The Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea resulted from a confluence of developments. To some degree its convening was a consequence of the failure of earlier diplomatic conferences to resolve differences with respect to fisheries even though it was becoming apparent that in some locations fisheries were being depleted. Moreover, pressure from coastal states for greater control over living resources off their coasts was on the rise, as indicated by the views expressed at UNCLOS-I and II and by actions of particular states such as Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. But even in developed countries, concern was evident with respect to the future of fisheries and the potential loss of income and employment in the fishing sector. The continued international treatment of fish as common property resources, freely available to all, was losing its acceptability. 1 This is clearly exemplified in the confrontation between the United Kingdom and Iceland which is discussed below in some detail.
It was soon evident that the 1958 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas had failed to win the support needed to make that convention an effective instrument in addressing international fishery problems. States seeking recognition of jurisdictional powers broader than provided by the convention and others fearing that accession to the treaty would constitute recognition of special rights for coastal states refused to ratify the convention. 2
The pressure for recognition of extended coastal state rights in fisheries was to increase further with the disintegration of colonial empires, a phenomenon which was to accelerate during the 1960s. From 1960-1970, inclusively, forty-six new states gained their independence and joined the world community of states; 3 the emergence of such a substantial number of new states in Africa, Asia, and Oceania was to become a significant element in the changing world political context. These states typically tended to be very sensitive to perceived slights to their sovereignty and greatly concerned with exploitation of “their” resources for national benefit; they were much less concerned with, or were even hostile to, traditional distant-water fishing rights, especially by nationals of former colonial states, and on a number of