The Cooperative Use of Coastal State Jurisdiction with Respect to Highly Migratory Stocks: Insights from the Western and Central Pacific Region - Chapter 9 - Natural Resources and the Law of the Sea - International Law Institute Series on International Law, Arbitration and Practice, Volume 2
The adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the associated emergence of the exclusive economic zone gave rise to unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the Small Island Developing States of the western and central Pacific. The western and central Pacific Ocean covers more than 30 million square km and contains the world’s richest tuna fishery. Between 1977 and 1984 the independent Small Island Developing States of the western and central Pacific region established 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones encompassing 20 million square km (or two-thirds) of this area. Suddenly, a vast area of ocean which had, until that point, been freely accessible and exploited by distant water fishing fleets from large, industrialized nations was subject to the exclusive fishery jurisdiction of fourteen small Pacific island countries (PICs) with almost no capacity to commercially harvest the fishery resources themselves, and eight patrol vessels between them. While this acquisition of sovereign rights presented enormous economic and development opportunities for the PICs, it also presented great challenges: how to fulfill the responsibility to conserve and manage the fishery resources of their newly declared exclusive economic zones, maximize the returns from those resources, and enforce their jurisdiction as coastal States?
The PICs’ response to this challenge was prompt and—crucially—collective. As early as 1976, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders announced their intention to coordinate and cooperate on a regional basis to ensure that, once established, exclusive economic zones would “work to the maximum advantage of Pacific Island countries.” In the succeeding forty years, the PICs have collectively developed regional solutions to fisheries management and enforcement issues, and found innovative ways to interpret and implement the law of the sea in order to multiply the financial gains from their fisheries resources, and fulfill their development aspirations. The key to this approach has been the cooperative use of coastal State rights to maximize the reach and effectiveness of fisheries management and enforcement jurisdiction.