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Samoa to finalise boundary negotiations with Tonga end of 2019

Samoa hopes to finalise its negotiations on its maritime boundary with Tonga by the end of the year.

This was highlighted by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), Ulu Bismark Crawley, in an interview with Samoa Observer.

Samoa is involved in ongoing negotiations with Tonga, Tokelau (New Zealand), Wallis and Futuna (France), and American Samoa.

“The negotiations for Samoa’s maritime boundaries is in progress, the recent update is that we are trying to look at New Zealand for Tokelau,” said Ulu.

He added that the M.N.R.E. is the technical arm of the Maritime Committee with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade the chair.

“Our ministry has the data in terms of digital data on the 200 nautical miles zones and we provide the coordinates with the respective countries," he said.

“There were some discussions on the American Samoa one and I believe that is still on its final stage of discussions whereas for Wallis and Futuna which is under the French have started discussions they are trying to finalise."

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, which was prepared by the Pacific Community (S.P.C.), stated that maritime zones are typically drawn from sea "baselines", usually around the outer reef edges of an island or island group. 

The C.E.O. of M.N.R.E added that there were discussions for Samoa to consider equidistant as best methods.

“It is because Samoa has no single place where the full 200 nautical miles are utilised there is always that overlap across the whole country.

“And that is the cause of us having the smallest Exclusive Economic Zone (E.E.Z.) in the pacific.

“We have outstanding issues with this but there are also other issues that are brought about the Fisheries people with fishing grounds and to make sure there are shared benefits.”

The reason behind it has taken so long for Samoa to establish maritime boundaries it is due to efforts of agreeing to a common negotiation between other countries.

“Once Samoa finalises its maritime boundaries then we can benefit through the fisheries side in terms of having excess supply we can access because before it was as if we got cut out and because rely on it for resources.

“Other important reasons is that we are looking at a vast ocean and there’s always an issue of resourcing and also provide the necessary security in terms of surveillance which is something that most Pacific countries has worked from NZ, America and Australia to assist with surveillance of our E.E.Z.”

“The boundaries will help countries to see where their limits are to design proper policies to manage as a country and a region. Just like anything, you need to know the space you are working on so you can plan accordingly.”

Tilafono David Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said that their role is to monitor Samoa’s E.E.Z.

“It is especially with regards to Illegal Unreported Unregulated fishing to ensure fishing vessels both commercials and alias is complying with our laws about managing our fishery when it comes into the E.E.Z.

“The fishery within our E.E.Z. are not stationary they are migratory so Samoa not establishing maritime boundaries have no effect on Samoa monitoring its fisheries because whether we have a big or small E.E.Z., the fish is migratory and their movements is beyond our reach.

“Although the boundary hasn’t been established there is some agreed boundary already and the finalized agreements will either lead us into expanding or reducing a bit.”

Attempts by Samoa Observer to attain comments from Peseta Noumea Simi who is the C.E.O, M.F.A.T. were unsuccessful.

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.

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