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The Swordfish Dispute between the EU and Chile at the ITLOS and the WTO

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image of Nordic Journal of International Law

During the 1990s and beyond, the European Union (EU) and Chile have been engaged in a controversy over highly migratory swordfish stocks in the South Pacific. Following disputes over Cod, Turbot, and Tuna, the Swordfish Case reveals outstanding problems in the international law of fisheries. The Swordfish Case attracts further attention, as it involves proceedings both at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and at the World Trade Organisation, with potentially inconsistent decisions. At the WTO, the EU's assertion of a right to access Chilean ports on the grounds of GATT 1994 freedom of transit provisions bears an impact on the use of ports in countries around the world. At the ITLOS Chamber, the long-standing conflict between distant water fishing nations and coastal states is once again to the fore. Although the parties to the dispute arrived at a provisional agreement, setting out to establish a scientific fisheries program and a conservation framework, the issues involved in the swordfish controversy highlight the tensions among the international maritime, economic, and environmental regimes. The article offers an overall account of the core elements of the swordfish dispute.

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DC


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