The author explains that two juridical stages can be distinguished in the international regulation of the highly migratory species and of fishery resources in general, according to whether international cooperation was achieved before or after the introduction of the new Law of the Sea.
During the first stage, which began at the end of the Second World War, various international bodies concerned with Atlantic fisheries were established. The First United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1958) limited the traditional freedom to exploit high-sea resources and regulated fishing, recognizing the danger of excessive exploitation and the need to conserve marine species through international cooperation. In 1966, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was set up, based on preparatory work done within FAO; and in 1969, the International Commission for the South-East Atlantic Fisheries was established.
The author points out that ICCAT confers an international character on the conservation and control of tuna and related species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.
He describes ICCAT's structure and functions, which are to assemble statistical and scientific information on tuna species, regulate fishing vessels and inspect ports, and oblige the contracting parties to impose a system of international inspection to guarantee compliance with the Convention on the Conduct of Fishing Operations in the North Atlantic. He also examines the conservation measures and the control systems introduced by the Commission.
In the second stage the international organizations have an important role to play in the rational management and optimum use of the living resources of the sea. The Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973-82) laid the basis for a new juridical status governing the fishing of highly migratory species, which is contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). The author stresses the fact that this convention links and harmonizes two basic elements: the juridical system of the exclusive economic zones, and the principle of cooperation between states fishing for highly migratory species in the same region.
The author analyses the provisions of the Convention that define the system of exclusive economic zones and provide for cooperation between states, and examines the problems connected with the concession of fishing permits or licences.
In conclusion, the author maintains that the conservation and optimum use of highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean depends on compliance with the criteria laid down in Article 64 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. This Article harmonizes the two basic elements of the new juridical system governing tuna fishing: international cooperation and the sovereign rights of coastal states over the living resources in their exclusive economic zones. The domination of one of these elements over the other would imply the collapse of the criterion defining the special regulations for highly migratory species, which are characterized by the combination of both elements, so that each represents the limit of the other. As regards the Agreement under which ICCAT was set up, this should be adjusted to the new provisions of the Law of the Sea, in conformity with Article 64 of the Convention, by setting up a system that encourages cooperation between states fishing for highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean, whether they are coastal states of not. In any event, in conformity with the regional criterion laid down in this Article - in contrast to the criteria of world and sub-regional cooperation contained in other articles in Part V of the Convention - any international organization that may be set up to replace ICCAT should continue to deal with the Atlantic Ocean in its entirety.