Previous research has shown how Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (IUU) has proven so resilient to international enforcement measures that it should be included in the definition of organised crime. Illegal fishing of the Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean caused substantial concern among the fishing industry and various other stakeholders.
What's in it for me...and you?
In a new article published in Conservation Biology, centre researchers Henrik Österblom and Örjan Bodin used social-network analyses to examine the nature of collaboration among 117 organisations that successfully engaged in the fight against IUU in the Southern Ocean.
Österblom and Bodin found that despite their differences in size, strategies and interests, the organisations managed to develop a common perception of the major problems associated with IUU fishing, namely that "IUU undermines our international obligations" and that it represents "a form of organised crime".
"Our results show that addressing international environmental challenges like illegal fishing does not necessarily depend on the construction of new governance organisations. Instead, successful governance responses can build on existing networks," says Henrik Österblom.
Everything indicates that the reduction in IUU catches of Patagonian toothfish is the result of this collaborative effort rather than a declining market.
Joined by a common cause
Formal and informal compliance mechanisms have been developed through the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which provides an international forum for collaboration among states that manage natural resources in the Southern Ocean.
In their research, Österblom and Bodin conducted interviews with staff from international organisations, government agencies and the fishing industry as well as going through CCAMLR meeting protocols over the last ten years.
"This way we could capture patterns of cooperation and incentives and perceptions of organisations involved in the work," says Örjan Bodin.
Serving the interest of everybody
Bodin and Österblom's result suggests it is possible to engage diverse organisations in international environmental governance.
The network concerned with monitoring, control and surveillance at sea, included a variety of actors operating across the Southern Ocean. Australia, France, the United Kingdom and New Zealand occupied central positions. Non-state actors, including the licenced fishing industry, also reported observations of suspected vessels and were centrally positioned in the studied network.
"Various opportunities to blacklist vessels, exchange information and catch-documentation schemes have boosted collaboration because they serve in the interest of all organisations," says Örjan Bodin.
A variety of expertise
The 117 organisations that collaborate to reduce IUU fishing operate in different sectors with different mandates, incentives and capacities. This way they can provide access to a variety of expertise and information that can help detect IUU vessels or trade flows.
But it requires trust, a common objective and commitment.
"To make productive use of the variety of competencies, organisations need to be actively engaged, which in turn requires trust and a common objective between organisations that may not typically cooperate. In our case, the undermining of international obligations combined with a risk of collapsing toothfish stocks and vulnerable seabird populations provided the incentives for parties to join forces," Österblom concludes.