1.2 Regional Approaches to Ocean Governance - CLME+ HUB

1.2 Regional Approaches to Ocean Governance

Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges that healthy oceans are at the forefront of sustainable development and provides a set of global targets aiming at tackling some of the most urgent threats to marine environments. Due to the transboundary nature of marine resources and threats to the marine environment, achieving this Goal will require innovative collaborative approaches at different levels, and a switch from traditional single-sector and state centric approaches for ocean management. Regional initiatives and approaches to ocean governance that promote cooperation between all actors, including governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and civil society, can help support countries in the achievement of SDG 14.

Such regional approaches are considered to be a critical level for ocean governance (IOC/UNESCO 2011), and the possibility for enhanced cooperation and coordination through existing regional frameworks has been recognized by the United Nations General Assembly under the 2030 Agenda. In addition, several international agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), United Nations Fish Stock Agreement (UNFSA) and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), promote the use of regional ocean governance (ROG) to address ocean-related issues.

The following ROG mechanisms have been identified as the core types by Wright et al (2017):

  • Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans
  • Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs)
  • Political and economic communities that engage in ROG
  • Leader-driven initiatives
  • Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs)

The following sections describe those ROG mechanisms and their contribution to ocean governance in the Wider Caribbean Region.

Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans

The United Nations Environment Programme Regional Seas Programme (RSP) was launched in 1974 and works under a “shared seas” approach to address the degradation of the world’s oceans and coasts. The RSP functions as the basis to promote regional collaboration between neighboring countries engaged in comprehensive actions to protect shared marine resources. Today, more than 143 countries participate in RSP across the globe under 18 different Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans (Figure x) (UN Environment n.d.). The conventions and action plans are generally underpinned by a strong legal framework aimed at tackling specific threats to the marine and coastal environments .

The Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) is one of the Regional Seas Programme for the Wider Caribbean Region. Under this umbrella, the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR), also known as the Cartagena Convention was adopted in 1983. The Cartagena Convention is unique and is the only regionally binding treaty of its kind. It aims at promoting the protection and development of the marine environment of the Region and is supported by three subsidiary technical agreements:

  • The Protocol Concerning Co-operation and Development in Combating Oil Spills in the Wider Caribbean Region (the Oil Spills Protocol)
  • The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol)
  • The Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol)

The Convention has been ratified by 26 United Nations Member States in the Wider Caribbean Region. It covers the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the areas of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent thereto, south of 30 north latitude and within 200 nautical miles of the Atlantic Coasts of the States (UN Environment n.d.). The Convention and its protocols recognises the importance and value of the fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems of the Wider Caribbean Region and promotes a collective response to these concerns. It also works in support of other global environmental conventions, agreements and commitments.

Figure x. Regional seas organizations with and without a high seas component. Source: Ban et al. 2014
Figure X. Cartagena Convention Ratification Status and Area

Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs)

Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs) are a mechanism through which States or organizations that are parties to an international fishery agreement or arrangement work together towards the conservation, management and/or development of fisheries (FAO n.d.). RFBs therefore have an important role in regional collaboration and collective action promoting the conservation and management of fisheries and associated biodiversity.

The geographical coverage, species addressed and functions of RFBs varies widely (Rochette et al. 2015). Some RFBs are not legally binding to their members and their mandate is to provide advice, decisions or coordinating mechanisms. By contrast, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have a management mandate and adopt fisheries conservation and management measures that are legally binding on their members. The function of RFBs can include the collection, analysis and dissemination of information and data, coordinating fisheries management through joint schemes and mechanisms, serving as a technical and policy forum, and taking decisions relating to the conservation, management, development and responsible use of the resources (FAO n.d.).

The Wider Caribbean has 3 RFBs:

  • The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC)
  • The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM)
  • The Organization of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA)

To facilitate, support and strengthen the coordination of actions among those three RFBs to increase the sustainability of fisheries, an Interim Coordination Arrangement for Sustainable Fisheries was established and is described below.

