Ocean Equity Research

Distributing the bigeye conservation burden in the western and central pacific fisheries

Publication Details

Q. Hanich. Distributing the Bigeye Conservation Burden in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries. Marine Policy. 2012, 36, 1, 327-332.


The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is home to the world’s most productive tuna fisheries, with the majority of tuna catches occurring inside the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the region’s developing coastal States. It is important that these fisheries are managed effectively throughout their range, both within and between EEZs and on the high seas. Unrestrained exploitation in a particular EEZ or on the high seas has the potential to significantly impact on catches elsewhere with potentially devastating consequences for developing coastal States, some of which have few alternate resources. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was established in 2004 to manage the region’s highly migratory tuna fisheries. However, the WCPFC has since repeatedly failed to adopt conservation and management measures that are sufficient to meet the WCPFC’s conservation and sustainable use objectives. This paper analyses catch data from the WCPFC and suggests that the weak position of bigeye (in a strategic political context), the unwillingness of members to compromise their interests and the lack of a transparent framework for distributing the burden of conservation are key factors in the WCPFC’s failure to adopt sufficiently strong conservation and management measures.

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