International Governance of Fisheries Ecosystems: Learning from the Past, Finding Solutions for the Future

Chapter 11: Regional Governance of Pacific Tuna Fisheries

Shauna Oh, Gary Sakagawa, and William W. Taylor

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569995.ch11

The Pacific Ocean supports valuable commercial fisheries for tuna. The tuna fishery in the Pacific mainly targets populations of five tuna species: albacore Thunnus alalunga, bigeye T. obesus, Pacific bluefin T. orientalis, yellowfin T. albacares and skipjack Katsuwonus pelamis tuna. The world demand and catch for these five species, commonly referred to as principal market species, have increased steadily over the last fifty years and as of 2004, the annual world catch was over 4 million metric tons (WCPFC 2005). The principal market species of tunas are among the most important fish commodities in the world and are traded extensively in the global market for canning and sashimi. In terms of world catch, the Pacific Ocean has been predominant and with the exception of bluefin tuna, the Pacific Ocean also produces the greatest quantities of each of the principal market species. There are three species of bluefin tuna species in the world oceans with two in the Pacific, but for this paper only Pacific bluefin tuna T. orientalis will be discussed.

The trend for the growing worldwide demand and harvest of tuna is expected to continue and will result in diminished catches if the fisheries are not properly managed. In the Pacific Ocean, there are two regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) that directly establish management measures for tuna resources: The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). To govern the valuable fisheries of the Pacific Ocean, these two tuna RFMOs have been created and operate with the objective to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in their respective regions of the Pacific Ocean in accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, commonly known as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.