Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Alexander Mansfield McKiggan, 1996

A Geographical Appraisal of the Canada/EU Dispute and Its Significance to Transboundary Stock Management in the Northwest Atlantic.


The extension of maritime boundaries out to 200 nautical miles (nm) in the 1970's brought a large portion of the world's marine resources under coastal states' jurisdiction. However, in many instances, important fish stocks straddle the boundaries between areas of coastal state jurisdiction and adjacent high seas areas, complicating management issues. Consequently, many transboundary fish stocks were over-exploited as fishers both within coastal state zones, and on the high seas, vied for the same resources. Canada has found itself in just such a situation in the Northwest Atlantic.

A number of important commercial fish stocks on the Grand Banks have been severely depleted due to over-fishing. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which has management jurisdiction beyond Canada's 200nm zone, has been ineffective in curbing over-fishing by members and non-members alike. This is due to a provision in its Convention which allows members to excuse themselves from NAFO management measures. As a result, the European Union (EU) has frequently ignored NAFO management measures in order to placate its member's hunger for fish. In early March 1995, Canada took unilateral action to curb over-fishing of Greenland halibut in the high seas area adjacent to its Exclusive Fishing Zone.

The arrest of the Spanish trawler Estai led to a bilateral agreement between Canada and the EU to improve management and enforcement in the NAFO Regulatory Area. The most significant measure in this agreement was the introduction of satellite monitoring within the Regulatory Area. However, it is this author's contention that this technology is not be used to its full potential. It is proposed that Satellite surveillance in conjunction with closed areas/seasons is the most easily enforced, and therefore the most effective, method of transboundary stock management.