Resource management in international waters

Crick is providing Monitoring and Evaluation advice early on two large GEF / FAO projects dealing with fishery management in international waters - Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).  Working with the project teams in FAO, Rome, he is facilitating debate on M&E structure, choice and construction of indicators, and on how to simplify / de-clutter reporting whilst retaining effective oversight of project performance and outcomes. 

The two projects focus on bringing about improvements in how the regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) dealing respectively with tuna and with deep sea fisheries go about their business.  This not only focuses on how the RFMOs operate, but also how they encourage and support member countries in meeting the obligations and responsibilities that form the bed-rock of their membership and their commitments to good governance.  This is all the more difficult when seeking to monitor compliance in international waters.

The institutional structures and work programmes of the five tuna-RFMOs are now well-established, but there remain significant differences in performance between RFMOs, and such differences are amplified when assessed at the level of individual countries.  The project seeks to reduce these differences through demonstration of good practice, facilitating and improving networking and knowledge exchange, and testing new technologies and ideas.  But at its core the project is about building institutional capacity - at RFMO level, and at national level.  Designing the M&E system to work for the project, as well as for the funding bodies, is something of the holy grail for evaluators.  Giving more focus and adequate resources to making it happen is the trick - easy to say but hard to deliver when the natural focus is on sorting the contracts and scheduling the meetings that the work plan demands.  

For the RFMOs dealing with deep sea fisheries the issues are slightly different.  These deep sea fisheries are of much less economic significance when compared against tuna fisheries, and involve relatively small numbers of vessels - but many of these fisheries take place on or near very fragile, and in some cases very rare, seabed ecosystems.  The consequences of poor and bad practice in these fisheries can be extreme, and at their worst irreversible.  But this is compounded by the fact that a number of the eight RFMOs with responsibility for management of these fisheries are only newly formed, our knowledge of the location of these fragile seabed communities, let alone how they function, is relatively poor, and we are still developing appropriate management strategies and technologies to minimise / mitigate fishery impacts on these ecosystems.  So the complexion of the deep sea project is somewhat different from the tuna project - with at least some of the RFMOs at an early stage in institutional development, and with significant management complexities arising from the need to balance obligations to manage these fisheries (for which these RFMOs have been established), with obligations to manage the deep sea environment (something that that these RFMOs are not specifically set up to do, but where few if any other international structures are available to oversee implementation of the conservation and protection obligations that signature to the many international environmental agreements require).  Navigating a coherent and consistent path through these complexities of intent and what is practically achievable within an effective project M&E system is not so easy - but clarity of intent, and focus on project outcomes is essential.