International & National Management Schemes

The policy and legal framework set by international and national fisheries management instruments informs the bycatch conservation and management policies of RFMOs. References in this category look at the range of instruments and how they impact on management planning. Many also discuss fisheries management performance.

International agreements such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) are important components of the bycatch management framework within which nations and regional management authorities such as the RFMOs operate. For example, Clarke et al. (2014) outline issues for RFMOs arising from the CITES Appendix II listings of five sharks, and all species of manta rays, implemented in September 2014. Also significant are the FAO International Plans of Action (IPOA) for sharks and seabirds that, though voluntary, recommend National Plans of Action (NPOAs) for these species groups. With regard to sharks, for example, Nations/States are encouraged to adopt and implement an NPOA if their vessels conduct directed fisheries for sharks or if their vessels regularly catch sharks in non-directed fisheries. Developing an NPOA drives collaboration and feedback among stakeholders (and provides for regular review of the plan), contributing to improved conservation and management outcomes.

Examples of international and national management schemes or instruments which form a legal and policy background to marine bycatch management are listed below:


1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).The Code of Conduct calls for the sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems and requires that fishing be conducted with due regard for the environment. It also promotes the maintenance, safeguarding and conservation of biodiversity of ecosystems by minimizing fisheries impacts on non-target species and the ecosystem in general (deBruyn 2013).

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international agreement between governments - States (countries) adhere voluntarily. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention ('joined' CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

CITES has listed ten elasmobranchs on Appendix II and seven on Appendix I. While species listed under Appendix I can normally not be traded internationally (except by special permit for cultured specimen and for scientific purposes), species listed under Appendix II can still be internationally traded but require a certificate that the exported specimens were caught under sustainable conditions, a so-called “Non-Detriment Finding” (NDF). This provides important incentives for shark-exporting nations and RFMOs to develop sustainable management regimes for the listed sharks.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The objectives of this Convention, to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.

Indian Ocean - South-East Asian (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The IOSEA MoU is a non-binding intergovernmental agreement that aims to protect, conserve, and recover sea turtles and their habitats in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia region. The agreement falls under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Article IV, para. 4).

FAO International Plans of Action (IPOA) - Sharks. This voluntary agreement has been elaborated within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as envisaged by Article 2 (d). All concerned States are encouraged to implement it.The objective of the IPOA-SHARKS is to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use. The term “sharks” is taken to include all species of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras (Class Chondrichthyes). The IPOA-SHARKS applies to States in the waters of which sharks are caught by their own or foreign vessels and to States the vessels of which catch sharks on the high seas. See also the Database of measures on conservation and management of sharks.

FAO International Plans of Action - Seabirds. Voluntary agreement as described above for sharks.The IPOA-Seabirds (FAO, 1999b) was developed under the auspices of the Code to specifically address reduction of seabird catches in longline fisheries. In 2009, FAO published “best practice technical guidelines” to expand the remit of the IPOA-Seabirds beyond longline fisheries and to support development of robust NPOA-Seabirds. These guidelines state that “the use of well-trained observers is the most reliable means of monitoring fisheries performance with respect to seabird incidental catch and use of mitigation measures” (FAO, 2009).

IUCN Red list. The goal of the IUCN Red List is to provide information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species in order to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, and the main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of global extinction (i.e. those listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). The IUCN Red List also includes information on taxa that cannot be evaluated because of insufficient information (i.e., are Data Deficient); and on plants, fungi and animals that are either close to meeting the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened were it not for an ongoing taxon-specific conservation programme (i.e., are Near Threatened).

United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). As an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range. As the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes, CMS complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.

Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention. CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them. Besides establishing obligations for each State joining the Convention, CMS promotes concerted action among the Range States of many of these species. Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention. For this reason, the Convention encourages the Range States to conclude global or regional agreements. In this respect, CMS acts as a framework Convention. The agreements may range from legally binding treaties (called Agreements) to less formal instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding, and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions. The development of models tailored according to the conservation needs throughout the migratory range is a unique capacity to CMS.

WCPFC (tuna RFMO) Convention. The objective of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. For this purpose, the Convention establishes a Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The Contracting Parties to the Convention are, ipso facto, members of the Commission.


Australia. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). This is the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation. The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places - defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance. Listed migratory species are one of the matters of national environmental significance.

United States of America. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 2007.The MSFCMA was enacted to promote the U.S. fishing industry's optimal exploitation of coastal fisheries by “consolidating control over territorial waters” and establishing eight regional councils to manage fish stocks. The act has been amended several times in response to continued overfishing of major stocks. The most recent version, authorized in 2007, includes seven purposes:

  1. Acting to conserve fishery resources
  2. Supporting enforcement of international fishing agreements
  3. Promoting fishing in line with conservation principles
  4. Providing for the implementation of fishery management plans (FMPs) which achieve optimal yield
  5. Establishing Regional Fishery Management Councils to steward fishery resources through the preparation, monitoring, and revising of plans which (A) enable stake holders to participate in the administration of fisheries and (B) consider social and economic needs of states.
  6. Developing underutilized fisheries
  7. Protecting essential fish habitats

Additionally, the law calls for reducing bycatch and establishing fishery information monitoring systems.


  1. Clarke, S., Manarangi-Trott, L. and Brouwer, S. 2014. Issues for t-RFMOs in relation to the listing of shark and ray species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). WCPFC-SC11-2015/EB-IP-05. Accessed online at