United Nations Reviews Progress on Fisheries Conservation, Sustainable Management

Governments reflect on more than 20 years of cooperation on Fish Stocks Agreement

Getty Images

For more than 20 years, the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) has governed the “conservation and sustainable use” of shared fish stocks—those that transit international boundaries—by directing countries to cooperate to ensure healthy fish populations. Nations pursue those efforts through regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), which are international bodies empowered to manage shared fish stocks.

RFMOs establish the metrics and measures for management of the fish populations in their regions, according to the provision of the UNFSA and other treaties and decisions from the U.N. and other international organizations. For example, two recent agreements, on fisheries subsidies and conservation of biodiversity in the high seas, have implications for implementation of the UNFSA and the work of RFMOs.

To review progress towards meeting the sustainability goals of the UNFSA, the U.N. periodically convenes a conference in New York, with the most recent meeting held in May 2023. As members consider updates to the treaty text, they should prioritize the inclusion of important modern best practices—particularly a commitment to harvest strategies, electronic monitoring for observing fishing activities and robust compliance mechanisms—as well as a redoubling of efforts to implement precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fishery management.

The research and analyses collected here capture the scope of UNFSA members’ work, progress and performance over the past two decades in ensuring the sustainable use of fishery resources.

rope pile
rope pile
Issue Brief

Governments Progress on UN Fish Stocks Agreement

Quick View
Issue Brief

The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) has governed worldwide “long-term conservation and sustainable use” of shared fish stocks—those that bridge the legal boundaries separating the waters of nations, mainly tunas and sharks—since 2001. Yet more than 20 years on, a new analysis from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that, despite some notable progress, countries still are not meeting important legal obligations under the agreement, even as advances in scientific knowledge present critical opportunities to update UNFSA’s decades- old provisions.

School of yellowfin tuna, Revillagigedo Archipelago, Tamaulipas, Mexico
School of yellowfin tuna, Revillagigedo Archipelago, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Harvest Strategies Toolkit

Quick View

Harvest strategies are an approach to fisheries management under which managers and stakeholders agree in advance to adjust catch limits and other measures based on size of the fish population.

fishing boat at sunrise
fishing boat at sunrise

Electronic Monitoring Programs for Global Fisheries

Quick View

Electronic Monitoring Programs for Global Fisheries

Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) are responsible for overseeing commercial fishing in more than 95% of the world’s ocean.

Striped marlin hunting sardines, Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Striped marlin hunting sardines, Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

International Fisheries Need Oversight to Ensure Compliance

Quick View

The vast ocean waters beyond national boundaries are home to some of the world’s most economically, ecologically and culturally significant fish species, from tunas and sharks to marlins and swordfish.

Additional Resources

National Homeownership Month

Article

37 Researchers Working to Transform Biomedical Science

Quick View
Article

Biomedical researchers are on the front lines of scientific innovation. From responding to global pandemics to pioneering lifesaving cancer treatments, these researchers push past scientific boundaries to solve pressing health challenges. For nearly 40 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has supported more than 1,000 early-career biomedical scientists committed to this discovery.

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.