The North Atlantic Coast Fisheries Case (Great Britain / United States of America)

Pursuant to Article I of a Convention entered into on October 20, 1818, Great Britain and the United States of America agreed that U.S. inhabitants would forever have the same rights as British subjects to engage in all types of fishing on a specified part of the British coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador. Along the same coastline, U.S. inhabitants were forever entitled to dry and cure fish in all bays, harbours and creeks. In turn the United States of America renounced all other fishing rights by inhabitants within three nautical miles of the coast of the British dominions in America, except for the above and except for a right to enter bays and harbours solely for the purposes of shelter, repairs, wood purchases, and obtaining water.


A number of disputes arose between the two governments concerning the interpretation of this Article, including inter alia, the right to employ non-US residents in fishing crews, the imposition of customs and other duties, the definition of the term ‘bay’, and the method by which the three-mile limit of the territorial sea was to be measured from the relevant coastline.


In the course of its decision, the Tribunal addressed the question of when a coastal indentation is to be considered a bay and, in particular, the conditions under which bays may be closed off with straight baselines for the purpose of measuring the territorial sea. The Tribunal rejected the argument that baselines more than ten miles long were not permitted.

Case information

Name(s) of Claimant(s)
Name(s) of Respondent(s) -
Names of Parties -
Case number 1909-01
Administering institution Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
Case status Concluded
Type of case Inter-state arbitration
Subject matter or economic sector Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Procedural rules 1907 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
Treaty or contract under which proceedings were commenced

Bilateral treaty
Special Agreement between the United States of America and Great Britain signed at Washington on the 27th of January 27, 1909
Country A: United States
Country B: United Kingdom

Language of Proceeding English
Seat of Arbitration (by Country) - N/A -
Arbitrator(s), Conciliator(s), Other Neutral(s)

Mr. H. Lammasch

Mr. A.F. de Savornin Lohman

Mr. G. Gray

Mr. Louis M. Drago

Mr. Charles Fitzpatrick

Representatives of the Claimant(s) -
Representatives of the Respondent(s) -
Representatives of the Parties
Number of Arbitrators in case 5
Date of commencement of proceeding 27 January 1909
Date of issue of final award 07 September 1910
Length of Proceedings 1-2 years
Additional notes -


Award or other decision
Award of the Tribunal