NAFO Case Study

Publication - 22 July, 2005
This Report focuses on one of the most well established and developed RFMOs in the world: the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO). With its origins in a regional commission that was established in 1949, it has been in existence since 1979 with the mandate “to contribute through consultation and co-operation to the optimum utilization, rational management and conservation of the fishery resources” of the Convention area. Yet despite this, its adoption of a wide range of conservation and management measures, and a well developed institutional structure, NAFO has been unable to achieve its mandate and as of 2005, 10 stocks under NAFO’s competence are currently under moratoria.

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Executive summary: NAFO is plagued by overfishing and misreporting by members because of a disregard for quotas and other regulations and the existence and subsequent frequent use of its objection procedure. It has a decision-making structure that often results in the adoption of lowest common denominator resolutions; no dispute settlement procedure; it is lacking in effective measures to eliminate IUU fishing; an ongoing disregard for and lack of inclusion of scientific advice; catch allocations based more on politics and history than conservation; a lack of transparency in its workings; and, the on-going lack of political will by Contracting Parties to enforce any significant penalties for management and conservation infringements. In Gianni’s 2004 report “High Seas Bottom Fisheries and their Impacts on the Biodiversity of Vulnerable Deep Sea Ecosystems” he estimated that 60% of the world’s high seas bottom trawl landings comes from the Northwest Atlantic – with much of the fishery occurring in the NAFO Convention area.4 This case study examines NAFO’s track record and its poor performance in managing the fisheries under its jurisdiction. It highlights these problems through the stories of three vessels that have fished in the NAFO Area. It then concludes with some clear recommendations as to what is required if NAFO, and other RFMOs are going to measure up to the task of effectively and sustainably managing marine ecosystems in a precautionary manner, rather than Regularly Failing to Manage our Oceans.

Num. pages: 21

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