States, they are not supranational organizations. States come together under the aegis of a RFB because of their common interest and concern for conserving and managing their mandated fish stocks. Therefore, RFBs can only be as effective as their members permit.
The perceived lack of action by RFMOs and their inability in some cases to stem stock declines should be viewed in the context of the obstacles that many are facing. A lack of political commitment by the members of some RFMOs and unyielding positions incompatible with sound regional fisheries management have thwarted, if not stalled, efforts undertaken within some RFMOs to meet and address conservation and management challenges. This situation hinders RFMO performance, while criticism is directed at the organizations rather than at their members.
Members must collaborate effectively and take difficult decisions if they are to be successful -- even though not all members have congruent interests. The strong political will of member States of each RFB must be the primary prerequisite for the effective role of RFBs.
- Twenty-seventh Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI 27) - Rome, 5-9 March 2007
- RFMOs are discussed under a stand-alone agenda item for the first time during COFI 27
Members requested that FAO continue supporting RFMOs and RFBs and continue its work on issues of concern to them such as overcapacity, improvement of fleet statistics and the issues of countries that undermine the effectiveness of RFMOs and vessels under “flags of non compliance”
- RFMOs are expected, inter alia, with regard to a global capture fishery statistics database, harmonization of catch documentation, a global record of fishing vessels, and ecosystem approach to fisheries including management of deep sea fisheries and reduction of bycatch, in particular, of seabirds
- Role of RFBs in relation to climate change issues could be significant
Strengthening RFMOs and their performances including the outcome of the 2007 Tuna RFMOs Meeting
Report of the twenty-seventh session of the Committee on Fisheries (R830)
- First Meeting of Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network (RSN 1) - Rome, 12-13 March 2007
- Fifth biennial meeting of Regional Fishery Bodies, renamed the Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network, aims to facilitate discussion and information sharing among all bodies
- RSN 1 discussed decisions of COFI 27, role of RFBs, external factors affecting fisheries management, ecosystem consideration in fisheries management
- Other matters explored: small-scale fisheries, RFB performance enhancement, climate change issue
Report of the First Meeting of Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network. Rome, 12-13 March 2007 (R837)
- Review Conference on United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) - May 2006
- Agreed priority was improving the functioning of regional organizations and aligning their conventions and adopted measures with the UNFSA standards
- With a view to modernize RFMOs, highlighted importance of implementing precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management, strengthening monitoring, control and surveillance regimes and performance review
- Proposed development of standards and best practice guidelines for RFMOs
- South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA): signed in July 2006 by the Comoros, France, Kenya, Mozambique, New Zealand, Seychelles and the European Union, aims at ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources other than tuna on the high seas in the South Indian Ocean
- Fishery Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC): established in July 2006 by Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo, to promote cooperation among the Parties with a view to ensuring, through appropriate management, the conservation and optimum utilization of the living marine resources and encouraging sustainable development of fisheries based on such resources.
- South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO): process initiated by Australia, Chile and New Zealand with a first international meeting in February 2006. The sixth international consultation on the establishment of the SPRFMO was held in Canberra, Australia, in October 2008.
- North Western Pacific Ocean (NWPO): ongoing effort among Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States of America to establish a regional management framework for management of high seas bottom fisheries to sustainably manage fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine ecosystem.