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Enhanced Fishing Rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982: The Challenges Confronting Developing Countries


  • Vincent Iwunze, Ph.D University of Uyo





Prior to the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, fisheries played only a minor role in the economies of most developing countries. Fisheries resources in waters adjacent to the coasts of many developing countries were largely exploited by fishers from the developed nations of the world who had the requisite technologies for deep-sea fishing. These technologies were lacking in developing countries, resulting in sub-optimal marine fishing. However, the adoption of UNLCOS in 1982 introduced novel principles for the governance of marine fisheries. It was widely believed that these innovations would enhance and stabilise fishing rights, redistribute income from marine fisheries to the advantage of developing countries and reduce the incidents of international conflicts concerning fishing rights. This paper critically examines the various ways through which UNCLOS has enhanced and stabilised fishing rights for the benefit of all States, especially developing countries. It asserts that due to various challenges that continue to confront developing countries with respect to the utilisation of marine fisheries, the benefits anticipated to accrue to them under UNCLOS have remained elusive throughout the thirty years since the Convention was adopted. The paper makes suggestions for the improvement of fisheries resources utilisation among developing countries.