Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Fisheries

pg. 31: The collapse in world fisheries over the past generation is in many respects an even more serious and urgent crisis than global warming. But unlike global warming, the crisis confronting marine life has yet to generate a high-level commitment to action by world leaders. Nor is there a multilateral legal remedy under negotiation or a comprehensive information source on which to base policy decisions and rally grass roots political engagement. And while practical coalitions have already formed and taken important actions, . . .they are of insufficient scale relative to the challenge. Thus, the global redesign proposals . . . are a highly significant contribution in that they would construct a mutually reinforcing set of building blocks. The proposals include a high-level, independent review of the adequacy of the two most relevant multilateral legal conventions, the Law of the Sea and Fish Stocks Agreement; a major expansion of Large Ocean Reserves through bilateral and plurilateral agreements among relevant nations; multi-stakeholder initiatives to strengthen the enforcement of fisheries agreements and shift the procurement of fish to sustainably managed fisheries; a public-private dialogue process to facilitate progress in the WTO fisheries subsidy negotiations; and the creation of global information metrics to measure ocean health and shape policy. 

 

Readers' Guide comment on “But unlike global warming, the crisis confronting marine life has yet to generate a high-level commitment to action by world leaders”   

The world fisheries and the oceans’ ecosystems are indeed in trouble. Whether one says this is derivative of unrestricted commercial fishing, unrestricted land-based sources of pollution, unrestricted long distance air pollution from cities and factories, or unrestricted pollution from commercial and naval ships, the oceans remain a governance challenge for terrestrial-based nation-states. They are, in other words, a perfect storm for global governance.

WEF’s focus on the oceans as self-standing ecosystems in their own right is welcome news. What is less clear are the implications of GRI’s recommendation for the future maritime governance arrangement (see below). The debate over who will rule the seas has remained unresolved since the days of the Greek Empire.

Readers' Guide Comment on “a major expansion of Large Ocean Reserves through bilateral and plurilateral agreements among relevant nations”

WEF’s primary legal strategy for the expansion of Large Ocean Reserves is limited to the use of country-to-country agreements and agreements between like-minded nations. This is rather curious and not awfully effective. Pairs of countries or a group of ocean-friendly countries cannot create protected ocean reserves, as naval ships from non-participating countries and commercial vessels flying flags of convenience would not be covered by such agreements.

Given the sensitivities in the negotiation of the Law of Sea Agreement by states with limited coast line or no coast line, the suggestion to use plurilateral agreements seems to be a way to exclude these countries from future ocean governance discussions.   

Readers' Guide Comment on “multi-stakeholder initiatives to strengthen the enforcement of fisheries agreements and shift the procurement of fish to sustainably managed fisheries”

WEF is grappling with what to do with this dilemma in the context of its multi-stakeholder form of global governance. Two of the components of its ocean plan highlight this challenge: first is the assertion that a multi-stakeholder review of inter-state agreements will produce a better governance outcome; second, that multi-stakeholder initiatives can strengthen the enforcement of state-based pollution and fishery agreements.

The prospect of multi-stakeholder initiatives for the enforcement of state-based fishery agreements also raises questions of effectiveness and governance. Surely Davos is not advocating that a Greenpeace-type naval ship or a private-sector naval force should be used to implement state fishing agreements in the open ocean. But unfortunately it does not explain more fully its thinking about ocean enforcement.

What GRI might be recommending is voluntary multi-stakeholder boycotts of fishing vessels or countries with a track record of disobedience to the principle of fishing agreements. Selective boycotts, like the consumer boycott of tuna captured without extruder nets, can indeed be effective. Even if GRI is advocating multi-stakeholder endorsed boycotts as the fishing enforcement method, this tool is relatively ineffective as it is extremely difficult to conduct simultaneous boycotts in all major fishing ports. One is therefore left to wonder whether the GRI has truly devised a more effective form of ocean governance and enforcement.

Readers' Guide Comment on “a public-private dialogue process to facilitate progress in the WTO fisheries subsidy negotiations “

Everyone’s Business largely leaves trade and WTO governance outside its recommendations for voluntary undertakings and multi-stakeholder governance. This explicit recommendation for a public-private dialogue on a WTO fishery subsidy agreement  is the only reference in the GRI report for multi-stakeholder governance proposal affecting the trade regime. 

Related Ideas: Three Special Mechanisms; Functional aspects of governance; Managing economic globalizations; Beyond territorial boundaries; Multi-stakeholder governance; Multi-stakeholderism; Plurilateral

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.
 

 

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