Fishing Rights and National Water Borders
Landmark Accord on Law of the Sea
How can arbitrary, human-made boundaries be applied to oceans? Governments argue about this a lot because there's money at stake.
by Gustavo GonzálezThe foreign ministers of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the four Latin American countries with South Pacific coastlines, pledged to protect migratory species of fish from indiscriminate deepwater fishing at high sea.
The four countries can now prevent boats from third party nations that fish species at risk of over-exploitation outside the 200-mile limit from docking in their ports, according to a new agreement signed Monday in the capital of Chile.
The Framework Accord for the Conservation of Live Marine Resources in the Southeastern Pacific was signed at the end of the sixth meeting of foreign ministers of the 'Comision Permanente del Pacifico Sur' (CPPS).
Chilean foreign minister Soledad Alvear described the signing of the accord as ''the most significant milestone'' in the history of the CPPS since the declaration of sovereignty over the 200-mile area off the members' coasts that gave birth to the commission 50 years ago.
Alvear presided over the meeting in Santiago, which was also attended by foreign ministers Guillermo Fernández de Soto of Colombia, Heinz Moeller of Ecuador and Fernando de Trazegnies of Peru.
The agreement, also known as the Galapagos Accord for the famous islands off the coast of Ecuador, states the commitment of the four CPPS member countries to protect migratory species of fish from indiscriminate fishing at high sea.
Among the species covered by the new protective measure figure the Horse-Eye Jack, Albacore Tuna and Swordfish, which are already protected by the CPPS countries within the 200-mile limit by means of bans and quotas.
Above and beyond its historical significance, the Galapagos Accord establishes the commission's support for the Chilean government, currently involved in a dispute with the European Union (EU) over the capture of Swordfish off the country's northern coastline.
Chilean authorities have kept Spanish vessels capturing swordfish to freeze and send to the United States, from docking in Iquique and other ports in northern Chile.
The conflict broke out in April, when the EU filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), accusing Chile of discriminatory practices against Spanish fishing boats.
The dispute, now being discussed by a WTO panel, will set a precedent regarding the authority of nations to protect marine species off their coasts and set environmental requisites that can be enforced against third countries.
''The application of a strict fishing management regime in the jurisdictional waters of our countries is useless if it is ignored in the seas just outside that limit,'' said Alvear.
The CPPS was created in 1952 by Chile, Ecuador and Peru, which declared sovereignty over a 200-mile wide stretch of waters off their coasts. Colombia also joined the commission at a later date.
The 200-mile limit set by the three South American nations was one of the catalysts that led to an international debate that culminated in 1982, when the United Nations member states approved the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The international convention established a 12-mile exclusive economic zone, and a 200-mile limit within which coastal states can oversee fishing and other economic activities.
Chile's dispute with Spain and the EU over Swordfish demonstrates that the Convention on the Law of the Sea is unable to protect migratory species and fish that have wide ranges going beyond the 200-mile limit, said Alvear.
The problems created by the capture of such species, especially when coastal states attempt to protect them from over-fishing, constitutes ''the new frontier of the law of the sea,'' the minister added.
This article was circulated by the InterPress Third World News Agency and the Grassroots Media Network.
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