Strengthening policies

Long-lasting improvements to fisheries management need to be underpinned by clear policy changes.
WWF advocates with, and helps to inform decision makers so that they can take sound policy decisions and adopt practices that help reduce overfishing, illegal fishing and bycatch practices.  We interact with: 
  • national and international governments
  • regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs)
  • international fora
Our underlying principle for sustainable fishing is ecosystem-based management (EBM), aiming for sustainable exploitation of natural resources by balancing the social and economic needs of human communities with the maintenance of healthy ecosystems.

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Quentin BATES
Keeping it legal, keeping it sustainable - a fisheries inspector checks mesh size on an Arctic trawler's nets
© WWF-Canon / Quentin BATES

National and international governments

Many decisions affecting our oceans, seas and markets are made by governments, either individually or as signatories to multilateral bodies.

To ensure we are creating truly future-focused and transformational changes which will benefit the marine ecosystem, WWF seeks to work with governments and multi-lateral bodies to advocate for specific decisions, policy commitments or legislations that will achieve its conservation goals and protect the environment.

WWF will always work to create solutions to the environmental problems we face, and we pride ourselves on basing these solutions on the best possible scientific advice.

Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs)

WWF is present in 11 RFMOs around the world, helping to provide scientific data and advocate for effective governance that will lead to more sustainable fishing, ensuring long-term healthy stocks.  

Other work focuses on assessing existing management tools to get a clear picture of how RFMOs can more effectively fulfill their mandate and better contribute to obtain sustainable fisheries.

Some examples of WWF´s latest efforts with RFMOs:
  • For over many years, WWF has worked hard to influence the management, trade and consumption patterns of the Eastern, Atlantic and Mediterranean Bluefin tuna in order to move towards a sustainable approach and to allow the species to avert collapse and fully recover. This year seems to be a turning point in the story of Bluefin tuna. The assessment of the stocks by scientists detected for the first time in the last decade signals of a population increase. In addition, at the last International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) meeting, decision-makers committed to  follow scientific advice, a first step towards sustainable management of the Bluefin tuna.  
  • WWF documented bycatch and illegal fishing in fisheries under control of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). NAFO subsequently committed to key measures identified by WWF to address this.
  • WWF is working with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to improve the management of tuna fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, reduce bycatch and move towards sustainable fishing practices through, for example, certifying fisheries. WWF advocates for  management measures that take into account the marine ecosystem and apply a more precautionary approach to control tuna stocks in the absence of scientific evidence about their status.
  • After years of lagging behind, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has started to endorse the precautionary approach for Indian Ocean tuna management and agreed to apply some basic sustainable management measures for turtle and seabird protection. It also adopted first steps to better manage Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs), free or anchored floating objects around which fish congregate. 
  • At the annual meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in December 2012, WWF and a large group of responsible buyers, harvesters, processors, and traders, made a strong pledge to the WCFPC Commission to support well-planned tuna fishery improvement and conservation initiatives to sustain livelihoods, minimise environmental impacts and supply the world with responsibly-managed tuna through certification according to the MSC standards.

What are RFMOs?

RFMOs bring fishing nations together to manage and monitor fish stocks in a specific region of international waters (the High Seas).

They generally have the authority to close areas to fisheries to safeguard fish spawning or aggregation sites, and could also potentially establish protected areas for vulnerable habitats and fish stocks.

However, this powerful tool to manage fisheries on the High Seas has generally not been exercised and many fish populations are still in decline.
Different RFMOs in which WWF is present
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
  • Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT)
  • General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
  • Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
  • Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
  • International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT)
  • North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)
  • North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO)
  • North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
  • North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission (NPAFC)
  • Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

International fora

We also strategically work within relevant international fora on Treaties, Conventions, and high-level conferences to make sure that sustainable fishing is included and that agreements are effectively implemented.

Such fora include the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), UN Fish Stocks Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN General Assembly, UN Informal Consultative Process on the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS),  the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) and OSPAR Convention.

Within UNICOPLOS, WWF helped build support for a review of the Fish Stocks Agreement as well as for a proposal for a moratorium on bottom trawling in areas and fisheries not covered by a competent regional fisheries management organization.

WWF also advocated with the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, to protect the high seas that are home to a wealth of marine wildlife.  In 2010, the North-East Atlantic Ministerial Meeting held in Bergen, Norway, agreed to establish the first high seas protected areas in the Atlantic which was recognised as a "Gift to the Earth" by WWF. Following two more years of international negotiations, OSPAR increased the high seas area protected from 290,000 to 470,000km² including the Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas area on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores, at a size of 180,000km², a marine site of exceptional ecological value. 

Last year at Rio+20, the UN conference on sustainable development, WWF joined over 80 countries, civil society groups, private companies and international organisations in declaring support for the new "Global Partnership for Oceans", a joint commitment to restore the world´s oceans. The partnership will provide political support and funding for long-term investment in sustainable and healthy oceans to ensure a better future for those who depend on marine resources for their livelihood and food security. 

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