Rights and obligations: regional fisheries organizations and cooperation among States to manage tuna fisheries Public Deposited

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  • Custom, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS), provide the right of all states to exploit stocks of tuna on the high seas, where roughly half of world tuna catches are taken. The UNCLOS also provides that states have the obligation to cooperate to conserve the stocks. This cooperation is carried out mostly through regional fisheries organizations (RFOs) concerned with tuna; in order of their establishment, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. A convention that establishes the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean has been adopted, and when it comes into force will complete global coverage of RFOs for tuna fisheries. Initially the management measures of these organizations were simply agreements among their members to conserve stocks through restraints upon their own fisheries. However, the open access provided by international law and confirmed by UNCLOS to fisheries on the high seas means that conservation can be assured only if the fishing activities of non-members, as well as those of members, is addressed. Recognizing this, the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, (UN Fish Stocks Agreement) requires that States cooperate in the conservation and management of the relevant stocks whether or not they belong to these regional organizations. Independently of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the tuna commissions have sought the cooperation of non-members directly. Generally, their resolutions call upon non-members to comply with their measures. Increasingly, measures of these commissions, and associated measures taken by their members, effectively assert that non-members must comply with the conservation programs. If this approach is accepted more generally, a framework will develop for providing the details as to how the freedom to fish for tunas in all seas will be conditioned by the management measures of the appropriate RFOs, ultimately including rules regarding access to the fisheries on a region-wide basis. Such a framework will achieve legitimacy only if it provides fair and reasonable rules for participation by all States.
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  • Allen, Robin. 2002. Rights and obligations: regional fisheries organizations and cooperation among States to manage tuna fisheries. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, August 19-22, 2002, Wellington, New Zealand: Fisheries in the Global Economy. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2002. CD ROM.
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