Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability and biodiversity in the ABNJ

New tuna fisheries project poised to ensure all major tuna stocks are fished sustainably by 2027

Launch of ambitious new phase in GEF-funded work on sustainable tuna fisheries and biodiversity conservation in shared marine waters

9 November 2022

Rome – A new phase of the Common Oceans Tuna project launched today is aiming to make sure that all major tuna stocks are fished at sustainable levels by 2027. This ambitious goal is part of its efforts towards more sustainable tuna fishing and biodiversity conservation in the ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

“Tuna fishing is the mainstay of fisheries communities around the globe, providing food and supporting the livelihoods of millions of people”, said Vera Agostini, Deputy Director of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, at the project launch. “The Common Oceans Tuna project will provide the boost needed to achieve sustainable tuna fisheries, and has potential to have huge influence on biodiversity conservation in the ABNJ, in line with the aspirations of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and the upcoming agreement for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction” she added.

From 2014-2019, the Common Oceans Tuna project helped reduce the number of tuna stocks experiencing overfishing from 13 to 5 in collaboration with the world’s five tuna regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and a large number of partners – including intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the private sector.

“We are stepping up efforts so that by 2027 all major tuna stocks are fished at sustainable levels,” said Kim Stobberup, Common Oceans Tuna project manager. He added: “To achieve this, we will advance the use of harvest strategies, stimulate sustainable fishing practices, tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) fishing, and foster biodiversity conservation.”

Kim Stobberup explained that harvest strategies are pre-agreed frameworks for determining catch limits based on clear management objectives and scientific advice on stock status, which will be applied across the tuna RFMOs. He added that sustainable fishing practices will also be promoted with incentives such as better market conditions for sustainably sourced fishery products.  

To tackle IUU-fishing, compliance with fisheries regulations will be made more effective with training in monitoring, control and surveillance, and by improved monitoring using innovative tools like electronic monitoring and traceability systems.

“In addition to improving the science underpinning the sustainable use of resources, electronic monitoring and traceability are instrumental in improving compliance with fisheries regulations on local, national and regional levels”, said Hilario Murua, Senior Scientist from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).

Reducing environmental impacts to protect biodiversity will be realised by promoting good practices in bycatch mitigation techniques and alternative gears, improving the monitoring of bycatches, and advocating for the adoption of ocean-friendly fishing devices based on non-entangling constructions and biodegradable materials.

Members of the broad and unique partnership behind the Project welcomes the new phase. Camille Jean Pierre Manel, Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), expressed his hopes for the continued collaboration: “This partnership is widening our opportunities to work collaboratively at the global level for more effective management of shared marine resources, and I am convinced that the second round will result in tangible results for all ABNJ stakeholders”.

A partnership for sustainability and biodiversity

The Tuna project is part of the Common Oceans Program funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that has galvanised international action in support of sustainable management and biodiversity conservation of the ABNJ.

From 2014-2019, with a USD 50 million grant by the GEF, the Program made tuna fishing more sustainable, and made significant strides in tackling IUU-fishing by developing new tools to improve monitoring of fishing activities, in protecting marine life by reducing bycatch and marine pollution through the use of new fishing gear and techniques, and in safeguarding vulnerable marine ecosystems from negative fishing impacts.

In 2020, the GEF allocated an additional USD 27 million for the Common Oceans Program to ramp up its efforts. Nearly USD 15 million was dedicated to the Tuna project. This figure was complemented by approximately USD 200 million in co-financing.

About the Common Oceans Tuna project

The Common Oceans Tuna project brings together a global partnership dedicated to sustainable tuna fisheries aiming to advance responsible tuna fisheries management and biodiversity conservation in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it works in collaboration with five regional tuna fisheries management organizations, national agencies and intergovernmental organizations and initiatives, the private sector, civil society and academia.​