In this section, we provide a brief history of developments within the five tRFMOs (Fig. 4), considering where each is situated within this allocation process.
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
Established in 1949, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) does not include language around limits and allocation within the original convention (IATTC 1949). However, the Antigua Convention, which replaced the 1949 Convention and entered into force in August 2010, states that the organization could, “where necessary, develop criteria for, and make decisions relating to, the allocation of total allowable catch, or total allowable fishing capacity, including carrying capacity, or the level of fishing effort, taking into account all relevant factors” (IATTC 2003, Article 7(1)l). Following this agreement, IATTC developed a management system for the tropical purse seine fleet, where fishing capacity, stock status, and desired management outcomes are combined to determine open and closed seasons for the fishery. “Capacity” is defined by the volume of fish holds (= storage onboard used for catch) and is combined with an estimated or measured catch rate to determine when purse seining should be open or closed. While neither effort nor catch is directly allocated, capacity is frozen at historic levels, leading to a quasi-allocation of available fishing days based on the carrying capacity of each national fleet and the length of the open and closed seasons (Table 2). Early efforts by IATTC to manage in this way began in 1998, with Resolution C-98-11 on Fleet Capacity, which aimed at limiting capacity in response to declining stocks (IATTC 1998). According to this resolution, a capacity limit was allocated to each state, taking into account “various factors including the catch of national fleets during the period 1985–1998; the amount of catch historically taken within the zones where each state exercises sovereignty or national jurisdiction; the landings of tuna in each nation; the contribution of each state to the IATTC conservation program; including the reduction of dolphin mortality; and other factors” (IATTC 1998). Therefore, while Resolution C-98-11 is not specifically an allocation resolution, it effectively outlines the principles that IATTC has chosen to guide the allocation of withdrawal rights (Table 2; Fig. 2).
Since that time, IATTC purse seine fisheries have continued to be managed using a vessel capacity limit—along with associated temporal and area closures—with special considerations granted for historical use, development aspirations, and coastal states (IATTC 1998, 2018a). However, the fishing effort sinsu stricto is not allocated, as the open and closed seasons generally apply equivalently to all fleets flying all flags, and total purse seine effort continues to rise (IATTC 2018b). Furthermore, allocation processes are unsystematic, temporary, and directly negotiated between the parties (Mfodwo and Noye 2011). With regard to the longline fisheries targeting bigeye, and for all gears targeting Pacific bluefin, IATTC utilizes a TAC and commensurate allocation scheme. This scheme is also directly negotiated between parties and not determined by systematic weights or formulas (Mfodwo and Noye 2011). In 2017, the European Union (EU) submitted a proposal for the Creation of a Working Group on Allocation of Fishing Opportunities for Tropical Tuna Species (IATTC 2017). According to the Proposal, the Working Group would be tasked with (1) guiding the commission in the development of a TAC, and (2) providing recommendations on criteria for quota allocations of that TAC for tropical tuna in the Eastern Pacific (IATTC 2017). However, the proposal did not receive consensus support—likely due to the asymmetrical benefits to some parties within the current system—and the working group has not yet been formed.
In the overall development and implementation of an allocation framework, IATTC has made ample progress since its inception 70 years ago; however, substantial issues remain. As one of the tRFMOs mandated to manage multi-species fisheries, affected by multiple gears, IATTC has a complex approach to bounding and defining the resource to be allocated (Table 2). While setting the purse seine capacity limit, IATTC defined overall principles that should guide the allocation of effort or catch quota (IATTC 1998), including catch histories, contribution to conservation, and adjacency (Table S1; Fig. 2), but allocation of catch or effort is still subject to annual negotiation.
