Rarotonga 29/08/12 - At the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum meeting here in Rarotonga this week, a unique event was witnessed when the Leaders of seven (7) Pacific Island Countries signed and exchanged a total of eight (8) Maritime Boundary Agreements.

This multiple signing event is a remarkable testament of the close kinship and excellent neighbourly relationships between Pacific Islands Countries and underlines their ability to work together in a spirit of equitable and unified progress. By clearly establishing these boundaries and zones under domestic and international law, as set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the signing of these agreements will provide the foundation for improved governance, protection, conservation and management of resources within respective national jurisdictions.

The seven (7) bilateral treaties were signed by the leaders of the Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Nauru and the Marshall Islands. In addition, the leaders of Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru agreed to an additional tri-lateral treaty concerning the determination of a point where the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of all three (3) countries intersect, referred to as a "Tri-junction point".

The successful preparations of these agreements leading up to the signing event have been a result of the excellent collaborative work between the respective technical and legal country teams and the regional coordination and collaboration with the Applied Geoscience & Technology Division (SOPAC) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), theGovernment of Australia's Attorney General's Office and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Whilst a time of great excitement for those involved, the signing is quite literally the 'tip of the iceberg' of sustained work which has been undertaken to arrive at this point. The key to the completion of these treaties has been the sustained and dedicated work of each country boundaries team of legal and technical personnel who have worked closely with the Maritime Boundaries Sector in the SOPAC Division, SPC for several years now patiently building the technical solutions which underpins these treaties.

The Pacific Islands Region has approximately 48 shared boundaries where neighbouring jurisdictions overlap and of these only 21 are currently subject to treaty. The signing and settlement of these new treaties is a land mark event and will provide legal and jurisdictional certainty and provide a more accurate and secure basis for the management of the Pacific Ocean space, including fishing activity, marine environmental protection, marine research and the management and exploration of natural resources.