Many countries of the region are also parties to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (most of the text from OECS Regional SOMEE, p. 76)

Figure x. WECAFC Area of Competence (could also include map of coverage of all 3 RFB)

The WECAFC was established in 1973 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council. It is the oldest RFB in the Caribbean region and has the broadest mandate and membership. The objective of WECAFC is to promote the effective conservation, management and development of the living marine resources of the area of competence of the Commission (Fig. xx), in accordance with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and address common problems of fisheries management and development faced by members of the Commission. In that regard, the work of the organisation is guided by the following three principles:

  • Promote the application of the provisions of the FAO Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries and its related instruments, including the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management;
  • Ensure adequate attention to small-scale, artisanal and subsistence fisheries; and
  • Coordinate and cooperate closely with other relevant international organisations on matters of common interest.

WECAFC has 34 member countries throughout the Wider Caribbean (see fig xx). The main governing body of WECAFC is the Commission that is composed of all members. A Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) provides scientific advice to the Commission and its ad hoc working groups, assesses and reports to the Commission on the status of stocks in the area covered by the Commission and assesses situation, trends and prospects of fisheries in the region. Working groups established by the Commission on specific themes provide fishery management advice and recommendations, based on the best available scientific information, to member countries for their implementation. (FAO n.d.)

Recommendations arising from WECAFC meetings are non-binding; notwithstanding, member countries are nonetheless requested to implement them at the national level.

Fig xx: Membership of the regional fisheries bodies in the region. (from a ppt sent by Claudia)

The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (text from OECS Regional SOMEE, p. 77)

The CRFM was established in 2003 as an inter-governmental organisation with its mission being “To promote and facilitate the responsible utilisation of the region’s fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefits of the current and future population of the region” (CRFM 2019). Membership of CRFM are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Among the many valuable contribution of CRFM to its members are the following:

  • Promoting the protection and rehabilitation of fisheries habitats and the environment generally;
  • Encouraging the establishment of effective mechanism for monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries exploitation;
  • Collecting and providing relevant data on fisheries resources, including sharing, pooling and information exchange;
  • Seeking and mobilising financial and other resources in support of the functions of the mechanism;
  • Supporting and enhancing the institutional capacity of Member States in fisheries’ areas such as policy formulation; economics and planning; registration and licensing systems; information management;
  • Resource monitoring, assessment and management; education and awareness building; harvest and postharvest technologies; and
  • Addressing urgent or ad hoc requests outside of the regular work program presented by Member governments.

In 2014, the members of CRFM adopted the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP). The CCCFP is a binding treaty fostering greater harmonisation across the Caribbean in the sustainable management and development of the region’s fisheries and aquaculture resources, with particular emphasis on promoting the most efficient use of shared resources while aiming to improve food security and reduce poverty in the region. Key elements include addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the integration of environmental, coastal and marine management matters into fisheries policies, safeguarding the fisheries and related ecosystems from threats and lessening impacts of climate change or natural disasters. The framework of the CCCFP has supported regional activities such as the development of policies on fisheries co-management, fisher engagement and participation, and a protocol on securing sustainable small-scale fisheries.

The Organization of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus

OSPESCA is part of the Central American Integration System (SICA) (see section on political and economic communities that engage in ROG) and was created in 1995 through a decision of the Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture authorities. Its objective is to coordinate the establishment, execution and monitoring of regional policies, strategies and projects related to the regulatory framework supporting the sustainable development of fishing and aquaculture activities. OSPESCA aims to encourage the development and the coordinated management of regional fisheries and aquaculture activities, helping to strengthen the Central American integration process. Its membership consists of the following countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and Dominican Republic.

Its functions are to:

  • Promote the strategies of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Integration Policy;
  • Promote and monitor the Regional Framework Treaty for Fisheries and Aquaculture;
  • Coordinate inter-institutional and inter-sectorial efforts of regional scope for Central American fisheries development, with an ecosystem and interdisciplinary approach;
  • Join efforts to harmonize and apply fisheries and aquaculture laws;
  • Formulate and promote regional fishing and aquaculture strategies, programs, projects, agreements or conventions;
  • Promote the regional organization of fisheries and aquaculture producers; and
  • Coordinate an adequate and coordinated regional participation in international fishing and aquaculture forums.

