Alarming shortcomings in the management of global fisheries

London, UK Greenpeace International released research today that exposes startling oversight shortcomings in the previous seven decades of global fisheries management. According to the paper Un-tangled: How the Worldwide Ocean Treaty may help fix high seas mismanagement, since their establishment, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have been unable to control worldwide overfishing, which has led to the severe overfishing of 35.4% of all assessed fish stocks. Nation-states established RFMOs to sustainably control fishing and its effects in international waters.

The paper also discusses how RFMOs and the Global Ocean Treaty, ratified in June 2023, might work together to correct this flawed status quo and address the current ocean problem using instruments that go beyond the limited sectoral approach. 

Greenpeace Nordic’s Protect the Oceans Project Leader, Laura Meller, stated: “Governments should make decisions based on science and the preservation of healthy fish populations for all future generations.” Regional fisheries management organizations have supervised the unprecedented industrial plunder of the oceans.

“This flawed system has jeopardized our collective protection for the benefit of a few wealthy countries.” To ensure that protection and justice are at the core of ocean governance in the future, governments must ratify the Global Ocean Treaty and prioritize protecting biodiversity over extraction.

The research shows why RFMOs have not fulfilled their purpose to maintain marine biodiversity. We release it ahead of the international oceans conference “Immersed in Change” (June 7–8), which will explore solutions to ocean governance. The fundamental causes of this include the misuse of consensus decision-making, which allows individual nations to obstruct important initiatives; corporate influence, which results in significant conflicts of interest; and RFMOs’ persistent disregard for scientific advice.

Since the introduction of RFMOs 70 years ago, ocean health has consistently declined due to their inability to prevent overfishing, the extinction of fragile species, or the deterioration of fragile marine ecosystems. 

The paper also provides examples of the weaponization of the scientific method to question findings, which frequently results in decisions that encourage unrestricted overexploitation and obstruct environmental protection initiatives.

“Behind closed doors, corporate capture of RFMOs has left them counterproductive and helpless,” Laura Meller continued. The seas have entered a severe crisis during their watch, and the shattered status quo needs to alter before it’s too late. The Global Ocean Treaty offers hope. If ratified in 2025, it will allow us to save 30% of the seas by 2030, giving marine life a chance to recover from decades of RFMO mismanagement.

In order for the Global Ocean Treaty to become operative at the UN Ocean Conference in June 2025, Greenpeace is pleading with states to approve it immediately. Governments that support the idea must also move forward with the initial Marine Protected Area plans.

Green Time Editorial Body