Publication Details

Q. A. Hanich & B. M. Tsamenyi, 'Exclusive economic zones and Pacific developing island states - who really gets all the fish?' (Paper presented at the Sharing the Fish 2006, Perth, Western Australia, March).


The establishment of exclusive economic zones (EEZs), through the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC), changed the allocation of fishing rights. These zones allocated all fishing rights within 200 nautical miles of land to neighbouring coastal States. This change dramatically increased sovereign rights for Pacific small island States. In many cases, these States, with limited terrestrial resources, were allocated large resource rich EEZs that had previously been dominated by distant water fishing States. Distant water fishing States, concerned that they would lose access to 85-90% of the world's active fishing grounds, argued that the LOSC should impose obligations to ensure optimum utilisation of fisheries. Consequently, the LOSC required coastal States that were incapable of optimally utilising their EEZ to give other states access to any surplus through agreements or other arrangements. This study analyses fisheries catch data from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) to determine the impact of EEZs on fishing activities within the WCPO. The study reports on the degree to which EEZs have transferred effort, catch and benefit from traditional distant water fishing states to Pacific island coastal States. The study reports on the differing interpretations, and the complications that have subsequently arisen, of coastal State jurisdiction and its obligations to ensure optimum utilisation. The study demonstrates that EEZs, despite allocating fishing rights to Pacific island coastal States, have changed little in real terms and distant water fishing States continue to reap the largest benefit from resources within these EEZs.