Fisheries and Research for Tunas and Tuna-like Species in the Western Central Atlantic: Implications of the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conse

In the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) area, large pelagics contribute only about 6% of total landings, but are nonetheless significant for many countries. Large pelagic fishes are caught in all WECAFC states, and within the WECAFC region by several distant water fishing nations. However only 19 of 40 WECAFC Member States report catches to FAO. The fisheries range in scale and technological sophistication from artisanal fishers trolling from canoes to modern commercial longliners and purse seiners (mostly from distant water fishing nations). The available information on development of small-scale and large scale fleets targeting large pelagics, indicates a significant trend of increasing fishing capacity in the countries of the WECAFC region. Several species which are not assessed by ICCAT are of considerable importance in large pelagic fisheries in the WECAFC region. Overall, about half the landings of large pelagics in the WECAFC region are from species which are assessed. Existing institutional mechanisms are not adequate for management of shared or straddling fish stocks and those of highly migratory fish, as per the recent UN Agreement. Any such institution must have linkages with extraregional organisations, primarily ICCAT, and, in order to maximise efficiency and avoid duplication, should also be able to deal with shared, straddling and migratory fish stocks other than pelagics, for example, lobster and reef fishes with planktonic early life history stages. WECAFC, with modifications to its statutes, appears to be the most feasible existing organisation to adopt such a role.