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was established in 1966 and, like IATTC, the original Convention did not include language regarding TACs or allocation of fishing opportunities (ICCAT 1966). The first determination and distribution of a TAC in ICCAT occurred in 1982 for Bluefin tuna stocks, and was directly negotiated based upon “effective monitoring needs, historical catches, and economic factors” (Engler Palma 2010; Mfodwo and Noye 2011). This early allocation mechanism—though controversial—set a precedent within ICCAT toward the establishment and allocation of TACs to manage stocks (Engler Palma 2010). Following this early example, TACs and allocation mechanisms were adopted for North Atlantic Swordfish (1994), Eastern and Mediterranean Bluefin tuna (1998), North Atlantic albacore (2000), South Atlantic swordfish (2002), Bigeye tuna (2011), and South Atlantic albacore (2013) (Engler Palma 2010; ICCAT 2011, 2017). Allocation mechanisms in the early days were most frequently founded on historical catches of flag states, with some exceptions made for development aspirations of coastal states (Engler Palma 2010; Mfodwo and Noye 2011). However, in light of the codification of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and growing dissatisfaction by coastal developing states with the existing allocations based on historical catches, ICCAT established a working group in 1998 to assess more appropriate allocation criteria (ICCAT 2008; Engler Palma 2010). This process led to the adoption of the non-binding Resolution 2001–2025 (adopted 2001, revised 2015), which outlines allocation criteria and the conditions for applying them (ICCAT 2003, 2015b). ICCAT has four overall criteria for allocation: (1) past or present fishing activities, (2) the status of stocks and fisheries, (3) the status of participants (i.e., various needs and requirements), and (4) compliance with ICCAT Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs) and responsibilities around data submission and research (ICCAT 2003; Henriksen and Hoel 2011). Of particular interest is the third, the Criteria Relating to the Status of the Qualifying Participants, which include explicit considerations for equity and distributional justice, particularly along lines of various forms of historical dependence and socio-economic characteristics (Fig. 2). Although this resolution was met with much enthusiasm from coastal developing states, the application of the criteria is the responsibility of various panels applicable to individual stocks, and implementation has been mixed (Mfodwo and Noye 2011; Serdy 2016a).
Currently, ICCAT has arguably the most extensive system of quotas and allocations of any of the tRFMOs (Fig. 2; Table 2), and resources are defined and bounded based on individual stocks. Furthermore, with the Resolution on Criteria for the Allocation of Fishing Possibilities, ICCAT also has one of the most well-defined sets of principles to allocate fish resources. However, despite the existence of dedicated allocation criteria, allocation mechanisms are not systematic, there are no formulae or weights for application, and many of the principles defined by ICCAT are not detectable in allocative outcomes (Engler Palma 2010; Mfodwo and Noye 2011; ICCAT 2016; Serdy 2016a). Therefore, similar to IATTC, ICCAT has covered substantial ground since its early inception in outlining the resources to be allocated and principles to apply; however, the implementation of those principles remains haphazard. In large part, allocations appear to remain closely linked with historical catches, with considerations for developing and coastal states often taking the form of exemptions from the allocation scheme (ICCAT 2017). Without a systematic approach to applying the criteria, ICCAT TAC allocations are strongly influenced by the positionality of national delegates within annual negotiations, and the principles outlined in Resolution 2001–2025 are not formally or reliably integrated into allocation processes (Serdy 2016a).
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT)
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) specifically incorporates language around TAC and allocation within Convention text (Article 8(4)). Initial allocation among the original three members predated the Convention, and was based on self-applied catch limits in the 1980s, arising from concerns about the stock, as catches declined by almost two-thirds. In 1995, CCSBT agreed on conditions to be applied when considering allocation to new entrants, based largely on historical catches and conservation concerns (CCSBT 1995; Serdy 2016a) (Fig. 2). However, as the entrants considered were non-parties already fishing the area (Fishing Entity of Taiwan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, EU), allocating additional quota was intended to represent an increase in official TAC but no actual increase in fish caught (CCSBT 1995). While allocations prior to 2011 were set annually, based on negotiation rather than predefined principles, it is possible to identify some factors that shaped catch limits, including (1) development aspirations and rights of coastal states, (2) technical and economic considerations, (3) contribution to conservation, (4) socio-economic reliance on the fishery, (5) capital investment, 6) historical catch (both by flag and EEZ) (CCSBT 2016).
