Equitable tuna governance in the Indian Ocean
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Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs), such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), have been given an arduous mandate under international law to manage and conserve tuna resources within jurisdictions where tuna stocks breed and move. Tuna, which swim across both national waters and areas beyond national jurisdictions are fished by coastal States and distant water fishing nations. Concerns have been raised about the status of tuna stocks and in the case of the IOTC, only 11% of the stocks are fished at sustainable levels. Even though management measures are taken to rectify and recover stocks, questions are often raised about the efficacy of these measures. Furthermore, the measures adopted are often difficult to implement due to several resource constraints, inflicting disproportionate burdens on developing coastal States. At the same time, many developing countries still fail to establish sustainable, economically efficient, and equitable fisheries at the national level. Even though there has been substantial research into equitable governance mechanisms in tuna RFMOs in the last decade, most of these mechanisms remain on paper. So, why and how have RFMOs been unable to adopt and implement equitable tuna governance? To answer this question, in the first chapter, I introduce equity concepts and issues at stake in the IOTC. In the second chapter, I analyze the main socio-economic interests, influences and political interests in the decision-making process. The third chapter identifies institutional, political, and scientific barriers in reaching an agreement in the decade-old allocation negotiations. The fourth chapter identifies how subsidies contribute to inequitable tuna governance. The fifth chapter takes a comprehensive analysis of the international fisheries legal instruments to identify the rights and responsibilities designated to members in RFMOs to facilitate an equitable decision-making process. The concluding chapter synthesizes the findings and provides a personal reflection of the primary reasons behind inequities based on the research. Going forward, there needs to be a drastic shift from current development norms; recognize countries are not equal in time and space; equality will never produce equity; and coastal States need to work collectively for the good of nature and their people.