Key emerging issues in international fisheries are summarised below. Some of these issues may have an impact on future developments in international fisheries law.
- The rising number of overexploited and depleted fish stocks (10% globally in the mid-1970s to close to 25 percent in the early 2000s).
- Increasing international pressure to effectively manage the adverse environmental impacts of fishing in high seas areas and EEZ s.
- Continued illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing which threatens the sustainability of global fisheries resources.
- Increasing pressure from excess fishing capacity that has built up in EEZs and is now moving on to the high seas.
- The harmful effects of subsidies in the fisheries sector, especially for non-subsidised industries such as New Zealand’s.
- Increasing globalisation of operations and investment in international fisheries within a legal framework which relies heavily on flag state monitoring, control and enforcement.
- There is increasing use of port state and market measures to control IUU fishing.
- The current global economic crisis has lead to economic uncertainty. This is resulting in industry looking for efficiency gains in their operations. It also means less government resources available for fisheries management.
- Most governance gaps in the high seas are now filled and constraints on fishing operations (in the form of conservation and management measures established by RFMOs) are becoming more comprehensive. This results in declining opportunities for access to high seas resources.
- The interface between fisheries and environmental instruments is unclear. Increasingly, environmental instruments are being used to manage fisheries eg Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- There is increasing tension between G77 countries and OECD countries. The G77 countries are becoming more coordinated and therefore more influential in international fora. Many G77 countries have not signed up to key fisheries agreements.
- Both the EC and the US have developed unilateral trade measures as a means to control fish products entering their territories. This is a way to restrict trade of products caught be vessels flagged to countries not party to international agreements.
- The role of environmental NGOs has changed in the last 5 years. Internationally, environmental NGOs are being take a lot more seriously, their research is more credible, and they more frequently acting in an advisory role to governments.
- Performance of RFMOs has been under close scrutiny. Most RFMOs have now undertake performance reviews and many have initiated reforms. Some RFMOs, especially those managing tuna, are working to harmonise measures.
- Climate change is impacting upon the productivity, distribution, species composition and habitats of fisheries. Fishing operations and supply chain activities are impacting upon climate change.
- Increasing pressure on world food security increases pressure on global fish stocks.
- Calls for increased policy coherence to ensue policies do not adversely impact on developing countries’ ability to develop comparative advantage and economic potential while ensuring environmental sustainability.