Independent Panel to Develop a "Model" RFMO


Independent Panel to Develop a "Model" RFMO


Since August 2006, the Round Table for Sustainable Development has been working in cooperation with the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) in London to develop a “model” for improved governance by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). The project stems from one of the core recommendations of the High Seas Task Force , which presented its final report in March 2006.


RFMOs are intergovernmental fisheries organizations or arrangements that have the authority to establish fisheries conservation and management measures on the high seas. RFMOs play a critical role in the global system of fisheries governance. They are the primary way to achieve cooperation between and among fishing nations that is essential for the conservation and effective management of international fisheries.

While  the  majority  of  marine  fish  stocks  are   under management by one  or  more RFMOs, there is  growing concern over the state of  world  fisheries.

There  is  also increasing international attention to the problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU)  fishing and its  role  in fish stock depletion.

While a number of legal instruments aimed at  addressing   the   problems   of   international fisheries governance have been introduced over the  past twenty years, it  is  often  suggested  that  RFMOs  have generally failed to  prevent  depletion of  high  seas fish stocks and degradation of their marine ecosystems.

In response, the international community has made significant efforts in recent years to strengthen the conservation and management regimes of RFMOs, and to improve the performance of RFMOs in accordance with the demands of international fishery instruments. For example, the December 2006 UN General Assembly Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries called upon countries to develop and apply best practice guidelines for RFMOs, and to undertake performance reviews of RFMOs, based on transparent criteria.

In January 2007, an initiative began to develop a common methodology and set of criteria for the core functions of the five tuna RFMOs to guide the organizations through individual performance reviews. At the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries meeting in March 2007, country members also agreed on the need for RFMOs to undertake performance reviews, recognizing that RFMOs individually must determine the criteria, methodology and frequency of such reviews.

The “model” for improved governance by RFMOs, published by Chatham House in August 2007, is entitled Recommended Best Practices for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

The report outlines current ‘best practices’ that RFMOs can use to improve their performance in meeting the core challenges of global fisheries management. Although ‘best practices’ continue to evolve rapidly, the model is based on a comprehensive assessment of best practices of RFMOs worldwide and provisions of international instruments, particularly the UN Fish Stocks Agreement of 1995.



This initiative is intended to complement ongoing work to improve RFMOs, including existing efforts to provide direction for performance reviews. For example, the core set of criteria for tuna RFMOs outline ‘what’ (at a minimum) should be assessed in performance reviews, while the model RFMO outlines ‘how’ those organizations could make improvements based on best practices.



Further information about the work of the Independent Panel, as well as the documents and reports produced by the Panel, can be found by following these links :





For further information, contact:

Michael Lodge
Round Table on Sustainable Development
OECD, Paris




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