The High Commissioner for Kiribati in Fiji, Ms Retata Nikuata-Rimon, yesterday thanked the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) for assisting her atoll nation with its maritime boundaries, hydrographic nautical charts and deep-sea mining.On the latter, she said it was an area 'in which there is growing interest as it offers potential for social and economic development, although we must be cautious about the environmental impact'.
Ms Nikuata-Rimon made these comments at the 42nd Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) meeting, which is being held at the SPC headquarters in Noumea from 12 to 16 November.
CRGA is a committee of SPC's governing body, the Conference of the Pacific Community, which meets every two years.
Earlier this year, at the Forum Leaders' meeting in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, seven Pacific Island countries and territories (Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu,) signed and exchanged a total of eight maritime boundary agreements.
In addition, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru signed a trilateral treaty on the 'Tri-Junction Point', a point where the exclusive economic zones of all three countries intersect.
SPC's Applied Geoscience and Technology Division supported the countries in the determination of the agreed boundaries, working collaboratively with members and with support from SPC's Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division and the Forum Fisheries Agency.
Agreement on boundaries has taken many years of work, often involving sensitive negotiations between members. The signing of these treaties has brought to just under 30 the total number of treaties concluded out of a total of 48 boundaries.
The signed agreements on 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), has now provided these countries with the foundation for improved governance, protection, conservation, and management of resources within national jurisdictions.
The new treaties will allow for more legal and jurisdictional certainty and provide an accurate and secure basis for the management of the Pacific Ocean space, including fishing activity, marine environmental protection, marine research, and management and exploration of natural resources such as deep-sea minerals.
With funding support from the European Union, SPC developed a regional legislative and regulatory framework for deep-sea minerals this year, which comes at a critical juncture as Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) show growing interest in the potential for deep-sea mining.
The framework provides a guide that will assist PICTs in developing national legislation and considering associated policy and developmental issues, should they wish to engage in deep-sea mineral exploration within their exclusive economic zones.
Many countries in the region currently do not have national legislation to deal with deep-sea mineral exploration and the framework addresses this gap.