There are five RFMOs worldwide that oversee tuna fisheries management in their respective ocean regions.
Beginning in the 1980s, several nations (Australia, Japan and New Zealand) began to apply strict quotas to their fishing fleets to address the need to conserve and manage bluefin tuna stocks in the Southern Pacific. In 1994, this voluntary group was formalized, creating the CCBST. Since CCBST’s inception, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, the Fishing Entity of Taiwan, Philippines, South Africa and the EU joined the RFMO as members or cooperating non-members.
The CCSBT is responsible for setting fishing quotas for the Southern Pacific’s bluefin tuna stock, both in terms of total allowable catch and its allocation among the member states. In this role, the CCSBT is responsible for:
The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) is the oldest of the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), created in 1949 by a convention between the United States and Costa Rica. In 1966, the IATTC initiated the world’s first tuna fishery management program, which limited the annual catch of yellowfin tuna.
The IATTC collects catch data on fish sizes, quantities and location of catch, as well as biological information on age, growth and reproduction. The IATTC’s staff uses this data to formulate models that estimate the impacts of fishing on the stock. As needed, the IATTC director formulates conservation recommendations to present to members for consideration. Members can accept the recommendations in full or with modifications, or reject them. Unanimous consent is required for approval.
Implementation is the responsibility of each member government; the IATTC is responsible for monitoring compliance.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), established in 1966, is open to any government that is a member of the United Nations or any specialized agency of the United Nations. Each member government can be represented by up to three commissioners.
The Commission is responsible for making scientifically based recommendations designed to maintain the populations of tunas and tuna-like species at levels of abundance that will permit maximum sustainable yields.
Each year, ICCAT meets to receive scientific advice from its Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS), which it uses to formulate management recommendations. SCRS first presents a report of stock status along with options for achieving certain goals. The appropriate panel may then make a recommendation to ICCAT for consideration. ICCAT can accept, reject or modify the recommendation. Management decisions are binding on the members, unless they object.
Unlike other tuna RFMOs, the IOTC was created within the framework of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) Constitution. However, the Commission is fully autonomous, both functionally and financially, with the budget supported entirely by member contributions.
IOTC responsibilities include:
Members elect an executive secretary, who is responsible for the operation of the Secretariat. The Secretariat acts as technical facilitator of the IOTC process. Most scientific work is conducted by national scientists and reviewed by the IOTC Science Committee, which formulates advice and proposes conservation and management measures. The full commission must agree by at least a two-thirds majority.
In 1979, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was established to collectively negotiate and harmonize Pacific island states’ control over tuna species within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones created by the United Nation’s Convention of the Law of the Sea.
The WCPFC has clear legal authority to deal with all aspects of conservation and management of fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean. The WCPFC conducts scientific studies through its Scientific Committee (SC) and a Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC). Scientists of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Oceanic Fisheries Program (OFP) are responsible for leading much of the scientific research utilized by the committees. The Scientific Committee is also required to work closely with the IATTC, particularly in areas of overlap, as well as with the International Scientific Committee (ISC).
Because of differences over how tunas should be managed in the northern portion of WCPFC’s jurisdiction, a Northern Committee was established to deal with management and conservation issues north of the 20° N.
Every year, ISSF produces Position Statements for RFMOs in advance of their policy-making meetings — outlining our recommended topics for discussion and priority actions for sustainable fisheries.
As part of our policy and advocacy work, ISSF evaluates tuna RFMOs’ progress in implementing best-practice recommendations. Our “RFMO Best Practices Snapshots” (PDFs) cover compliance processes, IUU vessel listing, transshipment, and other fisheries management topics.
Several ISSF conservation measures were established specifically to support RFMOs and their regional tuna fleets in following best practices — specifically in vessel registration, listing, and authorization.
Read a feature article in our 2021 Annual Report by ISSF Senior Scientist Dr. Hilario Murua.
In our infographics library, you’ll find original ISSF graphics on key RFMO topics — including comparisons of the tuna RFMOs’ progress on implementing ISSF sustainable-fishing recommendations.
Four tuna RFMOs already require the fleets in their regions that fish with FADs to use only non-entangling FAD designs. Some RFMOs additionally encourage fleets to use biodegradable materials in FADs.
ISSF’s Guide to Non-Entangling & Biodegradable FADs is a resource for RFMOs and fishers transitioning to more sustainable FAD designs.