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Report card on ecosystem‐based fisheries management in tuna regional fisheries management organizations

Juan‐Jordá, Maria José, Murua, Hilario, Arrizabalaga, Haritz, Dulvy, Nicholas K, Restrepo, Victor
Fish and fisheries 2018 v.19 no.2 pp. 321-339
bycatch, ecosystems, fisheries management, governance, habitats, migratory behavior, monitoring, trophic relationships, tuna
International instruments of fisheries governance have set the core principles for the management of highly migratory fishes. We evaluated the progress of tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs) in implementing the ecological component of ecosystem‐based fisheries management (EBFM). We first developed a best case tRFMO for EBFM implementation. Second, we developed criteria to evaluate progress in applying EBFM against this best case tRFMO. We assessed progress of the following four ecological components: target species, bycatch species, ecosystem properties and trophic relationships, and habitats. We found that many of the elements necessary for an operational EBFM are already present, yet they have been implemented in an ad hoc way, without a long‐term vision and a formalized plan. Overall, tRFMOs have made considerable progress monitoring the impacts of fisheries on target species, moderate progress for bycatch species, and little progress for ecosystem properties and trophic relationships and habitats. The tRFMOs appear to be halfway towards implementing the ecological component of EBFM, yet it is clear that the “low‐hanging fruit” has been plucked and the more difficult, but surmountable, issues remain, notably the sustainable management of bycatch. All tRFMOs share the same challenge of developing a formal mechanism to better integrate ecosystem science and advice into management decisions. We hope to further discussion across the tRFMOs to inform the development of operational EBFM plans.