Bodies, Treaties and Conventions

Management of fisheries not only addresses broad ecological and economic issues, but often requires approaches that reach beyond national boundaries. The Agreement on Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the Convention on Biological Diversity are but two examples of the kind of legal instruments created to deal with these international issues.

Though these instruments are often cited, e.g., in newspapers, it is difficult to obtain more detailed information on these international bodies, treaties or conventions, especially when it comes to questions such as which country is a signatory to the instrument or what is the legal status of the ratification process in a given country.

International agreements on fisheries or biodiversity
The full text of the agreements is available

Since its 1998 version, FishBase includes a table with information on international bodies and legal instruments dealing, either mainly or peripherally, with fisheries, biodiversity and other environmental issues. These bodies and instruments are international in that they establish mutually agreed rights and obligations between two (bilateral instruments) or more countries (multi-lateral instruments); thus national legislations are not considered. The information provided comprises a general description and classification of the international body or legal instrument; the list of countries that are members or signatories and the status of ratification; the species of fish explicitly covered by the instrument (if any); as well as addresses (both postal and Internet) from where to obtain further information. Where available and limited in scope, the legal text of the instrument has been included.

The information can be accessed either with a country as the starting point, providing an inventory of the bodies and international instruments to which a country is a member or signatory. The other option is to look at specific bodies or instruments and list the countries that are members or signatories. In the latter case, the geographic coverage of each body or instrument can be viewed on a world map which also shows the acronym or short name.


The information contained in FishBase was primarily compiled from sources made available on the Internet by the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), which operates the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( In addition to this, a number of publications provided a good overview of existing legislation related to the environment (Birnie and Boyle 1992), the precautionary principle as fundamental of law and policy for the protection of the environment (Cameron 1994), and to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources (McAllister 1995).


At present the table holds information on 45 international bodies and 93 international legal instruments. Where appropriate, this is complemented with information on additional protocols and amendments related to the given instrument.


Acronym: Provides the acronym or short name (if any) under which the body or instrument is usually known or referred to.

Name: Gives the full legal name of the body or instrument as used in all legal documentation pertaining to the said body or instrument.

Purpose: Displays the global classification, i.e., whether the body or instrument mainly relates to (i) fisheries, (ii) biodiversity, (iii) environment, or is of (iv) general nature. The latter category is primarily used for international bodies such as e.g., the European Commission, which are not primarily established for¾ but still contain elements pertaining to¾ the first three categories.

Type: Has the following options: Body; Treaty; Convention; Pact; Agreement; Protocol; Amendment; and whether the body or instrument is bilateral, or multi-lateral.

Established and Locality: Indicate the date when, and the place and country where the body or instrument was established.

Entered into Force, and Expired: Refer to the dates, when a body or instrument entered into force, and when it is scheduled to expire (if this is stipulated in the original documents), respectively.

Coverage: Summarizes in broad terms the goals and objectives of the body or instrument.

Remarks: Provides information on any additional legal instruments (e.g., amendments) signed in a follow-up to the original instrument.

Signatories table: Lists the countries (in alphabetic order), which have become members of or are signatories to the body or instrument, the date when this occurred and the current status in the ratification procedure. The options include (i) member and (ii) observer for bodies on the one hand, and (iii) pending and (iv) ratified for international legal instruments, on the other hand. It should be noted that the term ‘pending’ is applied to the wide range of juridical terms used in the ratification procedure, in this case denoting everything but full ratification.

Fish species are highlighted

Document text: Is a memo field that contains the full text of the legal instrument (if available). The text can be highlighted and then transferred to a word processor through Windows’ usual cut and paste procedures. It then can be searched for specific terms and relevant sections can be retained for further use.

Language table: Lists the language(s) in which the official documentation of the body/institution is written.

The Species button is highlighted when a legal instrument explicitly covers certain fish species, whose name(s) appear when the button is clicked on.

Contact table: Provides information on the address of the Secretariat of the body or instrument, as well as addresses of Internet sites that may be visited if more information is needed.

How to get there

You can view the information on bodies/instruments contained in FishBase either from a country perspective or from the view of either a single or a group of bodies/instruments. In the first case, you click on the button Reports in the Main Menu, then Miscellaneous and finally Country Information. After you have selected a country, general information about this country is displayed. Clicking on the button Int’l Legal. Instr. will provide a list of instruments to which the country is a signatory or party.

In the latter case, you click on the Reports button in the Main Menu and the International Bodies and Legal Instruments button in the PREDEFINED REPORTS window.

The legal instruments available in FishBase can be selected using any of the following criteria: (i) a specific body or instrument; (ii) all bodies/instruments having relevance to a specific country; (iii) a pre-defined geographic region (such as Southeast Asia); (iv) a continent; (v) a purpose (e.g., fisheries); (vi) a species covered by international instruments; or (vii) containing a user-provided key term.


On the Internet, you can access ‘Treaties and Conventions’ if you click on the respective radio button in the ‘Information by Country/Island’ section of the ‘Search FishBase’ page.


Birnie, P.W. and A.E. Boyle. 1992. International law and the environment. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK. 563 p.

Cameron, J. 1994. The status of the precautionary principle in international law, p 262-289. In T. O’Riordan and J. Cameron (eds.) Interpreting the precautionary principle. Cameron May Ltd., UK, 315 p.

McAllister, D.E. 1995. Status of the world ocean and its biodiversity. Sea Wind 9(4) Special Issue. 72 p.

Jan Michael Vakily and Grace T. Pablico