Its highest authority is The Council of Ministers which is responsible for making regional policy-related decisions. The Committee of Vice Ministers, directs, guides, monitors and evaluates the execution of regional policies, programs and projects. Finally, the Commission of Directors of Fisheries and Aquaculture is the scientific and technical level of OSPESCA and is in charge of ensuring scientific and technical support for the region. The Ministers have entrusted the Vice Ministers, assisted by the Directors of Fisheries and Aquaculture, with the management, monitoring and evaluation of regional agreements (OSPESCA n.d.)

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.

Regional Coordination of RFBs


2020-2025 Action Plan (and declaration) p. 13-15 CLME+ actions

Interim Coordination Arrangement for Sustainable Fisheries

MoU ICM Sustainable Fisheries (CRFM, OSPESCA and WECAFC)

RFBs agree
to facilitate, support and strengthen the coordination of actions among the three RFBs to increase the sustainability of fisheries
To work towards harmonization of their respective policy and legal frameworks for fisheries
To cooperate on relevant scientific and fisheries management projects
To establish reciprocal observer arrangements
To share reports of their sessions and meetings of their subsidiary bodies and projects

Political and economic communities that engage in ROG

Many political and economic organisations work to address regional marine and coastal issues. In the Wider Caribbean, the following regional integration organizations cooperate on ocean-related policies and mechanisms: the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the Central American Integration System (SICA). and the Caribbean Sea Commission (CSC). The focus and approaches related to ocean policies undertaken in the region by these organizations are varied.

The Caribbean Community (text from OECS Regional SOMEE, p. 76)

The Treaty of Chaguaramas gave rise to the establishment of the CARICOM in 1973, with the goal of uniting the region through economic and political integration while also providing for human and social development and security. Currently, with a membership of twenty countries (fifteen Member States and five Associate), CARICOM represents one of the most dispersed, multi-country, political organisation in the Western Hemisphere.

The 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas was amended in 1989 to create the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The primary objective of the CSME is to establish a single economic space within which business and labour operate; to achieve sustained economic development based on international competitiveness, coordinate economic and foreign policies, functional cooperation and enhance trade and economic relations with third States.

There are several provisions in the Revised Treaty that seek to ensure that developments are tied to environmental consideration and specifically, management of resources in the surrounding seas (Caribbean and Atlantic). The Councils of the Community (Council on Trade and Economic Development [COTED] and Council for Human and Social Development [COHSOD]) are obliged to promote and develop policies that encourage protection and preservation of the environment, and for sustainable development, and the promotion of human and social development in the Community. Some of the other intended policies are:

  • Development, management and conservation of the fisheries resources in and among the Member States on a sustainable basis;
  • Effective management of the soil, air and all water resources, the exclusive economic zone and all other maritime areas under the national jurisdiction of the Member States;
  • Development and expansion of air and maritime transport capabilities in the Community;
  • Management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks;
  • Ongoing surveillance of their exclusive economic zones; and
  • Safeguarding their marine environment from pollutants and hazardous wastes.

In 2003, CARICOM countries established CRFM (see section on RFBs above) with headquarters in Belize City, Belize. Food security for the region was undoubtedly a significant consideration in the establishment of this new RFB.

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (text from OECS Regional SOMEE, p. 78)

The OECS is an International Inter-governmental Organisation that came into being on 18th June 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed the Treaty of Basseterre, agreeing to cooperate with each other and promote unity and solidarity among the Members. Guided by strategic objectives including regional integration, resilience, social equity, foreign policy and high performing organisation, the OECS works with its Member States towards enhancing economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection within the Sub-Region. Various levels of support and research is facilitated by the OECS on several topics such as agriculture, biodiversity, sustainable development, climate change and ocean governance. Today, the OECS comprises twelve member islands across the Eastern Caribbean (Fig. xx): seven founding protocol members, four associate members and one non-member that has been granted observer status (OECS Commission, 2016).

Protocol Members

Associate Members

Observer Status

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Montserrat
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Anguilla
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Martinique
  • Guadeloupe
  • St. Martin

Table x. Composition of the OECS.
Source: OECS Commission, 2016
Would replacing with a map or including with a map be better?

