Performance of regional fisheries management organizations: ecosystem-based governance of bycatch and discards
A performance assessment was conducted of regional fisheries management organizations’ (RFMOs’) bycatch governance, one element of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Obtaining a mean score of 25%, with a 64% CV, collectively the RFMOs have large governance deficits. Individually, there has been mixed progress, with some RFMOs having made substantial progress for some governance elements. There has been nominal progress in gradually transitioning to ecosystem-based fisheries management: controls largely do not account for broad or multispecies effects of fishing, and cross-sectoral marine spatial planning is limited. Regional observers collect half of minimum information needed to assess the efficacy of bycatch measures. Over two-thirds of RFMO-managed fisheries lack regional observer coverage. International exchange of observers occurs in one-third of programmes. There is no open access to research-grade regional observer data. Ecological risk assessments focus on effects of bycatch removals on vulnerable species groups and effects of fishing on vulnerable benthic marine ecosystems. RFMOs largely do not assess or manage cryptic, generally undetectable sources of fishing mortality. Binding measures address about one-third of bycatch problems. Eighty per cent of measures lack explicit performance standards against which to assess efficacy. Measures are piecemeal, developed without considering potential conflicts across vulnerable groups. RFMOs employ 60% of surveillance methods required to assess compliance. A lack of transparency and limited reporting of inspection effort, identified infractions, enforcement actions and outcomes further limits the ability to assess compliance. Augmented harmonization could help to fill identified deficits.