International Governance of Fisheries Ecosystems: Learning from the Past, Finding Solutions for the Future
Chapter 12: Using CITES to Regulate Marine Fish Products: The Case of Queen Conch
Katherine L. Smith, Nancy Daves, and Robin Mahon
Trade in fisheries products is increasingly international in scope. In 2006, international trade in fish products reached a record high of USD $71 billion (FAO 2006a). This trade has had many beneficial effects. For example, low income countries earned over USD $14 billion from exports of fisheries products in 2006 (FAO 2006a). Increased international demand for fisheries products, however, may also increase fishing pressure, stock declines, and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing (Traffic 2000). Trade, being a truly global issue, requires international cooperation to ensure that it is not detrimental to world fisheries.
Trade measures to promote fair, legal, and sustainable fishing practices are increasingly discussed in international fora such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Fisheries Working Group and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) Sub-Committee on Fish Trade. Many of these initiatives, however, are nonbinding and lack authority for the enforcement of specific provisions or agreements. Furthermore, many states are not parties to these organizations and many that are do not have adequate resources to implement trade provisions (Traffic 2000).
Some regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) now provide for trade restrictive measures to address fishing which diminishes the effectiveness of conservation measures, including those against IUU fishing. Although RFMOs have the authority to implement binding provisions, their mandates generally cover only the most valuable species such as tunas rather than all commercially exploited aquatic species. As a result, regional governance structures often lack the authority, scope, and/or political will to effectively address threats from unsustainable or illegal international trade in fish or fisheries products (FAO 2004a; Traffic 2000).