Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability in the ABNJ

Members and partners of the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project came together for final Steering Committee Meeting

11 October 2019

Rome, Italy, 8-10 July 2019. During the second week of July 2019, partners of the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project came together for the 6th Project Steering Committee meeting. Over 40 participants including partner organizations and other stakeholders with interest in learning more about the Project and potential collaboration in the future, joined the Project Management unit at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Click to enlarge
Meeting participants at FAO Headquarters in Rome © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto 

As the end of the five-year Project is approaching, most of the activities carried out under the Project's three main components have been finalized. Árni Mathiesen, Assistant Director General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department at FAO, welcomed participants and underlined the influence the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project and the Common Oceans ABNJ Program had on the work of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, and expressed support for a potential second phase of the Program.

To get up-to-date on overall achievements and what has happened since last year's meeting, the Project Coordinator Alejandro Anganuzzi provided a summary focused on main outcomes, lessons learned and the overall impact of the Project. Executing partners were also invited to present on completed efforts, or the status of ongoing activities, and share their experiences and expectations for the future.

In his summary, Alejandro Anganuzzi highlighted how the overall achievements of the Project have benefitted from collaborating with a large and diverse group of stakeholders: "By working closely with its partners, and having facilitated cooperation and knowledge-sharing across the five regional tuna fisheries management organizations (tuna RFMOs) and their members, the Project has been able to contribute effectively to the development of efficient and sustainable management practices and biodiversity conservation in tuna fisheries globally".

The continuing presentation clearly illustrated how the collaborative approach has led to positive outcomes under each focus area. In terms of strengthening fisheries management procedures, the Project promoted the adoption of harvest strategies for all major tuna stocks, to improve decision-making processes and achieving full implementation of the precautionary approach across all tuna RFMOs.

"The capacity building workshops organized with the assistance of the Project allowed managers, scientists and other stakeholders to get familiarized with the processes involved, and to understand the need for science-based management procedures required to achieve sustainable tuna fisheries", said Camille Jean Pierre Manel, the co-Chair of the meeting and Executive Secretary of ICCAT.

Click to enlarge
Meeting participants at FAO Headquarters in Rome © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

During the Project's lifetime, new and innovative monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools have been developed and tested and capacities of tuna RFMO member States to better comply with existing regulations were strengthened. In collaboration with the International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Network, the Tuna Compliance Network (TCN) was created for RFMO officials to exchange information and address challenges related to compliance.

"The TCN was established with the aim to facilitate communication and cooperation between officers responsible for compliance in the tuna RFMOs, and so it has. In February this year, tuna compliance officers and the Chairs of the Compliance Committees from all five tuna RFMOs came together with independent experts to tackle compliance assessment procedures at the third workshop of the TCN. This is the first time this has happened!" said Adriana Fabra, Coordinator of the TCN. The meeting participants welcomed the progress and results achieved by the TCN, especially the Secretariats of the tuna RFMOs who expressed interest in continuing their involvement beyond the lifetime of the Project.

The Project also aimed at reduce the ecosystem impacts of tuna fishing operations. A series of activities focused on improving data availability and developing new techniques to assess the status of shark populations to better shark management across the Pacific Ocean. Bycatch mitigation best practices have been identified, and new mitigation techniques tested and promoted to reduce unwanted catches by tuna purse seine and longline vessels for seabirds, marine turtles, sharks and small tunas. Over the last year, several activities were completed, including the finalization of global seabird bycatch assessment to attempt a first-ever estimate of seabird bycatch in pelagic tuna longline fishing in the Southern hemisphere:

Click to enlarge
Camille Jean Pierre Manel, Executive Secretary of ICCAT © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

"This type of data-driven, collaborative effort with seabird scientists, stock assessment scientists and national data owners has never been achieved before." said Ross Wanless, formerly with BirdLife South Africa, now Asia Tuna Manager for Ocean Outcomes. "We brought together the best available information which resulted in the best estimate of seabird bycatch, but now we also have a suite of statistical tools that were developed for this specific assessment that can be shared and used by national scientists to estimate bycatch in the future".  

After having discussed main achievements and lessons learned, conversations were focused on what remains to be done before the end of the Project. Opportunity was also provided to talk about the potential next phase of the Common Oceans ABNJ Program. During this conversation, partners recognized the interest to continue work to consolidate the gains and replicate the positive experiences of these past years under the Project and the Program.

The Steering Committee discussed a timeline for the development of a proposal for a new phase of the Common Oceans ABNJ Program that would allow new innovative approaches to build upon the lessons that had been learned in the first phase. Although a long process lies ahead, the strength of the partnerships forged in these years bodes well for the future.

The Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, with FAO as the implementing agency. This Project harnesses the efforts of a large and diverse array of partners, including the five tuna regional fishery management organizations, governments, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and private sector to achieve responsible, efficient and sustainable tuna production and biodiversity conservation in the areas beyond national jurisdiction.

For more information, please contact:
Global Environment Facility (GEF)