North Sea Fisheries Convention - Encyclopedia

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NORTH SEA FISHERIES CONVENTION. This convention, dated May 6th, 1882, was the result of a conference which was held for the purpose of regulating the police of the fisheries in the North Sea. It was entered into by Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France for a period of five years and was thereafter to run on until notice of intention to terminate it, such notice to affect only the power giving it. The convention is operative only outside the three-mile limit from land. This limit is defined as follows: "The fishermen of each country shall enjoy the exclusive right of fishery within the distance of 3 m. from low-water mark along the whole extent of the coasts of their respective countries, as well as of the dependent islands and banks. As regards bays, the distance of 3 m. shall be measured from a straight line drawn across the bay, in the part nearest the entrance, at the first point where the width does not exceed 10 m. The present article shall not in any way prejudice the freedom of navigation and anchorage in territorial waters accorded to fishing boats, provided they conform to the special police regulations enacted by the powers to whom the shore belongs." Under the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act 1889, the Scottish Fishery Board was empowered by by-law to forbid beamtrawling and otter-trawling within a line drawn from Duncansby Head to Rattras Point. Acting under this power, it forbade these methods of trawling. This gave rise to litigation on the question of whether the prohibition applied to non-British ships beyond the three-mile limit (see Mortensen v. Peters, July loth, 1906). The high Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh held that it was not incumbent on the court to draw a distinction between foreigners and British subjects which had not been made by the legislature, and that therefore any infringements of general restrictions imposed, although outside the three-mile limit, were binding, whateverthe nationality of the persons committing them. Outside the limits of territorial waters British law, however, does not apply. Thus a later act, the Sea Fisheries Regulation (Scotland) Act 1895, though it provided for the imposition of restrictions on certain methods of sea-fishing outside the limits of territorial waters (s. 8), constructively admitted that no power could be given to apply it to non-British fishermen fishing beyond British territorial waters. A provision of the act empowered the Scottish Fishery Board by by-laws to forbid these methods of fishing within 13 m. of the Scottish coast, but added that "no area of sea within the said limit of 13 m. shall be deemed to be under the jurisdiction of her majesty for the purposes of this section unless the powers conferred thereby shall have been accepted as binding upon their own subjects with respect to such area by all the States signatories of the North Sea Convention 1882." A supplementary convention was signed at the Hague, November 16th, 1887, among the same High Contracting Parties, relating to the liquor traffic in the North Sea. It applies to the area set out in art. 4 of the Convention of May 6th, 1882, and forbids the sale of spirituous liquors within it to persons on board fishing vessels. A reciprocal right of visit and search is granted under this convention to the cruisers entrusted with the carrying out of its provisions. (T. BA.)

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