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Regional management organizations or arrangements (RFMO/As) exist in the majority of high seas areas that have major deep-sea fisheries. They are usually tasked with collecting fisheries statistics, assessing resources, making management decisions and monitoring activities. RFMO/As play a pivotal role in facilitating intergovernmental cooperation in fisheries management. With recently strengthened mandates, most RFMO/As now have the power to manage according to an ecosystem approach to fisheries.

However, management is often complicated by deficient or unavailable data and inadequate systems of administration. And challenges exist in enforcing conservation and management measures adopted by regional fisheries organizations.

Governance problems are of even greater concern in areas where no RFMO/As currently exist with a mandate to manage deep-sea fisheries. These areas include the Arctic, Central and Southwest Atlantic. In these areas, regulation of fishing is left to the discretion of individual flag States. States are obliged to cooperate with other States on the conservation of marine living resources in the high seas and in developing appropriate management measures where nationals exploit similar resources or different resources in the same area. States are also asked to set up regional fisheries organizations where appropriate. (See articles 117 and 118 of UNCLOS).

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