Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 25: Fisheries and Marine Biodiversity

Richard Barnes


Richard Barnes Introduction The world’s oceans comprise our most extensive ecosystems. Yet they are the least well understood and so the conservation of marine biodiversity often lags behind that of terrestrial biodiversity. There is a relatively long history of marine resource conservation under international law and, currently, there is a considerable array of instruments aimed at the conservation of fisheries, both within national jurisdiction and on the high seas. Unfortunately, many instruments still focus on exploitation, rather than conservation of both resources and habitats. Moreover, they remain an incomplete response to problems of overfishing, illegal fishing and destructive fishing techniques. The result is a crisis in global fisheries. Whilst there has been considerable deliberation about the regulation of fisheries from a conservation and management perspective (see Burke, 1994; Vicuña, 1999; Hey, 1999; Barnes, 2006b: 233), attention to the impact of fishing activities on biodiversity is infrequent (Iudicello and Lytle, 1994: 123; Bodansky, 1995: 635; Rieser, 1997: 251; de Fontaubert et al., 1998: 753; de Klemm, 1999: 423). In part, this is due to the fact that many instruments were established prior to biodiversity emerging as a significant concern. However, it is now known that fishing activities constitute one the most significant adverse impacts on the marine environment (Parsons, 1991: 217; Boehlert, 1996: 28). Although we might lament the absence from many fisheries instruments of an obligation to conserve biodiversity, the reality is that the conservation of biodiversity should be compatible with the aim of sustainable fisheries. Of course, there...

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