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.