Case 254 - The Turbot War: Canada, Spain and Conflict Over the North Atlantic Fishery
DeSombre, Elizabeth R. and J. Samuel Barkin
The 1995 dispute between Spain and Canada over Northwest Atlantic fisheries conservation, popularly dubbed ‘The Turbot War,’ brought the first military confrontation of any kind between Canada and Spain. This dispute is striking in that it involves the use of force over the issue of environmental management, generally thought to be an issue with a high degree of international cooperation. This case study explores several facets of environmental management, international law, and the relationship between domestic and international politics. It challenges the conventional wisdom that environmental management issues are win-win situations that simply involve coordination to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, or the assumption that actors have common interests when facing environmental destruction. As such, the study can serve as an example of conflict over environmental resources, of the process of negotiations and renegotiation of international agreements, and the role of unilateral action in international politics.