Endangered species

Failures in global fisheries management revealed by new report

A recently published Greenpeace International report reveals "shocking failures" in global fisheries management over the last 70 years.

Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Jordan Robins and Nicolas Job via Ocean Image Bank

The report, titled Un-tangled: How the Global Ocean Treaty can help repair high seas mismanagement, details how Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have failed to manage global overfishing since their emergence, resulting in 35.4% of all assessed fish stocks now being severely overfished. RFMOs are composed of nation states, and exist to sustainably manage fishing and its impact in international waters.

The report also sets out how the Global Ocean Treaty, adopted in June 2023, can address the current ocean crisis with tools that go beyond the narrow sectoral approach, and work with RFMOs to remedy this broken status quo. 

Reshima Sharma, Political Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:“We are optimistic that protecting our blue planet is possible with the help of the Global Ocean Treaty. This historic agreement was years in the making, years in which our global fisheries have been decimated, jeopardising ocean health and food security for millions.

“Before the end of this year, the incoming government needs to sign the treaty into UK law to kickstart ocean protection on a global scale and fix the broken system. The new government could immediately cement the UK’s position as a global leader on ocean protection and help protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean before the end of this decade.”

Laura Meller of Greenpeace’s global Protect the Oceans campaign said: “Science and the safeguarding of thriving fish populations for all future generations should be the compass guiding governments’ choices. Instead, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have overseen industrial plundering of the oceans at a scale beyond anything seen before in human history.

“This broken system has prioritised extraction for a few wealthy countries over protection for us all. Governments must prize biodiversity protection over extraction and ratify the Global Ocean Treaty so, in future, protection and justice are at the heart of ocean governance.”

The report explains why RFMOs have not delivered on their mandate to preserve marine biodiversity. At the core of this is abuse of consensus decision making that allows single countries to block vital measures, corporate influence which creates substantial conflicts of interests, and RFMOs’ continued failure to follow scientific advice.

Since RFMOs emerged 70 years ago, ocean health has relentlessly declined, as they have failed to prevent overfishing, the decimation of sensitive species and the destruction of vulnerable marine ecosystems. The report also presents cases of weaponising doubt in the scientific process, often resulting in decisions that allow continued overexploitation and hinder measures to protect the environment.

Meller added: “Behind closed doors, corporate capture of RFMOs has left them powerless and counterproductive. On their watch the oceans have been plunged deep into crisis and the broken status quo must change before it’s too late. The Global Ocean Treaty provides hope. If it’s ratified in 2025, it will enable us to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030, giving marine life a chance to recover from decades of mismanagement by RFMOs.”

Greenpeace is now calling on the UK government to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty by the end of the year, and to support other states across the world to do the same. Greenpeace is also calling for the UK government to work with other countries to develop a proposal for a high seas ocean sanctuary within the Sargasso Sea, the uniquely biodiverse part of the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda.

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Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Jordan Robins and Nicolas Job via Ocean Image Bank

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