Strengthening fisheries policy

Long-lasting improvements to fisheries management need to be underpinned by clear changes to fisheries policy.
WWF's Global Marine Programme is working with, and helping to inform, decision makers so that they agree on policies and practices that reduce overfishing and benefit the environment. These decision makers include:
  • governments
  • regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs)
  • international fora.


We are collaborating with proactive governments to drive change on an international scale. Examples of our work include:

  • Advocating for conservation in fisheries policies: We are working to ensure that environmental protection and long-term sustainability are at the heart of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. More...
  • Fighting illegal fishing: We are supporting an international high-level panel working to implement a series of recommendations on how to prevent and eliminate illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing on the High Seas.
  • Monitoring fisheries: With the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre, WWF is evaluating the top 33 fishing nations (with catches of 50,000+ tonnes) for their implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Regional fisheries management organizations

WWF is present in 11 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) around the world. We help provide data and information to these organizations, and advocate for changes that lead to more sustainable fishing. We are also assessing existing management tools to get a clear picture of how RFMOs can more effectively fulfill their mandate and contribute meaningfully to sustainable fisheries.

For example:
  • WWF and  IUCN provided technical information to the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) which led to a 2005 ban on bottom trawling in the Mediterranean Sea at depths below 1000m. This will protect the little known and still intact biodiversity of these depths and contributes to the sustainable management of an important deep-sea shrimp fishery by protecting shrimp nurseries.
  • We documented bycatch and illegal fishing in fisheries under the control of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). NAFO subsequently committed to key measures identified by WWF to address this.
  • We are working with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to introduce a new type of "circle" hook in Pacific Ocean longline fisheries that can reduce marine turtle deaths by as much as 90% without adversely affecting catches of swordfish and tuna.
WWF and Spanish artisanal tuna fishers join in a demonstration asking the International Commission ... / ©: WWF/Carlos G. Vallecillo
WWF and Spanish artisanal tuna fishers join in a demonstration asking the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to take action to save the Mediterranean bluefin tuna from extinction.
© WWF/Carlos G. Vallecillo
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.
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 the relevant international fora on treaties, conventions, and high-level conferences to ensure that sustainable fishing is included and that agreements are 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) and the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

As an example of this work, within UNICOPLOS we 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.

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