© Andy Cornish

Regional fisheries management organisations

Long-lasting improvements to fisheries management need to be underpinned by clear policy changes.
WWF is working to transform regional fisheries so that they can take sound policy decisions and adopt practices that help reduce overfishing, illegal fishing and bycatch practices. We are present in 11 Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) around the world, helping to provide scientific data and advocate for effective governance that will lead to sustainable fishing and healthy fish stocks.

Ineffective management

One of the biggest problems of tuna overfishing is ineffective management.Despite the existence of numerous RFMO´s none of them regulates tuna fisheries in a sustainable way. In addition, too many boats chasing too few fish affects all RFMO´s managed tuna fisheries, resulting in the “race to fish” behaviour, undermining efforts to improve management and driving excessive fishing effort.

Examples of WWF´s efforts with RFMOs are: 
  • Influence management, trade and consumption patterns of the Pacific and Atlantic Bluefin tuna to avert collapse and allow them to fully recover. 
  • Improve the management of tuna fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean to reduce bycatch and move towards sustainable fishing practices through, for example, certifying fisheries.  
  • Together with a large group of responsible buyers, harvesters, processors and traders, WWF made a strong pledge to the WCFPC Commission for well-planned tuna fishery improvements and conservation initiatives in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

Some key conservation measures taken by important tuna RFMOs since 2011 include: 
What are RFMOs?

RFMOs bring fishing nations together to manage and monitor fish stocks and the management of fishing in specific regions of the ocean. 

However, this powerful tool to manage fisheries has generally not been exercised and many fish populations are still in decline.

Tuna Workshop, Sri Lanka

Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)

The IOTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources. 

IOTC member states recently agreed on the adoption of important measures for the management of tuna and other vulnerable species such as whitetip sharks: they are not to be retained and will need to be released unharmed if possible, whilst purse seiners can no longer set around whale sharks and cetaceans. 

The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is a pelagic shark and can be found in tropical and warm waters around the world. The oceanic whitetip shark is often accompanied by pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) who feed on the shark's leftovers. WWF lists pelagic sharks as a priority species. Kona Coast, Hawaii, Central Pacific Ocean

© naturepl.com/Doug Perrine / WWF

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. One positive outcome of the annual 2014 meeting was the approval of mandatory IMO (International Maritime Organisation) numbers for all purse seiners and long liners greater than 20 m in length operating in the Convention area to monitor and control existing fishing capacity.

Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) schooling, Mexico.

© naturepl.com / Visuals Unlimited / WWF

Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

The WCPFC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

Important measures were recently taken to protect shark species and
 implement Unique Vessel Identifiers (UVIs) in the Western Central Pacific Ocean which represents a substantial step towards addressing the many problems of illegal fishing in the region.
A dead Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) on a longline hook, Indian Ocean, South of Java and Bali.

© Jürgen Freund / WWF

What is WWF doing?

WWF works with other NGO´s as well as the fishing, processing and retailing sector to transform tuna fishing into a sustainable business. We also advocate with governments and regional fisheries organisations (RFMOs) for better governance and more efficient tuna management, which includes stricter legal measures and management plans to help recover almost depleted stocks such as the blufin tuna.

WWF´s approach to ensure a sustainable future for tuna include, amongst others:

  • inciting governments and RFMOs to manage stocks effectively;
  • where stocks are already depleted (such as the bluefin tuna) reduce fishing efforts and urge for robust and efficient recovery plans;
  •  combatting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; 
  • creating incentives with fishermen to opt for sustainable fishing paractices that help reduce harmful bycatch; 
  • promoting sustainable certification of tuna fisheries according to standards of the Marine Stewardship Council. 


Engaging with partners

In 2009, WWF - together with eight of the largest globl canned tuna processors, scientists and other NGO´s - created the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF). The ISSF´s goal is to undertake research and initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting a healthy marine ecosystem. Today, 25 worldwide tuna companies are participating in the ISSF. Since its establishment the ISSF has made some significant progress in undertaking science-based tuna initiatives and reducing bycatch (download the annual ISSF report 2013) 

WWF is represented in the ISSF via its Board of Directors and actively participates in specific committees.