Fishery cooperation in the South China Sea: lessons from the fishery cooperative governance in the Mediterranean Sea

LI Lingqun1

(1.Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University)

【Abstract】With the Code of Conduct framework scheduled to be concluded in a few months, maritime cooperation among littoral countries in the South China Sea becomes a priority on the regional agenda. Zooming in on the issue of fisheries cooperation, this paper explores the rich experience of cooperative fisheries management in the Mediterranean Sea accumulated over the past half century and analyzes the unique features, framework and legal foundations, development, and challenges and responses of fisheries management in this area. This paper argues that the development of marine cooperation including fisheries cooperation in the South China Sea is a long-term project in which littoral countries need to prepare to face challenges. By looking into the detail of fisheries cooperation practices in the Mediterranean Sea, this paper attempts to offer some insights and policy recommendations for decision-makers to consider when establishing concrete mechanisms of maritime cooperation in the South China Sea.

【Keywords】 South China Sea; fishery cooperation; the Mediterranean Sea; cooperative governance; semi-closed sea; The Code of Conduct in the South China Sea;


【Funds】 National Social Science Fund Youth Project (15CGJ029)

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    [1]. ① About the mechanism of cooperative development of common fisheries in the Beibu Gulf Zone, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fisheries Cooperation Agreement in the Beibu Gulf Zone Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [2]. ② The recent examples are the fisheries disputes between Indonesia and Vietnam in May 2017, see conflicts arises between indonesia and vietnam: coastguard of vietnam runs down vietnamese fishing vessels, IFENG.COM,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [3]. ③ Liu, Z. [^Back]

    [4]. ① Shih-Ming Kao, “Regional Cooperation in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Seas: Lessons Learned and Possible Alternatives to the South China Sea Disputes”, Coastal Management, Vol. 42, No. 3, 2014, pp. 263–279; Huang, Y. & Li, Y. Greater Pearl River Delta Forum (大珠三角论坛), (3) (2013). [^Back]

    [5]. ② Zhang, H. Pacific Journal (太平洋学报), (1) (2016). [^Back]

    [6]. ③ Some scholars have made a comparative analysis of European cooperation in the field of marine environmental protection, finding that the political and cultural characteristics of different sea areas have an important influence on the formation of regional environmental cooperative governance, and thus different regional characteristics have been formed. See Zhang, X. Journal of Ocean University of China (中国海洋大学学报), (4) (2011). [^Back]

    [7]. ④ Confined to the length of this paper, this paper, considering that the fisheries cooperation in the coastal countries of the South China Sea is still in its initial stage, will talk less about the technology of fishery management in semi-closed sea area. [^Back]

    [8]. ⑤ The 37th area in the main fishing areas defined by the FAO includes the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The specific partition diagram, see FAO, “Major Fishing Areas: Mediterranean and Black Sea (Major Fishing Area 37),, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [9]. ① Mediterranean coastal states: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta (Island), Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Cyprus (Island), Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Britain (the controversial Gibraltar and Cyprus). [^Back]

    [10]. ② R. Margalef, “Introduction to the Mediterranean”, in R. Margalef ed., Western Mediterranean, Perga-mon, Press, Oxford, 1985, pp.116. [^Back]

    [11]. ① Peter M. Haas, “Do Regimes Matter Communities and Mediterranean Pollution Epistemic Control”, International Organization, Vol. 43, No. 31989, pp. 377–403. [^Back]

    [12]. ② For example, these organizations regularly publish rigorous special survey reports, deliver policy recommendations to fisheries management agencies, and propagandize its claims through the media. Some organizations have a strong ability to independently monitor the Mediterranean fisheries activities, such as Green Peace, which regularly dispatch its own vessels to monitor the Mediterranean fishing grounds, coastal ports and airports, to master the first-hand fisheries information and supervise the illegal fishing activities. One case is that in June 2007, the Green Peace dispatched the “Rainbow Warrior” surveillance ship to track the fishing activities of bluefin tuna, and reported to the EU that the Italian fleet used spotter planes to help hunt for the Mediterranean bluefin tuna to improve the fishing capacity of the fleet. See Green Peace, “Mediterranean countries fail again to protect bluefin tuna,” 2017-06-21, [^Back]

    [13]. ③ For example, participate in the Mediterranean Advisory Council set up by the EU for the purpose of expanding the participation of stakeholders. See European Commission, “Advisory Councils”,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [14]. ① The common fisheries policy fully implemented in 1983 established the principle of equal access to fishing and relatively stable quota allocation. See Council Regulation (EEC) No.170/83, Council Regulation (EEC) No. 171/83 as well as Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2908/83. [^Back]