Recognising the importance of the Sub-Region’s extensive marine space and the potential benefits and stressors associated with the utilization of living and non-living resources, the OECS’ Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy (ECROP) and its Strategic Action Plan was unveiled. The document, which was unveiled in 2013, articulates some clear priorities for improving ocean governance in the Member countries, encourages the collaborative formulation of well-integrated governance frameworks capable of addressing marine user conflicts and protecting the fragile marine environments of Member States.

The ECROP document, which was approved by the OECS Authority, outlined Seven Policies and thirteen Goals to achieve the plan outlined in the SAP (OECS Commission, 2013a; Fig. 3). While most of the outputs were achieved and outcomes realized, the 2013 ECROP document had become out of sync with new realities given the commitments made by Member States as reflected in some very significant multilateral agreements such as the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway (Apia, September 2014), the Paris Agreement (COP 21, Dec 2015), the CLME+ Strategic Action Plan (2015-2025), and most importantly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which sets out a global blueprint that recognizes that “ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests” (UNDESA, 2015).

The revised ECROP 2019, prepared as part of the Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Project (CROP), is an overarching policy that aims to promote and guide the future sustainable use and development of the region’s marine resources, and includes the policy elements that was approved by the OECS Authority in 2013. In addition, given the new regional and global initiatives articulated since the 2013 document, the 2019 policy document has been updated to reflect the alignment with those agreements, particularly the 17 SDGs, which have been endorsed by all the OECS Member Countries. Fig. xx provides a summary of the principles shared by the two documents, and which are applied to all policies, plans, regulations, decisions and actions as it relates to access and use of the marine environment and its resources.

Table x. ECROP Policies. Source: OECS Commission, 2019

The Central American Integration System

SICA is the institutional framework for the regional integration of central america established in 1991 when the ODECA countries (Spanish: Organización de Estados Centroamericanos) signed the Protocol of Tegucigalpa, extending earlier cooperation for regional peace, political freedom, democracy and economic development.

In 2010, the Relaunching of the Central American Integration process took place, when the Heads of State and Government of the member countries of SICA identified the priority pillars for the region: democratic security; prevention and mitigation of natural disasters and the effects of climate change; social integration; economic integration; and institutional strengthening. Furthermore, in 2017, member states established and approved a Priority Agenda for the region aligning this agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals.

SICA has a total of five legal instruments including the Alliance for Sustainable Development. Its member states are: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Dominican Republic.

The Competent Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture of SICA member countries, which make up OSPESCA (see section on RFBs above), adopted the first Fisheries and Aquaculture Integration Policy (2005-2015) for the region with a view to promote the integration of the fisheries and aquaculture sector. The policy has rendered positive results for the region and has increased sectoral integration. As a result, OSPESCA adopted a new fisheries and aquaculture policy for the 2015-2025 period, aiming to continue tackling common challenges and promoting the use of responsible fisheries and aquaculture practices for the benefit of the local inhabitants of SICA countries. The general objective of this policy is to ensure the sustainable use of hydrobiological and aquaculture resources, and strengthen the coordination framework and harmonization within the Central American Integration System with a view to contribute to food security and the improvement of the quality of life of the central american population.

Caribbean Sea Commission

The CSC was created in 2006 under the auspices of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) with the objective of promoting and contributing to the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations. Specifically, the CSC aims to promote the cooperation and coordination of actions related to the Sustainability of the Caribbean Sea.

The Commission comprises of National delegations of Members and Associate Members, The Secretary General of the Association, several organisations (The Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), CARICOM, The Latin American Economic System (CELA), SICA, The Permanent Secretariat for the General Agreement on Central American Economic Integration (SIECA), The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)) and three experts appointed by the Secretary General in consultation with Members and Associate Members (CERMES 2010).

The CSC adopted the LME Governance Framework (see xxxx) as its working model for regional ocean governance arrangements.

