PACNEWS – 05:15 am GMT+12, 09/02/2021, Fiji
Fiji’s Parliament has unanimously endorsed a motion to sign the maritime boundary agreement with Solomon Islands.
Members of Parliament agreed it’s in Fiji’s sovereign interest to finalise the maritime boundary to protect and police illegal activities that impact on maritime safety, security, economy and environment.
According to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that made the recommendation – “Fiji is progressing in securing and finalising the delimitation of its maritime boundaries through negotiations with neighbouring Pacific countries.”
“This Agreement with the Solomon Islands is pivotal in the resolution of maritime boundaries regionally. In total, there are 48 shared maritime boundaries in the Pacific with 35 boundaries4 being resolved through agreements such as this one. Fiji’s conclusion and execution of this Agreement will bring that number up to 36, according to the Committee’s report to the Fijian Parliament.
Fiji shares its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundaries with Vanuatu, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia.
Speaking in Parliament, Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism, Faiyaz Koya said Fiji has successfully concluded maritime boundary agreements with Tuvalu, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. However, Fiji is yet to complete maritime boundary talks with Tonga and Vanuatu.
The longstanding dispute with Tonga concerns the Minerva Reef, which it annexed in 1972. Fiji has also laid claim saying the reef is within Fiji territorial waters.
Fiji has attempted discussions with Tonga to resolve the impasse but to no avail.
Signing this maritime boundary agreement with Solomon Islands ensures a clear demarcation of Fiji’s maritime boundary, ensures protection of maritime domain awareness through the detection of illegal activities, enhances search and rescue operations and joint patrol of both countries EEZ and facilitate extradition of those that commit offences like trafficking of drugs, illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing (IUU) and arms smuggling and prostitution in the high seas.
“This is a positive indication that Fiji is on track to meet its commitments under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to finalise all its outstanding maritime boundaries, according to the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
With the renewed interest by foreign mining companies in the region for exploration or exploitation of deep sea minerals, as well as increasing reports of IUU fishing activities in the region, Fiji and other Pacific countries are noting the importance of formally establishing their maritime zones in a legal manner.