LENS Essay Series: Ellie Studdard on Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing

Today’s post addresses a disturbing issue in the Western Pacific you may not have heard too much about: the threat posed by unlawful fishing activities that could dangerously destabilize the region.

In our latest addition to LENS’s online Essays on Law, Ethics and National Security Series, Duke Law’s Ellie Studdard explains why this is so serious.  Her article, “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing: A Maritime Security Threat in the Western Pacific,” outlines the facts and applicable law in concluding that maritime security operations (as opposed to maritime law enforcement activities) are the best answer to activities with the potential to endanger food security for hundreds of millions of people.

Many readers may know Ms. Studdard as she’s been very active in LENS activities over the course of her law school career.  Among other things, she organized the student trip to the ABA conference in 2019, as well as the volunteers for the 2020 LENS Conference.  She, along with 3L Danielle French, provided leadership for the 2020 LENS Scholar Program which was completed shortly before the pandemic shut things down.

Of course, Ellie is a formidable scholar in her own right, and one who has taken virtually every national and international law course related to security that Duke offers.  After graduation she’s headed to Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, and – wow – they are getting not just a terrific legal talent, but also a genuinely nice person.  You’ll hear all kinds of great things about her in the years to come.

To read her essay just click on the title: “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing: A Maritime Security Threat in the Western Pacific”.  (Additionally, you can find it and the other fascinating essays in the series here).

Here’s Ellie’s abstract of her essay:

The problems posed by Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing have become increasingly well-known and widely discussed in academic discourse across a number of disciplines over the past two decades. IUU fishing is recognized as a serious threat to the environment, and also poses a significant threat to the economies of costal States globally. This Article argues that the new U.S. strategy with regards to using maritime security operations (MSOs) to combat the People’s Republic of China’s IUU fishing in the Indo-Pacific, and especially the South China Sea, is both valid under international law, and necessary to protect geopolitical stability in the area.

This Article will first provide a brief overview of the major threats posed by IUU fishing. These threats include significant environmental harm, and direct threats to economies around the globe. Additionally, it will discuss some of the reasons IUU fishing is so difficult to combat. States’ ability to take action to combat IUU fishing must then be understood by examining the current international legal regime providing jurisdiction for addressing IUU fishing through maritime law enforcement. As will be clear from this discussion, while maritime law enforcement is a viable legal option for combating IUU fishing, the maritime capabilities of most coastal States suffering the effects of IUU fishing are insufficient to effectively enforce fishing laws.

Next, this Article will distinguish between maritime law enforcement and maritime security operations, including where each can be conducted based on jurisdictional rules under international law. Maritime security operations are a form of peacetime military activity, and as such have long been viewed as lawful uses of the seas. Even when the Convention on the Law of the Sea established a new maritime zone, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the common understanding was that this only created an exclusive right to exploit living resources in the EEZ. Other States are free to conduct other lawful uses of the seas consistent with those exclusive rights in the EEZ.

Finally, this Article will present an argument for why IUU fishing is a serious threat to maritime security, particularly in light of U.S. interests in the Western Pacific and the highly aggressive behavior of the Chinese fishing fleet. This conduct is arguably a gray zone tactic employed by China and presents complications for challenging the behavior through ordinary law enforcement capabilities. Due to the serious maritime security threat posed by the geo-political instability and tensions engendered by China’s conduct, IUU fishing is properly addressed through maritime security operations.

About the author:

Ms. Studdard

Ellie Studdard is a third-year law student at Duke Law. She is a former president of Duke’s National Security Law Society, former merchandise director for Duke’s Public Interest Law Foundation, and current member of Duke’s Moot Court Board.

Prior to law school, Ellie graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. While at Emory, Ellie was involved in the Georgia Civil rights Cold Cases project, inspiring her decision to go to law school. As part of this project, Ellie was involved in the first season of Buried Truths, telling the story of the murder of Isaiah Nixon. This season was awarded a Peabody Award in 2018.

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Ellie plans to return home to Atlanta after graduation to start as an Associate for Alston & Bird.

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

You may also like...