The Portuguese New State and the Multilateral Management of Fisheries: Science, Law and Diplomacy (1948-1974)

Álvaro Garrido
28 páginas

This article sets out to examine the impact of the changes in Portugal’s fisheries in the second half of the 20th century, with particular reference to the Northwest Atlantic cod fisheries between 1948 and 1974, respectively the creation of the ICNAF and the Portuguese Democratic Revolution. Science, Law and Diplomacy are the three prongs of this work. Focusing on the Portuguese angle, and making use of a huge range of sources, this article deals with the rise and fall of the Portuguese cod fishing industry in an international context.

The analysis is multidisciplinary in perspective: economic and social history, “diplomatic history” and the history of science are its foundations. Political and trade relations with Canada and Denmark play an important part in identifying the Portuguese government’s adaptation strategies and the fishing entrepreneurs involved in the main external changes of the 1950s and 60s: the first signs of scarcity of resources, the First and Second United Nations Conferences on the Law of the Sea, the issue of extending the limits of territorial waters and the setting up of multilateral bodies for managing the Northwest Atlantic fisheries (ICNAF, 1948). The way in which the Corporate Organization for Portuguese Fishing - the institutional framework established by the Salazar dictatorship in the 1930s - received the external discussions on the problem of overfishing and dealt with the threats, embarking on unheard of initiatives in external cooperation vis-à-vis intergovernmental organizations for the management of fisheries, are questions that are fundamental to this work.

In this, as in other domains of post-war Salazarist foreign policy, involvement in supranational organizations was a “necessary evil” that ended up creating isolated areas of cooperation and openness to the advances of marine science. The most surprising conclusion of this article is probably this: even under a dictatorship, one that favoured a “historicist diplomacy”, Portugal succumbed to the principles and practices of multilateralism in order to defend its interests in the deep-sea cod fisheries of Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland.