Condominium arrangements as a legal mechanism for the conservation of the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem

Michelle Lim*, Nengye Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem is one of the world’s richest marine biodiversity areas. The sea area is however the site of increasing tensions between its ten coastal States, six of which have competing claims in the South China Sea. The expanding populations and economies of the coastal States have also resulted in the growing depletion of the Sea’s rich marine resources. Coordinated approaches are needed to protect the unique biodiversity and natural resources of the South China Sea at the appropriate ecological scale. The continuation of sovereignty disputes are detrimental to all coastal states as well as international economic interests of non-claimant states which arise as a result of the Sea’s status as a globally important trade route. This paper urges coastal states to adopt a far-sighted outlook which ensures long-term sustainable ecosystems, livelihoods and economies of the region. To do this, a shift in approach which emphasises collaborative management of marine ecosystems is required instead of a scramble for sovereignty to exclusively exploit living and non-living resources. This paper therefore explores how the shared governance arrangement of a condominium could facilitate the exercise of sovereignty for the shared benefit of all coastal States. The paper argues that the condominium approach would enable State parties to put aside thorny sovereignty disputes in favour of collaboration to protect the area’s important and unique biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52–87
Number of pages36
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Large Marine Ecosystem
  • South China Sea
  • Condominium


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