Since 2011, a management procedure (the Bali Procedure) has been in place, which sets a global TAC for three year periods (CCSBT 2011). The identified TAC is allocated based on the procedures outlined in the Resolution on the Allocation of the Global Total Allowable Catch (adopted 2011, revised 2014 and 2017), which does not clearly outline guiding principles for determining allocations (CCSBT 2017). Current allocations are based strongly on historical catch levels (CCSBT 2016)—subject to political negotiation—and future changes to the TAC will result in relative allocation changes consistent with each member’s or cooperating non-member’s nominal catch percentage (CCSBT 2017). While CCSBT does consider allocation as part of their management procedure, allocation processes are still directly negotiated (Mfodwo and Noye 2011). Negotiated increases to allocations have been primarily based on (1) fleet expansions (e.g., Indonesia) (2) adjustments in catch histories (e.g., South Africa), and (3) consideration of the rights of range (i.e., coastal) states (e.g., South Africa and Indonesia) (CCSBT 2016).
In some ways, CCSBT has the most developed allocation practice of any tRFMO, with quasi-automated allocations occurring triennially based on each state’s nominal catch percentage of the TAC (Table 2). The initial exercise of bounding and defining the resource was likely assisted by CCSBT’s unique situation as the only tRFMO mandated to manage a single stock. Furthermore, its relatively limited membership, catch traceability scheme, and simplicity of fishing methods have undoubtedly played a key role in facilitating the establishment of this allocation framework. However, while CCSBT does define allocation criteria in its convention, these criteria are less developed than other tRFMOs such as ICCAT, and the principles outlined remain highly generalized. Although shaped by the allocation criteria in the convention, the allocation mechanism was not determined by a set of initial principles, but emerged gradually, through complex negotiations and with strong guidance from industry (Pers comm. Glenn Hurry, Head of Australian Delegation to CCSBT 2000–2006; March 12, 2020). To date, CCSBT allocation of southern Bluefin tuna has been almost entirely determined by historical catch levels; however, there are some recent indications that the interests of coastal states and development aspirations are becoming more influential (e.g., increased allocations to South Africa, New Zealand, and Indonesia (Aranda et al. 2010; CCSBT 2014, 2016). While the relative percentage levels outlined in CCSBT create some systematic allocation, these levels are negotiated every 3 years, and are thus more influenced by relative powers of negotiation than the explicit values declared by the tRFMO itself.
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission was established in 2004, and like CCSBT, it includes extensive allocation criteria within its Convention (WCPFC 2004, Article 10(3)a–j) (Figs. 1, 2; Table S1). The issue of allocation was a central component of formative negotiations, revealing a substantial split between the distant water fishing nations (DFWNs), who argued that there should be no differentiation between EEZs and high seas, and Pacific Island states, who strongly asserted that the role of the Commission should be limited to management and allocation of the high seas only (Tarte 2002). As a result, the role of the Commission in allocations is still being negotiated, with the high seas and in-zone (i.e., EEZ) allocation discussions happening separately. No formal allocations have yet been established in WCPFC; however, the Commission has begun a process to allocate limits for high seas fisheries (WCPFC 2017a, 2019), and a complex assemblage of management approaches has emerged, including various forms of limits for fishing in both EEZs and the high seas (Table 2).
The principal CMM that defines these limits is the tropical tuna CMM (adopted 2012, revised regularly up to 2018) (WCPFC 2012, 2018a), which sets out effort and catch restrictions for the two principal fisheries in the WCPFC—the tropical purse seine fishery and the tropical longline fishery. Together, these two fisheries comprise approximately 75% of the tuna catch in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The limits contained within CMM 2018-01 are not considered formal allocations; in fact, it includes explicit instructions that they “do not confer the allocation of rights to any CCM” (WCPFC 2018a). However, they do represent allocative outcomes, in that they define a country’s (or countries’) allowance to withdraw a specified amount of fisheries resources. As such, for the purpose of this article they will be framed as a form of allocation, although it is recognized that they do not represent an allocation of an ongoing right.
