Fisheries Cooperation in the South China Sea and the (Ir)Relevance of the Sovereignty Question
Asian Journal of International Law, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 59-88, 2012
32 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2011 Last revised: 5 Jan 2012
Date Written: June 23, 2011
Joint petroleum development has often been considered as a viable solution to the seemingly intractable Spratly islands dispute in the South China Sea (SCS). This is however more easily said than done. On the other hand, little attention is paid to fisheries cooperation in the SCS despite the fact that fisheries constitute an important part in the economies of coastal states. The present laissez-faire approach to fisheries in the disputed area gives rise to friction and tension.
By highlighting the salient features of existing fisheries cooperative arrangements in the world, the paper demonstrates the merits of a fisheries arrangement in the SCS. It also argues that fisheries cooperation, as a low-profile undertaking, is probably easier to achieve than joint petroleum development. Fisheries arrangement serves the immediate interests of parties to the Spratly islands dispute and may pave the way for their future high-profile cooperation, i.e. joint petroleum development.
Keywords: law of the sea, provisional arrangements, fisheries cooperation, duty of self-restraint, obligation to negotiate
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