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Dealing with Mediterranean bluefin tuna: A study in international environmental management

June 27, 2014

Bluefin tuna management is a high profile conservation issue, generating significant public interest. The species is in decline due to overfishing, with the Mediterranean population of particular concern. Japanese demand for bluefin tuna is driving overexploitation and there are no indications that this will diminish in the foreseeable future. The system of allocating catch quotas to fishing parties under the International Convention on Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has been ineffective in the past. This paper argues that other avenues of international law, including via the World Trade Organisation, are unable to provide suitable alternative remedies. However, the interaction and political leveraging effect of these multilateral instruments has now established an enabling environment for an effective management regime, with a revitalised ICCAT now universally recognised as the most appropriate forum to address the threats to bluefin tuna. It is advised that ICCAT parties continue to work collaboratively, as has begun in recent years. The body should seek to maintain not only a scientifically derived sustainable fishing quota but also to address high levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which threaten to undermine progress in restricting quota allocations. This could be supported by inclusion of a formal dispute resolution mechanism with the Convention or by developing linkages to related UNCLOS articles. However, ultimately, this complex issue is probably best dealt within the international body most well positioned to convene a consensus amongst stakeholders, namely ICCAT.

Heffernan JP, 2014: Dealing with Mediterranean bluefin tuna: A study in international environmental management, Marine Policy, 50, 80-88, doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.05.014. Article (subscription required).

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