In contrast to other tRFMOs, Pacific Island states have consistently asserted in the WCPFC forum their rights to determine and manage limits on fishing within their EEZs, as prescribed by UNCLOS and UNFSA and protected in the WCPFC Convention. In the utilization of those rights, they have established multi-jurisdictional allocation frameworks for purse seine effort, longline effort, and albacore catch across groups of EEZs (Table 2). These frameworksFootnote 1 all define a total allowable effort or catch limit across the participating jurisdictions and EEZ-specific allocations within that (FFA 2014; PNA 2016a, b). These arrangements apply to all flags fishing in those participating EEZs and cover approximately 54% of all catch in the WCPFC.
As the youngest tRFMO, with some of the most diverse state party membership, WCPFC is uniquely situated with regard to allocative issues. The allocation principles clearly outlined within Article 10(3) of the Convention include principles of sustainability, resource distribution, and equity; however, the current allocative limits under the WCPFC have been primarily driven by historical catch and effort in different zones or by different flags (WCPFC 2005) (Fig. 2). While the allocation frameworks under the Vessel Day Schemes and the Tokelau Arrangement have also included consideration of biomass, equitable sharing, and the development status of fisheries within EEZs, the influence of these criteria on the allocations has been secondary to historical effort and catch.
WCPFC discussions on allocation are expected to advance over the next 3 to 5 years due to two current processes: (1) the commitment made in CMM 2017-01 to allocate high seas purse seine effort and longline catch (WCPFC 2018a, para 28 and 44), and (2) the development of harvest strategies. Although the harvest strategy itself will not address allocations, the impending development of harvest control rules will likely trigger discussions on allocation so that states have greater clarity on how those harvest control rules will be implemented. While there is a formal process for the development of harvest strategies, there is not yet an explicit process for the development of allocations to implement those harvest strategies. The inclusion of timeframes for high seas allocations in CMM 2017-01 represents an important first step in such a process. Within these allocative discussions, Pacific Island states in particular are expected to continue to strongly argue for principles of sustainability and development aspirations to be captured within any allocation outcomes (WCPFC 2004). While WCPFC coastal States have been successful in achieving recognition of their rights to determine limits or allocations applying within their EEZs, moving beyond historical catch and effort in the allocation of high seas fishing opportunities is yet untested.
Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) was established in 1996, and does not include explicit reference to allocation within the Agreement (IOTC 1993). Discussions on quota allocations began in 2009 in response to a performance review of the IOTC, which recommended that the Commission examine possible advantages and disadvantages to implementing an allocation system (IOTC 2009; Serdy 2016a). That year, the first resolution on allocation was proposed by the EU; however, it relied heavily on the principle of historical catches, and was not adopted by the Commission, as it was deemed unacceptable by multiple parties. Later that year, the IOTC Working Party on Fishing Capacity recommended that input-based allocations (e.g., effort) should be investigated over output-based allocation (e.g., catches); however, this approach was not taken, and IOTC moved in favor of a TAC allocation (Mfodwo and Noye 2011; Noye and Mfodwo 2012).
In March 2010, the IOTC adopted Resolution 10/01, which created an action plan on allocation, involving (1) a technical committee to “discuss allocation criteria for the management of the tuna resources of the Indian Ocean and recommend an allocation quota system or any other relevant measures,” and (2) adoption of “an allocation quota system or any other relevant measure for the yellowfin and bigeye tunas at its plenary session in 2012” (IOTC 2010) (Fig. 1). Since the adoption of Resolution 10/01 in 2010, however, the IOTC has been unable to decide upon allocation criteria, and the subject remains an active area of debate (Abolhassani 2017). The IOTC Technical Committee on Allocation Criteria (TCAC) has convened five meetings since 2011. During this time, IOTC members have submitted several proposals outlining potential quota allocation systems. Since 2016, these proposals have largely reflected the two majority views driving negotiations, represented by the G16, or Group of Like-minded Coastal States in the IOTC, and the EU. Proposals have reflected early agreement within the TCAC on the basic structure of a quota allocation system, including guiding principles, allocation criteria and indicators, a formula to derive allocations, correction factors to adjust allocations, and rules of implementation to govern the use of allocated quota (such as transferring quota) (IOTC 2011).
