Laurenne Schiller, who will join the School as a Liber Ero Fellow in the fall of 2021, has just published a paper examining non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the agendas they are advocating within the international management of tuna fisheries through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The paper documents the changes in advocacy over a 20 year period.

Highly migratory fishes, such as tunas, present conservation challenges because their ranges span the high seas and jurisdictional waters of coastal states. Governments are mandated to manage tuna fisheries through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), so RFMO meetings have subsequently become one focal point for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to influence the management process. Here we ask: how have the agendas of NGOs at RFMO meetings changed over time and where are they currently most effective at reforming tuna fisheries management? We systematically analyzed 216 advocacy statements submitted by NGO observers to RFMOs from 1999–2019 and interviewed 26 meeting attendees. We find that target tuna stock management measures accounted for over 20% of total advocacy over time and there has been a 26-fold increase in calls for science-based harvest strategies since 2010. We also find that 77% of policymakers were receptive to RFMO advocacy, but 57% of interviewees believe the most effective way to influence RFMO decisions was through engagement external to RFMO meetings. Relations between industry and environmental NGO observers are also improving due to sustainable seafood movement collaborations and we suggest these emerging cross-sectoral partnerships could substantially improve the management of pelagic species if their efforts remain credible and transparent.

Schiller, L., Auld, G., Sinan, H., Bailey, M.. Decadal changes in international advocacy toward the conservation of highly migratory fishes. Conservation Letters. 2021;e12827.