IN LOVING MEMORY Professor William Ross Edeson

26 November 1942 – 12 October 2021

Professor Edeson, known to many as Professor Bill, was a man of extraordinary intellect, kind, personable, caring, humble and genuine.

During his illustrious career, Professor Edeson excelled in academia as well as in the service of countries and international organisations. He had a superb knowledge of the Law of the Sea, international law and government law issues.

In academia, Professor Edeson held various positions in universities in Australia and the United Kingdom including Monash University (1969 – 1970), University of Wales, Cardiff (1970 – 1973), University of Birmingham (1973 – 1975), and the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra (1975 – 1988). He taught a range of subjects including International Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, European Law, Torts, Law of International Organisations, Principles of Constitutional Law, and the Law of the Sea. His students include prominent international lawyers, professors, and QCs.

Professor Edeson’s government and international experience is noteworthy. In the late 1970s (while on leave from ANU) he assisted the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs on treaties issues and the Law of the Sea. In 1980 he was the Regional Fisheries Law Adviser to the UN FAO in the Caribbean region providing advice on how the region could give effect to the fisheries provisions of the emerging Law of the Sea.

From 1988 to 2003, he was a Senior Legal Officer with the UN FAO Legal Office based in Rome advising governments on developing legislation to give effect to the fisheries provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and later advising on the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement. Professor Edeson was extensively involved in the preparation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the International Plan of Action on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, as well as the initial steps at FAO on a possible MOU on Port State Measures (which eventually led to the FAO Port State Measures Agreement).

He provided extensive advice to a number of governments and regional fisheries bodies on fisheries legislation and related Law of the Sea issues including: Namibia, South Africa, Vietnam, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, Ghana, The Gambia, the Subregional Commission for Fisheries based in Dakar, the Bay of Bengal Programme, OECS, CARICOM, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

Professor Edeson was a prolific writer and published numerous articles and books on the Law of the Sea and aspects of constitutional and treaty law. On fisheries law matters, he has published articles on the sustainable use of marine living resources, international instruments both ‘hard law’ and ‘soft law’, regional fisheries bodies, fishing entities, and, the IOTC and international legal personality. His work has been cited by leading academics, judges of national courts and international adjudicatory bodies. He also had a lighter side, finding much humour in writing short pieces on important matters such as the use of the forward slash punctuation mark as in “and/or”, and the significance of commas (especially in reference to certain entities). He was truly a master wordsmith.

Professor Edeson was a legal advisor to FFA from 2010 to 2012, He was also a legal consultant to FFA before and after these years, until his untimely passing. For over a decade, he provided legal advice and support to the 17 Members of the FFA on many issues including how fisheries legislation can give effect to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant fisheries treaties, how legislation can address IUU fishing, how countries can give effect to their flag State responsibilities, how to address persons who have engaged in IUU fishing, and how the Law of the Sea provides for maritime baselines and boundaries. His impact on the FFA region was significant and will continue to be felt for generations to come.

Professor Edeson leaves an outstanding legacy. His impact on the FFA region cannot be overstated and will be felt for generations to come.

At a personal level, Professor Edeson loved life and had an adventurous spirit. He had a refined taste in culinary matters and was, among other things, a coffee connoisseur and a wine connoisseur. He also enjoyed dabbling in the delicacies of the Pacific including devouring a fish head cooked in coconut milk with a knife and fork, and relishing the pineapples in the Solomon Islands.

Professor Edeson is survived by his dear wife Lyn, his children and grandchildren. From our FFA family to Lyn and the family: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” (Numbers 6: 24 – 26).

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