Fisheries Jurisdiction (Spain v. Canada)
OVERVIEW OF THE CASE
On 28 March 1995, Spain filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against Canada with respect to a dispute relating to the Canadian Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, as amended on 12 May 1994, to the implementing regulations of that Act, and to certain measures taken on the basis of that legislation, more particularly the boarding on the high seas, on 9 March 1995, of a fishing boat, the Estai, sailing under the Spanish flag. Spain indicated, inter alia, that by the amended Act an attempt was made to impose on all persons on board foreign ships a broad prohibition on fishing in the Regulatory Area of the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), that is, on the high seas, outside Canada’s exclusive economic zone, while expressly permitting the use of force against foreign fishing boats in the zones that that Act terms the “high seas”. Spain added that the implementing regulation of 3 March 1995 “expressly permit[s] such conduct as regards Spanish and Portuguese ships on the high seas”. The Application of Spain alleged the violation of various principles and norms of international law and stated that there was a dispute between Spain and Canada which, going beyond the framework of fishing, seriously affected the very principle of the freedom of the high seas and, moreover, implied a very serious infringement of the sovereign rights of Spain. As a basis of the Court’s jurisdiction, the Application referred to the declarations of Spain and of Canada made in accordance with Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute of the Court. As Canada contested the jurisdiction of the Court, on the basis of its aforementioned declaration, it was decided that the written pleadings should focus initially upon that question of jurisdiction. A Memorial of the Applicant and a Counter-Memorial of the Respondent were filed in that respect. By an Order dated 8 May 1996, the Court decided not to authorize the presentation of a Reply of the Applicant and a Rejoinder of the Respondent.
In its Judgment of 4 December 1998, the Court found that the dispute between the Parties was a dispute that had “ar[isen]” out of “conservation and management measures taken by Canada with respect to vessels fishing in the NAFO Regulatory Area” and “the enforcement of such measures”, and that, consequently, it was within the terms of one of the reservations in the Canadian declaration. The Court found that it therefore had no jurisdiction to adjudicate in the case.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.