Improving International Fisheries Management by Prioritizing Geopolitical Issues: A Case Study on Atlantic Shortfin Mako Management
Managing internationally-shared fish stocks is incredibly difficult and requires international cooperation. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is the regulatory body responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species in Atlantic and adjacent seas fisheries. Although ICCAT has a strong conservation mandate, the abundances of pelagic species they manage have plummeted under their oversight. Furthermore, a lack of transparency regarding Commission meetings and the geopolitical relationships between Contracting Parties (CPCs) make understanding the ICCAT regime difficult. This research set out to describe and explain how these geopolitical relationships, and other barriers to cooperation, impact ICCAT effectiveness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals from various backgrounds who had past involvement attending ICCAT meetings. Interviews were analyzed to determine how participants perceive what goes on during ICCAT meetings, and analysis determined that not only are geopolitics playing a role in fisheries decision-making, but other factors are as well, especially those not directly related to fisheries. Overall, factors which are unrelated to fisheries management accounted for 62% of references made in relation to ineffective decision-making at ICCAT. Of those, institutional factors, such as ICCAT’s failure to adapt to institutional inertia and the complex diversity of CPC’s, were among issues referred to the most by interview participants as having an impact on effective decision-making. This research explores these factors which are infiltrating fisheries negotiations, using recent management decisions for threatened Atlantic shortfin mako stocks to further consider how factors are operating in real fisheries negotiations. This study also aims to prioritize factors, both related and unrelated to fisheries, that are considered in fisheries negotiations to inform improvements to decision-making in international fisheries fora.