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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations


Date: 07/21/2010 Description: U.S. Coast Guard vessel engaging in high seas fisheries enforcement. © U.S. Coast Guard

Many fish stocks and other living marine resources move freely though several countries’ waters and the high seas. Countries must cooperate to conduct scientific study and set fisheries rules that will ensure that these resources are conserved and managed sustainably. There are a number of organizations that have been established by treaty to enable this kind of cooperation. The United States is a member of many of these organizations, and the State Department works closely with other U.S. agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, to represent U.S. interests within them.

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) each provide a forum for nations to cooperate to ensure the long-term sustainable management of tuna and tuna-like species. Through each of these commissions, coastal and fishing nations cooperate to establish catch limits, area closures, gear restrictions, and compliance and enforcement mechanisms; combat illegal fishing; minimize impacts on threatened species such as sea turtles, seabirds, and sharks; and oversee a program of scientific research. In addition, through the International Dolphin Conservation Program, the IATTC is also the only international organization dedicated to reducing incidental mortality of dolphins in a tuna purse-seine fishery. The Program’s efforts have resulted in a reduction of dolphin mortality in the eastern Pacific tuna fishery from approximately 100,000 animals in 1989 to less than 1,000 in recent years, well below the target levels.

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) are charged with conservation of salmon and other anadromous stocks in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans respectively. A key part of the NPAFC’s mission is to enforce an agreed prohibition on catching salmon on the high seas through coordinated enforcement. U.S. membership in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) ensures the restoration of the world's largest untapped source of marine protein and aids in protecting future U.S. access to important marine resources in the Antarctic region. CCAMLR has implemented a pioneering ecosystem approach to managing valuable stocks of toothfish, sold in the United States as “Chilean seabass” and has been a leader in developing innovative approaches to combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) allows coastal nations, including the United States, and others who fish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean to coordinate scientific study and promote the conservation and optimum use of the region’s fishery resources. The United States has led efforts within NAFO to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and end destructive fishing practices, as well as adopt the first binding international conservation and management measures for threatened shark stocks.


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