Mapping the Institutional Architecture of Global Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Governance

Arnau S, Kristensen K, Widerberg O, Pattberg P (2017) Mapping the Institutional Architecture of Global Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Governance. IVM Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

Our oceans face multiple challenges, from plastic pollution to acidification due to climate change. High levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including low and declining catch rates, environmental impacts, and poor economic returns (Garcia & Doulman, 2005) make sustainable fishing a key challenge for ocean governance. The FAO’s “The state of world marine fisheries and aquaculture” (2016) report suggests that the share of fish stocks kept within biologically sustainable levels has decreased from 90% in 1974 to 68.6% in 2013. Governing fisheries effectively is thus becoming increasingly urgent to maintain healthy ecosystems whilst continuing to derive the social and economic benefits from fisheries (Pita, Chuenpagdee, & Pierce, 2012).

This report maps the institutional architecture of global marine fisheries and aquaculture governance. Global aquaculture governance institutions are included due the increasing relevance of aquaculture for fish consumption. Aquatic food production has transitioned from being primarily based on capture of wild fish to the cultivation of increasing numbers of farmed species. In 2014, the aquaculture sector’s contribution to the supply of fish for human consumption overtook that of wild-caught fish for the first time (FAO, 2016). However, the growth of aquaculture activities, driven by increasing consumer demand, further intensifies the destruction of coastal zones, mangroves and wetlands by impairing their function as natural spawning grounds and nurseries for marine species (Kalfagianni & Pattberg, 2013).

At the international level, marine fisheries and aquaculture are primarily governed by Regional Fisheries Agreements (Mediterranean Sea, North Pacific Ocean, etc.) and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Key institutions include the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (establishing the Exclusive Economic Zones, EEZ), the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries1. In addition, transnational institutions initiated by private and public actors are proliferating, such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s labelling scheme. International and transnational institutions are creating an increasingly dense governance architecture, aiming to govern global fisheries and aquaculture.

Our mapping of the global marine fisheries and aquaculture governance architecture operationalizes a framework originally proposed by Abbott and Snidal (2009a), intended to visualize the transnational climate change governance architecture, which we in turn complement with Keohane and Victor (2011) notion of the international regime complex. Since no central data repository exists for marine fisheries and aquaculture institutions, data collection relies largely on desk research surveying academic literature and reports (e.g. Kalfagianni and Pattberg, 2013), fisheries related websites, as well as some online data collections, including the International Environmental Agreements (IEA) Database Project.

The report consists of four sections aside from this introduction: First, an overview of concepts and definitions necessary to understand the methodology employed. Second, we explain in detail our mapping the global marine fisheries and aquaculture governance architecture. Third, we present our results and analysis, and finally we summarize and elaborate on future work.