Calls for Transparency in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to Protect Fish Populations – Regional fisheries management organizations set up by the United Nations to measure and conserve fish populations need to be more transparent about their rules and regulations to protect fish species and maintain healthy fish stocks for people who rely on them for their livelihoods, say conservation agencies and fishing industry players. The 50-some regional fisheries management organizations worldwide regulate how companies and countries can fish in waters worldwide in a way that best conserves populations of fish and other ocean species based on scientific evidence. These regulators have been accused of undemocratic practices that favor large, industrial fishers, but now several conservation groups are banding together to renew calls for a culture change.
A coalition of conservationists and market players like Accountability.Fish, the Ocean Foundation, the Global Tuna Alliance, and others have endorsed more open access to fisheries organizations’ proceedings so that more members of the public can participate in conservation efforts. Larger regional fishing management organizations and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the RFMO’s parent body, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Uncertain Future of Sustainable Fishing: Concerns for Local Fishers and Environmentalists as Industrial Fleets Deplete Fish Stocks
For local and non-commercial fishers who rely on well-managed fish stocks, it’s unclear if more open measures will make a difference. Concerns among environmentalists and smaller-scale fishers are that large fleets are permitted by fishery organizations to use practices that are only accessible to vessels big enough to go far into the open ocean, depleting fish stocks for those more confined to the coasts or forcing them to travel into choppy, more dangerous waters their smaller boats aren’t fit for.
Many industrial fishing fleets rely on a highly-effective scooping method called purse seining, which makes it difficult to sustain populations. The European Union, a prominent actor in eight regional fisheries management organizations worldwide, including Abdalla’s Indian Ocean, has been accused of using these fish-aggregating devices as well as pressuring coastal states in order to secure privileged access to regional fishery management organizations.
The EU Commission denied the claims, saying the bloc is not suppressing Global South countries or other actors for more favorable access. It also previously said that it would stop using fish-aggregating devices if the science backed up a ban, adding that “it is essential that science is the backbone” of decision-making at regulatory bodies.
How much fish each party can catch is what fishery regulatory bodies need to be more open about, said marine scientist Frederic Manach. “There is absolutely no transparency regarding how quotas are allocated and who gets them,” he said. Ryan Orgera, the global director of Accountability.Fish, said that’s the result of the makeup of regulatory bodies, made up mostly of industrial fishers.
The UN High Seas Treaty: A Step Towards Global Marine Conservation, but Transparency and Inclusion Remain Key to Success
The long-awaited worldwide framework to protect the high seas was finally approved last month. The U.N. high seas treaty will create a new body to manage conservation of ocean life globally and establish marine protected areas in the world’s oceans. But even with the treaty, Orgera said,
“if industrial fishers are given a green light by the fisheries management organizations to overfish for, say five years, the effects on the oceans could become irreversible.”
The hope for conservation groups is that even before the creation of marine protected areas in the oceans, which could take a few years, fishery bodies involve more and varied stakeholders — no matter the size of their fleet — in open discussion and decisions about conserving fish populations. The key to achieving this is transparency.
“No nation on earth benefits from mismanaged oceans, especially developing states,”
said Orgera. He added that more openness can make sure that “societies have access to what happens to our collective resources.”
Calls for Transparency in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to Protect Fish Populations