Confronting myths around tuna governance

Published on
November 5, 2015

Better environmental governance is needed to sustain our ecosystems into the future, so environmental governance systems need to adapt with changing understandings of how best to manage resources.

Environmental governance systems have a tendency to resist change. Even if the science around an issue is accepted, political and economic interests and the cultures of organizations can undermine decisions to implement change. If we can understand how to better organise governance systems, it follows that we can make more effective environmental improvements.

But accepting new science as the appropriate basis for governance is only the first step to changing governance argues Kate Barclay, from the University of Technology Sydney, in a recent chapter published in the book ‘Environmental Change and the World's Futures’ (Routledge). We need also to look at the non-scientific, taken-for-granted knowledge that informs governance systems, including cultural and political aspects of these systems, and consider how we might shift those.

Governing sustainable tuna requires challenging existing myths and implementing new ways of thinking about why sustainability is being undermined in the first place. It also requires questioning our established ways of doing sustainability science and governance, looking at how they may be obstructing improvements and being prepared to make change from the ground up. The chapter explores these issues through cases from tuna fisheries science and governance; first the shift from target species biology to the ecosystem approach, and second attempts to manage global fisheries through the nation-state system.

For more information contact Dr. Kate Barclay (