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A meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council discusses fish stock management
A meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council discusses fish stock management
Courtesy of NOAA/NMFS/L.Lawson

The framework for international interaction and collaboration on fisheries matters is characterized by the existence of a large number of regional fishery bodies (RFBs) - about 40 already exist and new ones are being established - with exclusive responsibilities. Some o have real management powers and make decisions on allowable catches, quota allocations by fishing nation, and technical management measure (on mesh size, fishing seasons, closed areas, etc.). Many have a purely advisory role and foster statistics collection, information exchange and scientific analysis. These only advise members on management and provide a forum, as well as training opportunities, in contributing to capacity-building. Many of the latter are established under the aegis of FAO.

United Nations Agencies

A large number of international organizations deal with fisheries but are not involved in fisheries management. Although it is not possible to review them all, a number of relevant international institutions are established under the United Nations:

  • The Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) affects fisheries through its mandate and recommendations related to the conservation and use of biodiversity.
  • The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is a discussion forum established as a follow-up to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Brazil, 1992) and regularly addresses fisheries matters.
  • The United Nations holds the Secretariat of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and monitors its implementation through its Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS). This Division is also the Secretariat of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) regulates the conditions of work on board of fishing vessels greater than 24 length overall (LOA).
  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO) deals indirectly with fisheries through such issues as flags of convenience (open registers), international rules for navigation, safety at sea, disposal of disused oil platforms.
  • The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) provides advice relating to the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection to its sponsoring UN organizations, as well as to member states and other organizations of the United Nations system. It prepares periodic reviews and assessments on the state of the marine environment and identifies problems and areas requiring special attention.
  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as the main deliberative organ of the United Nations, deals with some important fisheries questions. For example, it fostered and followed the development of the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea as well as the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. It is the source of the international ban on large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing and has also addressed the question of illegal fishing. In 2004, concerned about the world's marine ecosystems and in an effort to promote sustainable fisheries, UNGA adopted texts on the Law of the Sea.
  • The UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) was established in 2000 to advise the UNGA on matters relevant to the sustainable development of oceans.
  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) touches on fisheries for issues related to trade and environment, tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, subsidies, etc.

Non-UN international organizations

A number of other, non-UN, more or less specialised organizations or country groupings deal with fisheries as part of a more general mandate, such as:

  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recently increased its interest in aquatic species subject to large scale exploitation such as fishery target species.
  • The Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) is an autonomous regional organization aimed at promoting regional aquacultural development to increase food security, income and employment and operates on the principle of technical cooperation among developing countries.
  • OLDEPESCA is the Latin American organization for fisheries development whose main purpose is to adequately meet Latin American food requirements by using the area's fishery resource potential for the benefit of Latin Americans and by promoting the steady development of Latin America and continual strengthening of regional cooperation in fisheries.
  • The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) is an inter-governmental agency established in 1967 to promote fisheries development in Southeast Asia. The SEAFDEC's ultimate goal is to assist member countries in developing fishery potentials for the improvement of the region's food supply through training, research and information programmes and services.
  • The WorldFish Center (formerly ICLARM) is the only fisheries organization in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It is devoted to global research to improve the productivity, management and conservation of aquatic resources for the benefit of users and consumers in developing countries.

In addition, some regional economic organizations are also concerned with specific aspects of fisheries. Among the ones most active in fisheries are: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), Commonwealth of Independent States, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU), League of Arab States, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Secretariat of the South Pacific Forum (SPF), Southern African Development Community (SADC); Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Non-governmental organizations

Finally, a number of international non-governmental organizations deal with fisheries, either exclusively or as part of a broader mandate. Among these are:

  • Greenpeace is a global environmental campaigning organization. It prepares public campaigns for, among others, the protection of oceans against the release of genetically modified organisms into nature and the promotion of renewable energies in order to stop climate change.
  • The International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (ICFA) consists of national fisheries trade groups of the leading fishing nations of the world. Its objective is to preserve and maintain the oceans as a major fish source of food. In this light, members of ICFA are committed to the long-term sustainable use of marine resources to contribute to global food security.
  • The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) deals with issues that concern fishworkers the world over and is involved in monitoring and research, exchange and training, campaigns and action programmes and communications.
  • The World Conservation Union (IUCN) influences, encourages and assists societies throughout the world in conserving the integrity and diversity of nature and in ensuring that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) whose goal is to stop, and eventually reverse, the degradation of the planet's natural environment, and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. WWF seeks to achieve this goal through preserving genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity; ensuring that the use of natural resources is sustainable both now and in the long term; and promoting action to reduce pollution and wasteful consumption to a minimum.
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