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The "Real Dispute" in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Case : a Scientific Dispute?

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On 4 August 2000 a LOSC Annex VII ad hoc arbitral tribunal issued its award in the Southern Bluefin Tuna case brought by Australia and New Zealand against Japan. It found it had no jurisdiction under the LOSC in respect of the SBT dispute. The decision has been controversial. This paper identifies the idea, prevalent in many parts of the pleadings in the case, that the "real dispute" in the case lay under the 1993 Convention, and discusses the associated idea that the dispute was scientific in character. Questions raised by the scientific issues in the case are explored, including what may constitute good or "best" scientific evidence, the suitability of scientific disputes for international adjudication, the appropriateness of precautionary approaches, the validity of "margins of appreciation", and the most appropriate forms of dispute resolution for cases involving science. The need for greater attention to be devoted to issues raised by the role of science in international dispute resolution may partly explain the strength of the undercurrent in the SBT case which pushed towards the view that there was only one "real dispute", which fell under the 1993 Convention.


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Affiliations: 1: Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge


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