Leader-driven initiatives


Large Marine Ecosystems

The world’s coastal areas encompass sixty-six LMEs, which are coastal areas of 200 000 km2 or greater, extending from the shoreline to the edge of continental shelves or to outer margins of major coastal currents. Unique ecological criteria such as undersea topography, currents, marine productivity and food chain interactions characterize LMEs. They are considered important areas for biodiversity and provide numerous ecosystem services, including livelihoods, food security, carbon sequestration and storage, marine transport and recreational opportunities (GEF LME: Learn 2017). Human and natural pressures are affecting the overall health of LME ecosystems and limiting their ability to continue providing crucial ecosystem services. To try and overcome the downward trend of losses of LME goods and services, rapid and large scale action is needed. Such action should aim to mitigate the effects of climate change and promote integrated adaptive ecosystem-based management (EBM) of LMEs.

The EBM approach involves a paradigm shift from single species or sector management to entire ecosystem management; it also integrates science to policy processes. LMEs have frequently been considered as a geographical unit to operationalize EBM of coastal marine areas and their living resources, and due to their transboundary nature, they provide a unique opportunity for integrated governance. As such, many nations have used LMEs to cooperate in addressing problems related to transboundary marine resources. Through the development of Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses (TDAs) and Strategic Action Programmes (SAP), multi-country LME strategic planning processes have taken place in several LMEs worldwide. Such processes have fostered collective action between countries to address threats to shared marine living resources.

For example, in the Wider Caribbean Region, there are three LMEs – (1) The Caribbean Sea, (2) the North Brazil Shelf, and (3) the Gulf of Mexico and the South East US Continental Shelf. This regional ocean cluster is one of the more complex in terms of geopolitical diversity and number of ocean governance arrangements with over twenty-five regional organisations with a mandate for some aspect of regional ocean governance (taken from old draft, no reference). The combination of the Caribbean Sea and the North Brazil Shelf is referred to as the CLME+ region, and through the development of a 10-year strategic action programme, priority strategies and actions required to improve the transboundary governance and management of shared living marine resources have been identified and agreed. The CLME+ region is the focus of the following section.


CERMES. 2010. Report of the Expert Consultation on the Operationalisation of the Caribbean Sea Commission: building a science-policy interface for ocean governance in the Wider Caribbean. Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies Technical Report No. 33.

GEF LME:LEARN (2017). The Large Marine Ecosystem Approach: An Engine for Achieving SDG 14. Paris, France.

IOC/UNESCO, IMO, FAO, UNDP. 2011. A blueprint for ocean and coastal sustainability. IOC/UNESCO, Paris, 42

FAO (n.d.). What are Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs). Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/fishery/topic/16800/en. (accessed on 13 October 2020).

FAO (n.d.). Regional Fishery Bodies Summary Descriptions. Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC). http://www.fao.org/fishery/rfb/wecafc/en#:~:text=MissionObjectiveThe%20general%20objective,address%20common%20problems%20of%20fisheries. (accessed on 26 October 2020).

OSPESCA (n.d.). ¿Qué es OSPESCA? https://www.sica.int/ospesca/estructura-organizativa.aspx?IdEnt=47. (accessed on 26 October 2020).

Rochette et al., ‘Regional Oceans Governance Mechanisms: A Review’ (2015) 60 Marine Policy 9.

UNEP (n.d.). The Cartagena Convention. The United Nations Environment Programme. https://www.unenvironment.org/cep/who-we-are/cartagena-convention. (accessed on 13 October 2020).

UNEP (n.d.). Why does working with regional seas matter? The United Nations Environment Programme. https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/oceans-seas/what-we-do/working-regional-seas/why-does-working-regional-seas-matter. (accessed on 13 October 2020).

Wright, G., Schmidt, S., Rochette, J., Shackeroff, J., Unger, S., Waweru, Y., Müller, A., ‘Partnering for a Sustainable Ocean: The Role of Regional Ocean Governance in Implementing SDG14’, PROG: IDDRI, IASS, TMG & UN Environment, 2017.

Welcome to SOMEE

SOMEE content is still under development and is therefore not yet available online. However, you can already check for sample text and materials under the sections in blue text

Cookies policy

We use cookies to enhance your site experience, to provide you with extra functionalities and for analytical purposes. You can consent to the use of such technology by accepting and closing this notice. If you want to find out more, please read our cookies policy here.