Problems of Compulsory Jurisdiction and the Settlement of Disputes Relating to Straddling Fish Stocks

Alan Boyle

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Modern fisheries law has for some time recognised the special interest of coastal states in the management of high seas fisheries. It has been slower to acknowledge a comparable interest on the part of high seas fishing states in the conservation and management of EEZ stocks by coastal states. This imbalance of rights and obligations between these two groups of states continues to be reflected in the fisheries articles of the 1982 UNCLOS and in the 1995 Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Much of the Law of the Sea Convention is about balancing the interests of different groups of states, and maintaining that balance is one of the reasons for adopting the principle of compulsory binding dispute settlement of disputes in Part XV of the Convention. Disputes about straddling fish stocks are necessarily disputes about the balance between coastal and high seas fishing states, and more generally, about the interest of the international community in sustainable management of stocks. Despite the significant changes which the 1995 Agreement makes to the substantive UNCLOS fisheries law, it remains far from clear that disputes concerning coastal state overfishing or inadequate management of straddling stocks within its own EEZ can be the subject of any form of binding process initiated by another fishing state or entity, even if there is a serious impact on the viability of stocks in other EEZs or on the high seas beyond national jurisdiction. But while coastal states and high seas states may have unequal rights and obligations with regard to fisheries access and management, they do have an equal interest in access to dispute settlement options. Both share a need for authoritative interpretation of difficult and complex texts; in both cases, compulsory dispute settlement may be required in the event of failure to reach agreement on the management of shared access to straddling stocks
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
JournalThe International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Compulsory jurisdiction
  • Fish stock
  • Maritime alw
  • United Nations


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