    [15]. ① GFCM, “GFCM Legal Framework”,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [16]. ② GFCM, “Amendments to the Agreement and Rules of Procedure of GFCM”, GFCM 22nd Session, Rome, Italy, 13-16 October 1997,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [17]. ① ICCAT, “Basic Texts 2007”,, pp.5-11, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [18]. ② After the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, in the implementation of the exclusive economic zone system set up according to the Convention, conflicts and contradictions arise on the fishery resources in both the activities of the exclusive economic zone and the high seas activities between the coastal states of the exclusive economic zone and the deep-sea fishing state in the high seas. In view of this, the United Nations convened the United Nations Conference on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish in 1993, and reached the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks after multiple rounds of consultations, which came into force in 2001. As can be seen from the title of the agreement, the agreement aims to strengthen the implementation of the Convention on the conservation of fisheries resources (especially the 123rd article of the Convention), with specific specifications. [^Back]

    [19]. ③ In 1992, the United Nations summoned the World Environmental Development Summit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, promoting the implementation of the concept of sustainable development on a global scale, and introducing Agenda 21, the 17th chapter of which specifies the marine environment and the problem of sustainable development. [^Back]

    [20]. ④ FAO, 1993 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, HTM, 2017-07-06. [^Back]

    [21]. ⑤ FAO, 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The four plans of international action include: 1999 International Plans of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, 1999 International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, 1999 International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity, and 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. [^Back]

    [22]. ① FAO, 1997 Agreement for the Establishment of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean,, p.1, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [23]. ② For example, GFCM introduced suggestions with legally binding force “REC. CM-GFCM/31/2007/1 Mesh Size of Trawl Nets Exploiting Demersal Resources”. See The rules of fisheries management with legally binding force passed through by GFCM in recent years, see “Binding GFCM Recommendations and Resolutions”, the official website of the GFCM:, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

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    [28]. ② The new design of the framework of the GFCM, see FAO, 1997 Agreement for the Establishment of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [29]. ③ These funds are with inheriting relations, providing financial support for the adjustment of the European fisheries management policies and ideas. See Sun, C. & Liang, G. World Agriculture (世界农业), (6) (2016). [^Back]

    [30]. ④ European Commission, “Speech of Mr. Manuel Marin, La Toja, 10 September 1991: World Fisheries in the Nineties”, Press Release,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [31]. ① EU, “Thursday 30 March: Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries in Malta”,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [32]. ② European Commission, “Mediterranean Fish Stocks: the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterra-nean Details Its Strategy for the Next 4 Years”, 2016-09-27,; “40th Annual Session of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean: the Start of a New Era in Fish Stock Recover-y”, 2016-06-06,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [33]. ③ According to different geographical locations and cultural traditions, the coastal states of the Mediterranean can be roughly divided into three categories: European countries, the Maghreb countries and Mashreq countries. Maghreb countries include Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Mashreq countries include Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. [^Back]

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    [35]. ① European Commission, “The Barcelona Conference and the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements”, Press Release,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [36]. ② The Barcelona process encourages the EU to deepen the fisheries cooperation with the non-EU countries in the Mediterranean. For example, in 2001, the president of the EU visited Morocco to promote the Barcelona process, he proposed to clear up the obstacles and make fisheries cooperation. See European Commission, “First Official Visit by a Commission President to the Maghreb Countries Boosts Barcelona Process”, Press Release, 2001-01-08,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [37]. ③ Zheng, X. International Forum (国际论坛), (2) (2009). [^Back]

    [38]. ④ About the six major priority-areas of the Union of the Mediterranean, see Union for the Mediterranean, “Priority Areas”,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [39]. ⑤ Tullio Scovazzi, “The Mediterranean Sea Maritime Boundaries”, in Jonathan I. Charney et al, International Maritime Boundaries, Volume 5, The American Society of International Law/Nijhoff 2005, pp. 3477–3491. [^Back]

    [40]. ① Tullio Scovazzi, “The Mediterranean Sea Maritime Boundaries”, in Jonathan I. Charney et al, International Maritime Boundaries, Volume 5, The American Society of International Law/Nijhoff 2005, pp. 3477–3491. [^Back]

    [41]. ① A typical example of this adjustment is the Malta Declaration on Perpetual Fisheries in the Mediterranean in 2017 mentioned above. [^Back]

    [42]. ② FAO, “FAO Global Capture Summary Information 2015”,, 2017-06-10. [^Back]

    [43]. ③ Ju, H. Southeast Asian Studies (东南亚研究), (6) (2012). [^Back]

This Article


CN: 44-1124/D

Vol , No. 04, Pages 114-131+156

July 2017


Article Outline



  • Preface
  • 1 The regional characteristics of the cooperative governance of the Mediterranean fishery
  • 2 The framework and legal basis for cooperative governance of the Mediterranean fisheries
  • 3 Challenges faced by the cooperative governance of the Mediterranean fisheries
  • 4 The construction of fishery cooperation mechanism in the South China Sea
  • Conclusion
  • Footnote