On the influence of private stakeholders in the governance of international tuna fisheries
Twenty-three populations of tuna are globally distributed across national waters and the high seas. These fish are caught by hundreds of fishing fleets, which operate in a complex governance system, influenced by national regulations, intergovernmental negotiations, nongovernmental organization (NGO) agendas, and international seafood market conditions. Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) are the primary fora where management decisions for tuna fisheries are made, yet their effectiveness is complicated by the transboundary nature of both fish and fisheries, the socio-economic circumstances of each member state, and geopolitical relations between states. Since the early 2000s, demand for sustainably-caught seafood has increased, and fishing companies now seek third-party eco-certifications to market their catch. To obtain and retain this certification, tuna fisheries must demonstrate effective management—which creates incentives for RFMO reform. Given these trends, I ask: (i) how is this changing private governance landscape influencing decisions made through RFMOs? and (ii) is this beneficial or detrimental for the long-term conservation and management of tuna? To address these questions, this thesis includes four research chapters, which are first introduced by an overview of tuna fisheries and associated public and private governance mechanisms. Subsequently, each chapter analyzes how decisions made at RFMOs are (or could be) affected by different governance mechanisms: Chapter 3 measures the contribution of tuna and other high seas fisheries to global food security, Chapter 4 analyzes trends in eco-certifications for tuna fishing companies, Chapter 5 synthesizes two decades of tuna advocacy by NGOs, and Chapter 6 assesses the influence of different attendees at annual Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meetings. My concluding chapter synthesizes these findings and provides reflection on improved tuna fisheries governance and open research questions around the role of the private sector. I suggest that pressure from MSC-certified fishing companies and other supply chain actors, combined with increasingly diverse and proactive engagement by NGOs, has affected RFMO decisions for the betterment of tuna fisheries management. Still, many improvements remain preliminary, and these influences will only be beneficial long-term if RFMO policymakers, seafood companies, and NGOs hold each other accountable in their commitments to ensure the sustainability of global tuna populations.