Within the astonishingly brief timespan of five or six years, a fundamental change has been wrought in the international law of fisheries. Even to those only fleetingly familiar with current developments in the law of the sea, it is apparent that the establishment of 200-mile fishing zones in many parts of the world must signify a major legal change in the world of fishing. Indeed many of us have already become sufficiently accustomed to the new order that it may be useful to remind ourselves of the old order which has now yielded place to it. The classical approach to the international law of the sea was based upon a laissezfaire principle favouring maximum freedom of movement, which was consonant with the commercial, political, and military interests of the dominant maritime powers. It was also judged to be equitable to the extent it rested upon the kind of equality that is inherent in the principle of reciprocity. In a much more constricted world community of independent nation states - a system characterized by a relatively high degree of cultural and economic homogeneity - recriprocity did not seem to work a particular hardship on any of the effective claimants within the existing political process of international society.
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Douglas M. Johnston, “Legal and Diplomatic Developments in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries” (1977-1978) 4:1 DLJ 37.