Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


The east pacific tuna fishery has been a highly controversial industry due to a variety of biological, economic and political factors. Tuna are a highly migratory species and are known to move across areas of the ocean that are claimed by different nations. The high economic value of the tuna fishery has enhanced the dispute over the positioning of many of these national boundaries. During the middle of the twentieth century international fishery organizations were created in an attempt to resolve many of the issues. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) was created to make management recommendations to maintain the stocks of yellowfin tuna at a maximum sustainable yield using scientific information. This paper analyzes the effectiveness of an international organization in managing the tuna fishery and compares the Commission with the more recent development of a decentralized policy structure and national jurisdiction over tuna. The IATTC was largely unsuccessful in achieving its goal due to the structure of the organization and its lack of supranational authority. Recent events and UNCLOS III have given coastal states the authority to effectively manage and enforce the tuna fisheries of the east Pacific. the IATTC is still an effective and useful organization for the collection and analysis of fishery data. International scientific organizations should be supported and isolated from the political structure. The subjective management decisions should be left with the individual governments using local industry participation. The scientific information needs to enter this decentralized policy process via an effective structure for data transfer.