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Fisheries Jurisdiction (United Kingdom v. Iceland)

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. I.C.J., 1973 I.C.J. 3

    Brief Fact Summary. Because some circumstances changed, Iceland (D) claimed that a fishing treaty it had with the United Kingdom (P) was no longer applicable.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order that a change of circumstances may give rise to the premise calling for the termination of a treaty, it is necessary that it has resulted in a radical transformation of the extent of the obligations still to be performed.


    Facts. Iceland’s (D) claim to a 12-mile fisheries limit was recognized by the United Kingdom (P) in 1961 in return for Iceland’s (D) agreement that any dispute concerning Icelandic fisheries jurisdiction beyond the 12-mile limit be referred to the International Court of Justice. An application was filed before the I.C.J. when Iceland (D) proposed to extend its exclusive fisheries jurisdiction from 12 to 50 miles around its shores in 1972. By postulating that changes in circumstances since the 12-mile limit was now generally recognized was the ground upon which Iceland (D) stood to argue that the agreement was no longer valid. Iceland (D) also asserted that there would be a failure of consideration for the 1961 agreement.


    Issue. In order that a change of circumstances may give rise to a ground for invoking the termination of a treaty, is it necessary that it has resulted in a radical transformation of the extent of the obligation still to be performed?


    Held. Yes. In order that a change of circumstances may give rise to the premise calling for the termination of a treaty, it is necessary that it has resulted in a radical transformation of the extent of the obligations still to be performed.
     The change of circumstances alleged by Iceland (D) cannot be said to have transformed radically the extent of the jurisdictional obligation that was imposed in the 1961 Exchange of Notes.


    Discussion. Recourse to the I.C.J. in the event of a dispute was the original agreement between the parties.  The economy of Iceland (D) is dependent on fishing. The merit of Iceland (D) argument was not reached by the Court in this case, however, but rather dealt with the jurisdictional issues.



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