Standard for assessing transparency in information on compliance with obligations of regional fisheries management organizations: Validation through assessment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
We developed a standard against which to assess transparency in information on basic governance elements that provides the ability to determine compliance with obligations under regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). The performance of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), one of five global tuna RFMOs, was made against the standard. RFMOs play a critical role in global fisheries governance by providing a formal mechanism for fishing States and States in whose jurisdiction straddling and highly migratory fishery resources occur to cooperate to pursue the implementation of agreed measures to achieve sustainable international fisheries. Transparency in information on elements of RFMO governance enables public evaluation of compliance by Members and Cooperating Non-members and their vessels, creating an incentive for compliance due to a desire to avoid adverse reputational and economic repercussions of non-compliance. The standard is comprised of criteria assessing open access to information on: (i) compliance with monitoring requirements, (ii)research-grade observer program data, (iii) domestic legislation and regulations to implement binding controls, (iv) surveillance, (v) identified infractions, (vi) enforcement actions, and (vii) outcomes of enforcement actions. The standard further assesses transparency in information on compliance with RFMO obligations of: (viii) payment of assessed financial obligations; (ix) observer data reporting; and (x) reporting information on national implementation and compliance. And, the standard assesses transparency in information on: (xi) RFMO employment of powers in response to Member and Cooperating Non-member non-compliance; and (xii) whether all States and entities conducting fishing activities under the RFMO's mandate are Members or Cooperating Non-members. WCPFC had a lack of transparency for 36% of the elements composing the standard, partial transparency for 36%, and full transparency for the remainder. The lack of a WCPFC process to respond to non-compliance by Members and Cooperating Non-members, a prohibition on States from using information on non-compliance with WCPFC obligations unilaterally, in combination with a substantial lack of transparency in information on compliance, including due to lax reporting, collectively are inadequate incentives for compliance. This new tool provides a standardized method to compare RFMO transparency in compliance information and to establish benchmarks against which to track changes in transparency.