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The International Legal Regime for Fisheries Management. Martin Tsamenyi, PhD Professor of Law & Director Centre for Maritime Policy University of Wollongong NSW, Australia UNEP WORKSHOP ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES AND SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

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The international legal regime for fisheries management
The International Legal Regime for Fisheries Management

Martin Tsamenyi, PhD

Professor of Law & Director

Centre for Maritime Policy

University of Wollongong

NSW, Australia



International Environment House II

Geneva, 26-27 April 2004

Freedom of the seas
Freedom of the Seas 1493

The resources of the oceans “belong to all men by natural law.”

Hugo Grotius:1609

Freedom of the seas1
Freedom of the Seas 1493

“The sea is common to all, because it is so limitless that it cannot become the possession of any one, and because it is adapted for use of all, whether we consider it from the point of navigation or fisheries.”

Over fishing unscientific
1493Over-fishing unscientific’

  • “Any tendency to over-fish will meet with its natural check in the diminution of the supply,… this check will always come into operation long before anything like permanent exhaustion has occurred” (Huxley, 1883).

Over fishing impossible
Over-fishing Impossible 1493

“I say it is impossible, not merely to exhaust them [fisheries] but even noticeably to lessen their number by means now used for their capture, . For the last three hundred years fishing has gone on … and although enormous quantities of fish have been caught, there are no indications of exhaustion.” (L.Z Joncas, Canadian Ministry of Agriculture, 1885).

The high seas convention 1958
The High Seas Convention-1958 1493

  • The freedom of the High Seas comprises inter alia:

    • Freedom of fishing

  • “Tragedy of the [international] commons”

Modern international legal policy framework
Modern International Legal & Policy Framework 1493

  • Three Categories

    • Fisheries Specific Instruments

    • “Soft Law” Instruments

      • Policy framework

    • General international marine environmental treaties

Fisheries specific instruments
Fisheries Specific Instruments 1493

  • UN Law of the Sea Convention

  • UN Fish Stocks Agreement

  • FAO Compliance Agreement

  • Regional and Bilateral Fisheries Agreements/Conventions

Un convention on the law of the sea 1982
UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 1493

  • The exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

    • The most extensive transformation of the law of the sea in past 500 years

    • Transfer of property rights from international community to coastal States

Eez an inheritance
EEZ – an inheritance 1493

“Under the new regime of the seas, the world community has WILLED to the coastal States the bulk of living resources in waters off their shores.”

Coastal state rights in the eez
Coastal State Rights in the EEZ 1493

  • Promotion of optimum utilization of resources

  • Preferential access to the resources

  • Power to enforce fisheries laws and regulations

Responsibilities in the eez
Responsibilities in the EEZ 1493

  • Effective conservation and management framework

  • Maintaining or restoring populations of dependent and associated species

  • Data collection and exchange

  • International and regional cooperation to manage and conserve

Impact of the eez regime
Impact of the EEZ Regime 1493

  • Rights without Responsibilities

    • “Gold mine mentality”

      • No conservation measures

      • No TAC determination

      • Indiscriminate allocation/licensing of foreign vessels

Impact of eez regime
Impact of EEZ Regime 1493

  • Management Problems

    • Lack of compatibility of measures

      • EEZ/EEZ

      • EEZs/high seas

      • Regional and international management frameworks

    • Lack of capacity to manage

    • DWFNs counter-responses

Un fish stock compliance agreement common themes

Control activities of nationals through proper authorization 1493

Flag State Responsibility

International, regional and sub-regional cooperation


Data collection and exchange


Vessel monitoring systems

Control of non-parties

Port State enforcement

Multilateral trade sanctions

Implementation of international obligations

Limited recognition of ecosystem approaches management

Marine biodiversity generally

High seas biodiversity

UN Fish Stock/Compliance Agreement Common Themes

Impact of un fish stocks compliance agreement
Impact of UN Fish Stocks/Compliance Agreement 1493

  • Right Direction

  • BUT

    • Lack of widespread ratification

    • Lack of implementation

Soft law instruments

Action Plans 1493



Codes of Conduct

FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries 1995


Plans of Action (1999-2001)

Management of sharks

Reducing Incidental catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries

Management of Fishing Capacity

Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing

Resolutions of the UNGA, or of international fisheries bodies

Soft Law” Instruments

Impact of soft law instruments
Impact of “soft law” instruments 1493


    • Policy framework to implement binding instruments

    • the development of concepts and principles e.g the precautionary approach

    • testing grounds for new ideas, or adaptations of old ideas to new areas

Impact of soft law instruments1
Impact of “soft law” instruments 1493


    • easy to include text in such documents in the knowledge that they will not have to be implemented.

    • shifting from the language of ‘should’ to ‘shall’ to avoid legal obligation to implement

International marine environmental treaties
International Marine 1493Environmental Treaties

  • Biodiversity Convention


  • World Heritage Convention

  • Ramsar Convention

  • Bonn Convention


Impact of environmental instruments
Impact of Environmental Instruments 1493

  • Marginalized

  • No effective framework for coordination between “fisheries” and “environmental” sectors at

    • National level

    • International level

The way forward
The Way Forward 1493

  • Moratorium on new international instruments

    • More than adequate international legal and policy framework to address the problem

  • Need for fresh thinking on implementation strategies

    • Holistic approach

    • Synergy and linkages between and among

      • Instruments

      • Sectors

    • Capacity building

      • especially for developing countries