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One Fish, Two Fish, Few Fish, No Fish: Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, IUU Fishing and High Seas Fisheries Management

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Version 3 2023-03-14, 23:28
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:55
Version 1 2021-11-11, 21:39
posted on 2023-03-14, 23:28 authored by Irving, Aaron

The World's fisheries are in a desperate state, they have been utilised to a point where a majority of the fisheries resources are fully exploited. In addition to overfishing, the responsibility of the sad state of affairs of the world's High Seas' fish stocks can be put down to inefficient management. The high seas fisheries regime is dominated by two powerful, tried, tested and consented to norms: the principle of freedom of fishing on the high seas and the principle of exclusive flag state jurisdiction over flagged vessels on the high seas. These Grotius norms (unintentionally) obstruct effective and meaningful high seas fisheries management, and have enabled unscrupulous states and actors to take advantage of the lacunae created by the UNCLOS High Seas fisheries framework and engage in IUU fishing which has resulted in a tragedy of the high seas commons. Furthermore these norms have a 'hobbling' effect on RFMOS and coastal states alike, and leave them almost powerless to ensure flag-state compliance with their sustainable fishing measures without the consent of the flag state, and totally unable to enforce its measures directly on that flagged vessel. Thus in the absence of an express reference to the superiority of coastal state rights over those of high seas fishing states, freedom of high seas fishing prevails. However the international community armed with weaker UNCLOS obligations of conservation and co-operation and have fought the good fight, and in lightening speed have constructed a normative framework that is additional to but consistent and complimentary with the UNCLOS regime. With the use of port state measures, voluntary instruments that codify responsible fisheries practice, surveillance and the denial of the right to land IUU fish – the fight is gradually beginning to turn in favour of the international community.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Thirkell-White, Ben