Conserving the Last Ocean Frontier

Global Environment Facility endorses project to improve management of tuna fisheries

boat at sea
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Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction begin 200 miles off the coast in an area of the ocean for which no one nation has specific ownership or governance.

The Global Environment Facility endorsed a project to improve the management of tuna fisheries in ocean waters for which no one specific nation has ownership or governance. The goal is to reduce illegal catches of these far-ranging, highly-prized, and globally consumed fish. With this backing, $27 million of grant funds will be used to leverage an estimated $148 million to begin work on land and in the ocean.

WWF is working with the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, governments, the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, the fishing industry, and many others on the project.

The last frontier
Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction—swaths of unclaimed water beginning 200 miles off the coast—are the last frontier; they are the wild west of the oceans.

These areas are vast: 64 percent of the world’s oceans are considered high seas, but when you take into account the volume of water—which includes the depth of the sea—then the waters of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction account for 95 percent of the world’s oceans. This means a critical mass of the world’s oceans have no governance, and those who fish in these waters do so without any one nation managing their activities in these resource-rich ecosystems.

But the high seas are threatened by overfishing, illegal fishing, marine pollution and deep-sea mining, resulting in the loss of marine biodiversity and degraded ocean habitats. These threats, along with poor governance in these waters, make conservation in the deep seas such a challenge.

Addressing the challenge

To address these underlying threats WWF and its partners will work to reduce ecosystem impacts from fishing, including the unintended and excessive “bycatch” of non-targeted marine life. Over the next five years, the partners will begin work in Ghana and Fiji, engaging with the governments in these countries and working with fishing operators to trial and test the monitoring, control and surveillance equipment.

This project will ensure governments have a strong voice in the management of their fisheries in the global market place, and apply new technology to address illegal fishing. By transforming the way we manage global fisheries such as tuna, we are ensuring a sustainable source of seafood that can help support a 7-billion-person planet while conserving nature.

This project is global in scale and involves many partners through different approaches, with the potential to be drive change in our high seas. There is a role for everyone to engage in this work, as world consumers can use their purchasing power to ensure the tuna on our plates and on store shelves has come from sustainable sources, and help conserve these resource rich areas beyond national jurisdiction.

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