Allocation of Fishing Rights in the NEA

Discussion paper

image of Allocation of Fishing Rights in the NEA

This discussion paper aims to initiate an informed debate in the Nordic countries and elsewhere on how to allocate the trans-boundary fish stocks in the North East Atlantic in the future and how to resolve possible allocation conflicts. The paper maps the current legal framework and international fisheries agreements in the North East Atlantic Ocean which forms the basis for allocation agreements. It considers the relevance of the biological status of the fish stocks and the economic situation of the coastal states in the area for the allocation of fishing rights and further proposes a dynamic allocation methodology and a decision making process including the handling of allocation conflicts. The paper is compiled by an inter-disciplinary Nordic group of fisheries experts.



Fishing rights allocation in the North East Atlantic

According to UNCLOS’ Article 56.1.a the coastal state has the exclusive right of harvesting in its economic zone, i.e. “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting… the natural resources of the waters superjacent to the seabed… with regard to exploitation and exploration…”. This means that fish in the zone belongs to the coastal state, as long as it is in the zone. In this zone the coastal state may itself manage the stock by allowing, prohibiting and regulating fishery, by limiting participation and quotas etc. “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploiting… natural resources.” Accordingly each state, targeting the same stock, will unilaterally set its own total allowable catches (TAC). However, this rule must be seen in connection with the rule in Article 63.2: “Where the same stock or stocks of associated species occur both within the exclusive economic zone and in an area beyond and adjacent to the zone, the coastal state and the states fishing for such stocks in the adjacent area, shall seek either directly or through appropriate subregional or regional organizations, to agree upon the measures necessary for the conservation of these stocks in the adjacent area”.


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