POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia—This month the Secretariat of the Pacific Community is responding to requests from the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia to assist these countries to formalize their maritime boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones.
Under international law, a country has the right and responsibility to delineate and map its own maritime boundaries.
“In the Pacific, due to the close proximity of islands, Exclusive Economic Zones often overlap,” explained SPC’s Maritime Boundaries Technical Officer Emily Artack.
“Thus, there’s a need for countries to negotiate maritime boundary agreements. Once an agreement or treaty is formalized and signed by the leaders, then the countries know exactly the limits of their own extended maritime areas.”
This is particularly important when it comes to the management of resources within those EEZs, including fisheries and deep sea minerals.
According to annual data collected by SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme, 40 percent of the global tuna catch is fished in the EEZs of Pacific island members, making the tuna industry the most lucrative and critical export for the Pacific Islands region at present.
In 2013 alone, 230,000 metric tons of tuna were caught in Palau, Marshall Islands, and FSM alone—a value of almost $600 million.
A workshop began on Aug. 31 at the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority office in Pohnpei, FSM, on maritime boundaries development for relevant stakeholders in FSM.
To further build capacity and awareness in the North Pacific, SPC will also coordinate a sub-regional workshop for the representatives from Palau, Marshall Islands, and FSM next week.
Both workshops involve facilitation by SPC and Australia’s Attorney General’s Department and are supported under the Enhanced Pacific Ocean Governance grant from the Australian government.
In the past, the maritime boundary negotiations of the Northern Pacific countries were often assisted by external consultants, but the countries are increasingly taking the lead on this responsibility.
To facilitate this transition, Artack relocated from the SPC Geoscience Division in Suva to the SPC North Pacific office in Pohnpei, FSM, in late July for a period of two months. (SPC)