Dustin Kuan-Hsiung WANG, Combating and Deterring IUU in the South China Sea: A View from Cooperation and Organization

Combating and Deterring IUU in the South China Sea: A View from Cooperation and Organization

Dustin Kuan-Hsiung WANG, Professor

Graduate Institute of Political Science

Taiwan Normal University


I. Drivers behind the IUU

Fishing is a harvesting activity to support food supply for a long time in human history. However, this activity causes problem of resources exhaustion in the recent decades. This situation is much more serious because of IUU practices due to absence of proper management mechanisms. Economic benefits might be one of the main reasons behind the illegal fishing, which is driven by the interests of the fish products trade and the perpetrator completely ignore the protection of marine resources and environment.

It is estimated that about 90 million tonnes of fish are captured each year, and seafood products are among the world’s most widely traded food commodities, with an export value of $142 billion in 2016. However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IUU fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11 to 26 million metric tons of fish annually, equivalent to an estimated economic value of $10 billion to $23bn. This means the IUU damages marine ecosystems and sabotaging efforts to sustainably manage fisheries.

Taking fishery situation in the SCS for example, common methods such as dynamite fishing, cyanide poisoning, and bottom trawling have wreaked havoc in regional ecosystems and threaten the future of the regional fishing market. Forty percent of the SCS’s fish stocks have already disappeared and 70 percent of the SCS’s coral reefs are rated to be in fair or poor condition.

II. Cooperation as An Obligation

It is generally recognized that the living resources in the SCS area migrate from one EEZ to another, particularly those highly migratory species, such as tuna and other shared stocks. Each country may already have its own assessment of its living resources in its EEZ, assuming that the definition and delineation of each EEZ is clear. The problem is that many of those EEZ boundaries are not well defined or mutually agreed upon by the relevant parties. Likewise, there are various conflicting claims to islands that complicate and defer the determination of the EEZ boundaries. For this reason, there is a need to cooperate on the assessment of the living resources in the SCS area without regard to jurisdictional boundaries. The basis for this endeavour would be Article 123 of the UNCLOS regarding the responsibilities of the coastal states surrounding enclosed or semi-enclosed seas. Article 123 provides:

States bordering an enclosed or semi-enclosed sea should co-operate with each other in the exercise of their righ