Introduction

Between 1952 and 1976 the UK and Iceland were engaged in conflict about fishing activities in and around the Icelandic continental shelf area. Through a series of unilateral declarations, Iceland expanded its fishing jurisdiction from three to four, four to 12, 12 to 50, and finally from 50 to 200 nautical miles. These extensions, in effect, locked UK trawlers out of what Iceland considered to be its national fishing grounds, thereby creating crises in different parts of the UK fishing industry.

In contrast to case studies like those of the impacts of El Nino events on the Peruvian anchoveta fishery (e.g., Glantz & Thompson, 1981), or the impacts of a warming in the 1920s and 1930s of sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic on Atlanto-Scandian herring (see Krovnin & Rodionov, this volume), which show a relatively clear link between environmental variability and biological productivity, the Cod Wars case study provides a political/legal situation analogous to climate impacts on a fishery.

The analogy applies to the responses of fishing nations to the impacts of possible changes in abundance and, more specifically, changes in the availability of favored, valued living marine resources. While each of these unilateral extensions has unique features and provides a set of lessons about the ability of societies to cope with change, I have chosen to discuss the various extensions as a set rather than individually. Several existing publications provide detailed descriptions about each of these Anglo-Icelandic conflicts. As a set, the conflicts provide a rich variety of examples of how societies cope with drastic adverse changes in the availability of living marine resources which they have traditionally exploited.

What is the analogy?

With each extension of the Icelandic fishing jurisdiction, UK distant-water trawlers lost access to areas that they had exploited for cod since the turn of the century. Each extension was met with immediate opposition by the UK, and eventual acceptance after several years of verbal and physical conflict. From a UK viewpoint, these situations can be viewed as losses in availability of fish populations rather than as extensions of fishing jurisdictions. What were the motivations on the part of the Icelandic decisionmakers to challenge UK activities and existing international law? What were the responses in the UK to these challenges? How was Iceland able to achieve all of its goals in each of these conflicts? Addressing these questions can possibly provide insights into societies' reactions to regional changes in the availability or abundance of living marine resources in the event of global climate change.

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