Samoa seeks sovereign control of seas in negotiation with neighbours
Samoa is negotiating with four neighbouring states over establishing formal maritime boundaries, a critical step to giving the Government control over the nation's fisheries and ocean resources, a senior official has confirmed.
The ongoing negotiations with Tonga, Tokelau (New Zealand), Wallis and Futuna (France), and American Samoa was identified as Samoa's most pressing and urgent maritime policy issue by Matilda Bartley from the Ocean division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.).
“For Samoa, we have the smallest Exclusive Economic Zone," she said. "For Samoa to be able to enforce our fisheries these are our boundaries and you have crossed over them but at the moment they are not enforced because they are not formalised yet."
The Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, also highlighted the issue during the recent 11th Conference of the Pacific Community on Oceans and Sustainable Development that progress was being made in negotiations with American Samoa and the U.S.A..
Under international law, coastal states are entitled to a number of maritime zones and all exclusive sovereignty claims over areas of ocean space must be based upon sound technical data, and meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
A paper on the status of maritime boundaries in Pacific Island Countries prepared by the Pacific Community (S.P.C.) states that typically maritime zones are typically drawn from sea "baselines", usually around the outer reef edges of an island, or island group.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Mrs. Bartley said there is a maritime boundaries project they are working very strongly with the S.P.C. to ensure that when Samoa does not lose out during negotiations with its neighbours.
“MFAT is the chair of the Maritime committee and we are progressing our work with Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Ministry of Works and Transport and Infrastructure and all the other relevant agencies that deal with these issues," she said.
A maritime boundary is a conceptual division of the Earth's water surface areas using geographic or geopolitical criteria. As such, it usually bounds areas of exclusive national rights over mineral and biological resources, encompassing maritime features, limits and zones.
The concept of the Exclusive Economic Zone was adopted by the United Nations in 1992 and allows a coastal State to assume jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, taken to be a band extending 200 miles from the shore).