Maldives-Mauritius boundary demarcation will not affect fishers

Photo: PSM News

The Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan has claimed that local fishers and their fishing activities will not be affected from how the southern Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Maldives is assigned.

The minister had highlighted on the benefits to local fishers after the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in southern Maldives was formally identified by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

ITLOS in its most recent verdict had demarcated the disputed territory between the Maldives and Mauritius where Chagos Archipelago falls as well. Maldives was given over 47,000 square kilometers of the contested 90,000-square-kilometer area while Mauritius received around 45,000 square kilometers.

With this, the full border of the Maldives has been genuinely realized in accordance with the international law.

Speaking at the ‘Raajje Miadhu’ program by the state media PSM, the minister addressed claims from Maldives opposition that local fishers will be affected because of the tribunal’s decision. The minister claimed that the fisheries activities will not be negatively impacted, but rather Maldives will now have proper legal jurisdiction in the southern EEZ area.

According to the ITLOS verdict, at least 142 nautical miles from the country’s shoreline fall under the jurisdiction of Maldives. However, due to the disputed southern territory, Maldives previously did not have legal jurisdiction in the area which proved challenging for the island nation as it could not take any action against any illegal fisheries activities outside of 12 nautical miles from the country’s shoreline in the southern parts.

While there are no records of Maldivian fishers ever traveling over 200 nautical miles from the country’s shoreline, the recent ITLOS decision has made it clear that the tourism and fisheries centric country now has an identified border in the surrounding seas.

“If Maldivian vessels enter Indian territory without permission for fishing, it is in breach of their laws. Similarly, any unpermitted entry by Indian vessels into our territory is unlawful,” the minister said.

Following the ITLOS decision, the Maldives can now legally enforce against any illegal fisheries activities or any unpermitted entry into its territory; especially in the southern EEZ area.

Speaking about fishing activities, the minister noted that yellowfin tuna fisheries is already in excess of the legally allowed quota. The minister further claimed that yellowfin tuna fisheries need to be dropped 22% to sustain the yellowfin tuna livestock or population.

“Over 42,000 tons of yellowfin tuna were caught in 2020, and in 2021 24,000 tons were caught. The quantum of fish caught is not related to the Chagos dispute. If net-fishing continues, it will endanger the livestock. But with this change [ITLOS decision], we do not observe fishing vessels entering into southern EEZ without permission,” the minister said.

Although the Exclusive Economic Zone in the northern Maldives was genuinely identified, the southern EEZ remained in ambiguous due to the boundary dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius.

The recent ITLOS verdict upheld the scientific data and satellite imagery presented by the Maldives in their argument, in allocating the area from the disputed territory. With this, the Maldives borderline is now fully identified.

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