GLAND, Switzerland -- Around the world, governments are failing to prevent over-fishing on the high seas. Many are ignoring scientific advice and increasing catches rather than enforcing wise management, reveals a new report from WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) are the main mechanism developed by States to regulate fishing on the high seas – areas beyond national laws. But many fish stocks have collapsed or are on the brink of commercial extinction despite efforts within some RFMOs.
In the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, some dissatisfied members have ignored quotas and unilaterally set their own, while within the RFMO responsible for Southern Bluefin tuna, some countries regularly exceed their quotas. Alarmingly, several States are still not joining up to RFMOs and are undermining the efforts of responsible countries.
"RFMOs are an established and critical mechanism for combating over-fishing," said Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme. "RFMOs must immediately implement their conservation and management measures if they’re to prevent empty oceans, empty plates and lost livelihoods in the future."
The new report, Follow the Leader: Learning from experience and best practice in regional fisheries management organizations, illustrates both effective and ineffective practices while also outlining how RFMOs can work smarter and better.
Over the last decade the management of high seas stocks has been challenged by the expansion of bottom-trawling into deep water to target new stocks. With most RFMOs slow to adopt management measures for these fisheries, many deep sea populations, such as orange roughy, have collapsed.
"Although past performance of most RFMOs has been poor, innovative solutions to common problems have been developed by a few organizations resulting in a more sustainable approach," said Anna Willock, TRAFFIC’s Senior Fisheries Advisor and co-author of the report. "What is now urgently needed is for these best practice approaches to be shared, improved upon and more broadly adopted to combat destructive over-fishing on the high seas."
The report is designed to inform discussions in New York next week (May 22–26) when governments meet for the Review Conference on the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement - the legal framework for the management of fish stocks on the high seas.
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