Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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Contested Norms in Inter-National Encounters: The ‘Turbot War’ as a Prelude to Fairer Fisheries Governance

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Abstract:  This article is about contested norms in inter-national encounters in global fisheries governance. It illustrates how norms work by reconstructing the trajectory of the 1995 ‘Turbot War’ as a series of inter-national encounters among diverse sets of Canadian and European stakeholders. By unpacking the contestations and identifying the norms at stake, it is suggested that what began as action at cross-purposes (i.e. each party referring to a different fundamental norm), ultimately holds the potential for fairer fisheries governance. This finding is shown by linking source and settlement of the dispute and identifying the shared concern for the balance between the right to fish and the responsibility for sustainable fisheries. The article develops a framework to elaborate on procedural details including especially the right for stakeholder access to regular contestation. It is organised in four sections: section 1 summarises the argument, section 2 presents the framework of critical norms research, section 3 reconstructs contestations of fisheries norms over the duration of the dispute, and section 4 elaborates on the dispute as a prelude to fairer fisheries governance. The latter is based on a novel conceptual focus on stakeholder access to contestation at the meso-layer of fisheries governance where organising principles are negotiated close to policy and political processes, respectively. The conclusion suggests for future research to pay more attention to the link between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’ of norms in critical norms research in International Relations theories (IR).

Keywords:  background experience; contestation; cultural validation; fisheries governance; legitimacy; norms; stakeholders; sustainability; turbot war; UNCLOS



© Antje Wiener. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.