International Law Studies


The leading global maritime security threat today is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Left unchecked, IUU fishing exacerbates the depletion of fish stocks, thereby contributing to global geo-political instability by increasing tension among competing distant water fishing fleets, threatening the sustainability of coastal States’ fisheries, and damaging fragile ecosystems. This article reviews the regulatory framework applicable to IUU fishing. It then discusses China’s predatory fishing practices in various regions of the world. The article then examines the principle of exclusive flag State jurisdiction on the high seas and suggests that Chinese distant water fishing vessels that change their name and disable their satellite tracking systems should be assimilated to be stateless vessels subject to the jurisdiction of all nations. It also suggests that China’s failure to comply with its legal obligations under UNCLOS is an internationally wrongful act for which China bears responsibility. The article concludes with recommendations on measures the international community can take to influence China to better regulate its fleet and effectively combat IUU fishing.