The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Edit

FAO is the de-facto global fishery management standards-setting body through its Fisheries Department (it also covers international agriculture and forestry issues).

FAO is an intergovernmental organisation and responds to the needs of its member governments as expressed through its governing councils. FAO fisheries policy direction comes from the biennial Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

Some notable FAO outputs include:

Although it acts as a forum for international agreement on standards, and a clearing house for reviews, overviews, and fisheries information of all kinds, FAO does not manage fisheries directly. The authority for this rests with member countries acting either individually (within their areas of sovereign responsibility) or acting together with neighbouring countries through Regional Fishery Management Bodies (RFBs) (in the case of highly-migratory species fisheries, fisheries straddling international boundaries, or high seas fisheries). Many RFBs have been set up under the auspices of FAO, but there are also many RFBs that are not directly affiliated with FAO. All of these however meet together biennially in association with COFI, and as necessary in various inter-regional consultations.

RFBs also cover certain fisheries on the high seas, in cases where international agreements have been made to govern such fisheries. As yet, however, there is no basic management regime covering high seas fisheries in general, and this is one area of international law that is currently under active negotiation and development through the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea DOALOS.

In recent years, DOALOS has organised the annual United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS), which also considers fisheries at the intergovernmental level (amongst other ocean matters), and brings issues arising to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly.

There is currently confusion in some countries about where the main responsibility for international fisheries affairs lies, now that fisheries no longer rest entirely within the field of "food production" and also have international ecological connotations, but this envioronment/fisheries jurisdictional confusion now exists at all levels of fishery management.