Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs

Sustainable Fisheries Governance and Trade

A series of projects explore specific issues related to sustainable fisheries governance and trade.

Fish stocks and fishing communities face unprecedented threats and challenges to their sustainability and existence. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) estimates that 80% of fisheries are significantly depleted, overexploited or fully exploited. Overcapacities of the world's fishing fleets, unsustainable fishing practices and weak management systems have been some of the key drivers of this trend.

At the same time, demand continues to rise and fish products are now one of the most widely traded commodities in the world. Unless fisheries governance mechanisms are strengthened, further trade expansion can be expected to exacerbate pressures on already declining fisheries resources.

Projects

Preventing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a serious global problem and one of the main impediments to the achievement of sustainable world fisheries. Worth between $10bn and $23.5bn per year, IUU fishing represents a major loss of revenue, particularly to some of the poorest countries in the world where dependency on fisheries for food, livelihoods and revenues is high.

IUU fishing respects neither national boundaries nor international attempts to manage high seas resources. It thrives where governance is weak and where countries fail to meet their international responsibilities. It puts unsustainable pressure on fish stocks, marine wildlife and habitats, subverts labour standards and distorts markets.

With the support of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this project provides a central information point on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by convening workshops, discussion meetings, as well as publishing workshop reports and policy briefs. At present, the IUU fishing project has two major outputs:

  • Illegal Fishing website
    As part of the IUU fishing project, the Programme set up and maintains a dedicated website www.illegal-fishing.info to provide background information on the key issues in the illegal fishing debate, together with news stories, information on events, key documents and links to other relevant websites.
  • International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Series
    Since 2006, the international forum on IUU fishing have brought together leading experts and policy makers working on issues related to illegal fishing to discuss the latest initiatives, regulations and research in fisheries governance and trade in illegal fish products. Details on the 2009 meeting

Partnership for African Fisheries

Fish are one of the most important natural resources and source of food, nutrition and livelihood for over 100 million Africans. While national and regional focus on fisheries development has improved since the development of the NEPAD Action Plan for the Development of African Fisheries & Aquaculture in 2005, many African counties still struggle to put in place sound strategies for managing their resources sustainably. As a result, the benefits that could be gained from the continent's fisheries are neither reaching their potential nor are they being safeguarded for future generations.

The Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF) was formed in 2009 to facilitate policy and governance reform in African fisheries. The PAF - a programme of the New Partnership for Africa's Development - brings together strategic and financial partners from within and outside Africa, committed to working together to realise a common vision where fish contribute significantly to African prosperity and growth. EEDP supports the Partnership by advising on the establishment of a 'think-tank' process of knowledge exchange, networking and policy debate between African states and international partners to help achieve this vision.

For more information, please visit the Partnership for African Fisheries website.


Strengthening Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

One of the great innovations of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement of 1995 was to place regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) at the heart of international fisheries management. It was hoped that a multilateral set of rules which created a stronger legal basis for RFMOs to manage the stocks in their jurisdictions, even vis-à-vis non-member countries, would rescue the bulk of the world's fisheries from the tragedy of the commons.

However, the reality has been different: high seas fisheries have continued to decline. As the FAO concluded in 2006, strengthening RFMOs in order to conserve and manage fish stocks more effectively remains the major challenge facing international fisheries governance.

The EEDP convened an independent expert panel to contribute a response to this challenge. The panel produced a series of technical studies, briefing papers and a final report to develop a model for improved governance by RFMOs.


Events

More information on the Illegal Fishing website events page

Publications

Combating Illegal Fishing in the EU: Interaction with WTO Rules
Briefing Paper
Heike Baumuller, January 2010

Keeping Illegal Fish and Timber off the Market: A Comparison of EU Regulations
Briefing Paper
Heike Baumuller, Duncan Brack and Katharina Umpfenbach, October 2009

Europe Controls Illegal Fishing: Caught with the Catch
The World Today article
Heike Baumuller, October 2009

Recommended Best Practices for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations
Chatham House Report
Michael W Lodge, David Anderson, Terje Løbach, Gordon Munro, Keith Sainsbury, Anna Willock, August 2007

Recommended Best Practices for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Technical Study No. 1: Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Progress in Adopting the Precautionary Approach and Ecosystem-Based Management
Marjorie L Mooney-Seus and Andrew A Rosenberg, October 2007

Recommended Best Practices for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Technical Study No. 2: Practice of RFMOs Regarding Non-members
Daniel Owen, October 2007

Recommended Best Practices for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Technical Study No. 3: The Relevance of Bioeconomic Modelling to RFMO Resources: A Survey of the Literature
Trond Bjørndal and Sarah Martin, October 2007

Best Practices for High Seas Fisheries Management: Lessons Learned
Briefing Paper
Marjorie L Mooney-Seus and Andrew A Rosenberg, May 2007

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations through Trade and Market Measures
Briefing Paper
Richard Tarasofsky, May 2007

Managing International Fisheries: Improving Fisheries Governance by Strengthening Regional Fisheries Management Organizations
Briefing Paper
Michael Lodge, March 2007

Contact

Heike Baumuller, Senior Research Fellow, EEDP

Moore Wilson Digital Agency London