Regional Fisheries Management Organizations

Several previous authors have reviewed the various observer and mitigation requirements of the largest Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs): the requirements for mitigation equipment, observer coverage, and reporting vary greatly amongst the RFMOs and are liable to change with every meeting of the parties.  RFMOs are usually focused on one target species and/or gear type, and so are somewhat limited in their purview.  The citations for previous reviews are provided below.

Frozen tuna are transferred from the catcher vessel to a transport vessel, Indian Ocean. Photo by George Stoyle/Marine Photobank.  

In order to remain relevant, we have not done another review, but have collated previous work and provided links to the RFMOs themselves.  In addition, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) each have databases of decisions and regulations concerning bycatch, which will likely contain the most up to date information.  The WCPFC database has documents for CCAMLR, CCSBT, IOTC, IATTC, ICCAT, NAFO, SEAFO, and the WCPFC, and documents can be searched by mitigation method, species group, fishing gear and agency.  The ISSF database has information for the CCSBT, IATTC, ICCAT, IOTC and WCPFC, and documents are organized by species or species group.   

The FAO has a map tool which readily highlights the jurisdiction and acceding national parties for each of 51 Regional Bodies.  This includes RFMOs (for both marine and inland waters) as well as other species-specific bodies such as ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) and NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission). 

Number of seabird species whose distribution at sea overlaps with the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) with areas of application chiefly on the High Seas.
Name Abbreviation

Number of seabird

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission WCPFC 223
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission IATTC 195
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna ICCAT 188
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna CCSBT 179
South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency FFA 151
Indian Ocean Tuna Commission IOTC 148
Permanent Commission for the South Pacific CPPS 136
Western Indian Ocean Tuna Organisation WIOTO 110
South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission SWIOFC 98
International Pacific Halibut Commission IPHC 94
South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation SEAFO 93
Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources CCAMLR 62
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council WPRFMC 61
Table S3. from the supplementary materials of Croxall, J. P., Butchart, S. H. M., Lascelles, B., Stattersfield, A. J., Sullivan, B., Symes, A., & Taylor, P. (2012). Seabird conservation status, threats and priority actions: a global assessment. Bird Conservation International, 22(1), 1–34.

The ACAP factsheets list RFMOs relevant to each of the 31 ACAP-listed species on their respective factsheet, and their Data Portal allows you to see these jurisdictions by species. Choose the ''Jurisdictions and RFMOs'' tab. 


Small evaluates the 14 RFMOs whose geographic responsibility overlaps with albatross distribution, and rates them on a number of metrics, including: participation & transparency, target fish data & assessment, target fish management & status, combating IUU fishing, commitment to reducing bycatch, bycatch data collection and bycatch mitigation.

  • Small C. 2005.  Regional Fisheries Management Organisations: their duties and performance in reducing bycatch of albatrosses and other species. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.  

Gilman reviews the poor state of knowledge of bycatch in the tropical Pacific, and includes information on the observer requirements (as of 2006) in each of the Pacific Island nations, as well as a table (Table 3) that evaluates the efficacy of seabird measures implemented by each of seven RFMOs.   

  • Gilman, Eric. 2006.  Incidental Capture of Seabirds in Pelagic Longline Fisheries of the Tropical and Subtropical Pacific Islands Region and Draft Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Pelagic Longline Fisheries.  Honarai, Solomon Islands: Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. 38 pp.  

Waugh et al. review how CCAMLR selected its mitigation and safeguard measures and compare CCAMLR with five other RFMOs (ICCAT, CCSBT, IOTC, WCPFC, IATTC) with respect to their mitigation measures (Table 5). 

  • Waugh, S. M., Baker, G. B., Gales, R., & Croxall, J. P. (2008). CCAMLR process of risk assessment to minimise the effects of longline fishing mortality on seabirds. Marine Policy, 32(3), 442–454. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2007.08.011

In this ICES report, Table 3.9 is a compilation of mitigation measures for longline fisheries in force around the world, including at the national level. 

  • ICES. 2008. Report of the Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE), 10‐14 March 2008, Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2008/LRC:05. 99 pp.

Starting on page 308, Trouwborst reviews the international legal framework for seabird bycatch, including the roles played by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and RFMOs (starting on page 326).  She also reviews the effectiveness and implementation of International and National Plans of Action (IPOA and NPOA respectively).

  • Trouwborst, A. (2009). Seabird Bycatch—Deathbed Conservation or a Precautionary and Holistic Approach? Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 11(4), 293–333. doi:10.1080/13880290902869929