Greenpeace warns of ‘broken’ global fisheries management system

Global fisheries management is a “broken system” which has failed to prevent overfishing, Greenpeace has warned.

The environmental group released a paper on the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), which are groups composed of nation states that sustainably manage fish stocks across international waters.

In the report published on Thursday, Greenpeace said RMFOs had not delivered on their mandate to preserve marine biodiversity since they emerged 70 years ago.

Their failures had resulted in overfishing hitting an historic high of 35.4% of all assessed fish stocks in 2019 and had contributed to the decline in ocean health, it said.

Greenpeace attributed the RMFOs’ failures to abuse of consensus decision-making which had allowed single countries to block vital measures, as well as corporate influence and a failure to follow scientific advice.

The report set out how the United Nation’s Global Ocean Treaty, adopted in June 2023 to establish a legal mechanism for marine conservation in international waters, could address the current ocean crisis.

Greenpeace is calling on the next UK government to ratify the treaty by the end of the year, and to support other states across the world to do the same.

It is also urging ministers to work with other countries to develop a proposal for a high-seas ocean sanctuary within the Sargasso Sea, the uniquely biodiverse part of the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda.

Reshima Sharma, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Before the end of this year, the incoming government needs to sign the treaty into UK law to kick-start ocean protection on a global scale and fix the broken system.

“The new government could immediately cement the UK’s position as a global leader on ocean protection and help protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean before the end of this decade.”

Laura Meller, from Greenpeace’s global Protect the Oceans campaign, said: “Science and the safeguarding of thriving fish populations for all future generations should be the compass guiding governments’ choices.

“Instead, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have overseen industrial plundering of the oceans at a scale beyond anything seen before in human history.

“This broken system has prioritised extraction for a few wealthy countries over protection for us all.

“Governments must prize biodiversity protection over extraction and ratify the Global Ocean Treaty so, in future, protection and justice are at the heart of ocean governance.”