More recent proposals to the Commission by the G16 and EU have shared common elements but continue to differ on key issues. In 2019, the G16 (IOTC 2019c) and EU (IOTC 2019b) sponsored proposals which both provided for a baseline allocation to all IOTC state parties, consideration of the special requirements of developing states and small island developing states (SIDS), a balance between the rights of Coastal States and DWFNs, and penalties for lack of compliance. The proposals, however, differed substantially in several respects, including the basic structure of their allocation formulas. One ongoing issue IOTC state parties have been unable to resolve is whether historical catch taken within EEZs will be attributed to the coastal state or flag state for the purposes of determining quota allocations. In the G16 proposal, 100% of this catch would be attributed to the relevant coastal state, whereas in the latest edition of the EU proposal, 90% of this catch would be attributed to the relevant flag state, with the remaining 10% being gradually transferred to the coastal state over a decade. DWFNs felt that the G16 proposal represented a drastic change from the current distribution of fishing opportunities, suggesting that the key issue to resolve is the scale and pace of the reattributions and whom these will benefit. A document submitted by the Chair of the TCAC comparing and commenting on the two proposals noted that negotiations on this point presented a ‘very difficult [high] degree of difficulty’ (IOTC 2019g; Sinan and Bailey, in review).
At the most recent meeting of the TCAC in 2019, members were presented with simulations prepared by an external consultant of the allocative outcomes of the two main proposals. While illustrative, simulations of the two allocation proposals did little to significantly advance negotiations. The TCAC noted that the duration of the meeting was not long enough to develop sufficient ‘negotiating momentum’ and ‘resulted in many allocation issues being unresolved’ (IOTC 2019e). In 2019, the Commission agreed to extend the TCAC to a 5 day session in 2020 (IOTC 2019a). Though the TCAC agreed to a 2-year work program in 2018 (IOTC 2018), it remains to be seen how state parties will resolve key issues in future negotiations.
IOTC is the most recent tRFMO to embark upon establishing its allocation framework. Dialogues around allocation have been ongoing at the IOTC for nearly a decade; however, efforts to identify a lasting allocation framework have been recently renewed (Andriamahefazafy et al. 2019). Currently, IOTC bounds and defines the resources on a species by species basis, but limits are only currently set for skipjack and yellowfin tuna (IOTC 2019f). In the case of skipjack tuna, the TAC is not allocated but rather applied as an Olympic race until the limit is reached and adjusted proportionally based on existing catch levels (IOTC 2019f). So far, the limit for skipjack tuna has not been reached and TAC has not been allocated for state parties. In the case for yellowfin tuna, which is overfished and subject to overfishing, state parties have been asked to reduce their catches based on gears they employ compared to 2014 levels (in the case of SIDS, the reduction is based on 2015 levels). Allocation principles are also undefined and currently under negotiation. Like WCPFC, the large number of state parties, food security concerns of coastal states, and historical catch interests of DWFNs all present major challenges to establishing a systematic allocation framework (Andriamahefazafy et al. 2019). Notably, however, in both of the current proposals mentioned above, historical catches remain a dominant factor, allocating between 50% (G16 proposal) and 85% (EU proposal) on historical catches (Andriamahefazafy et al. 2019; IOTC 2019b, c). Moreover, projected shifts in tuna abundance due to climate change, when coupled with coastal states’ development aspirations, further complicate these difficult negotiations. However, recent efforts on the part of coastal states to establish an allocation framework have galvanized the process, and both proposals currently under consideration employ a systematic rule for allocation. One important milestone emerging from the last 2 years of negotiations is the establishment of equitable principles, and their general acceptance among state parties.