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Although the Chair did not want to have a debate on the legal rights of coastal States, this issue pervaded the discussion. On one side, a number of delegates, including Peru, Iceland and Indonesia, argued that coastal States have special rights and obligations that are different from those of distant water fishing States. Trinidad and Tobago said that the sovereign rights of coastal States include discretionary power for the allocation of surpluses to other States, and the terms and conditions for conservation and management of the stocks in question. Norway said that the coastal States have the most expertise, experience and interest in dealing with the fisheries in their particular regions. Distant water fishing fleets can move to new grounds if a stock located within the adjacent high seas becomes depleted, but the coastal State has no such alternative. The two sides cannot be given equal footing unless they revert to a pre-UNCLOS situation. Canada commented that coastal States have special rights due to their special geographic situation. Coastal States nationals suffer from discrimination since, under UNCLOS, they must fish in the adjacent high seas under the same rules as those nationals that fish in the EEZs. Distant water fishing fleets are not bound by the same rules. The fact that 95% of the fishing takes place in the EEZ does not help management, as a biological unit should not be divided along jurisdictional limits.

On the other side, the EC, Korea and China disagreed with many of the arguments raised on this issue. As long as coastal States insist they have a special right, there will be a problem. Although high seas overfishing affects EEZs, the opposite also occurs and conservation must take place on both sides. China said that all countries concerned have common and equal responsibilities, obligations and interests; the different status between the high seas and the EEZs should be recognized; and conservation, management and exploitation of these stocks requires cooperation from all countries.

Australia said cooperation should be based on EEZ regimes, but should also reflect interdependence. States fishing on the high seas need to respect the rights of coastal States and high seas measures should not place an undue burden on coastal States or on the resources of the EEZ. Mexico said that the interests of coastal States and distant water fishing States should be balanced. [Return to start of article]