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Explicit targets and cooperation: regional fisheries management organizations and the sustainable development goals


In 2015, the international community adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a goal-setting governance strategy that aims to achieve sustainable development across social, economic, and ecological areas. SDG 14 (‘life below water’) is directed to the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans and marine resources. Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) are key institutions in managing international fisheries and thus have the potential to play a significant role in realizing the attainment of SDG 14. This paper aims to assess how RFMOs could contribute to SDG 14 by examining their treaty texts and implementation of conservation and management measures or collaborative networks. The results of this paper highlights the contribution of RFMOs to targets such as ending overfishing and indicates the need for further attention towards area protection. The findings of the network assessment show that RFMOs mainly cooperate with other RFMOs or fisheries-related organizations, indicating a lack of cooperation with other maritime organizations. Moreover, the objective of most of these collaborations is sharing of information or data, while actions against problems such as the bycatch of non-target species are missing. Thus, this paper highlights how existing regional organizations have the potential to increase their contribution to SDG 14, by aligning more of their work to this goal. To support this process, we developed a list of considerations and actions.

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Correspondence to Bianca Haas.

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Haas, B., Haward, M., McGee, J. et al. Explicit targets and cooperation: regional fisheries management organizations and the sustainable development goals. Int Environ Agreements 21, 133–145 (2021).

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  • Fisheries management
  • High seas
  • Ocean governance
  • Regional organizations
  • United Nations