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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Aug. 22) - French High Commissioner Anne Boquet plans to visit Clipperton Island by the end of the year.

France wants to reaffirm sovereignty over the island and its precious fishing zone.

The island, a French possession located 1,630 miles (2,623 km) south-southeast of San Diego and 1,600 miles west of Nicaragua, has a strategic value and negotiations for a fishing agreement with Mexico have been underway for several months.

[PIR editor’s note: According to The World Factbook, an online resource of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Clipperton Island was named for John Clipperton, a pirate who made it his hideout early in the 18th century. Annexed by France in 1855, it was seized by Mexico in 1897. Arbitration eventually awarded the island to France, which took possession in 1935. The island, an uninhabited atoll, is administered by France from French Polynesia by a high commissioner of the Republic ]

Up until now, the fish surrounding Clipperton has been a big attraction for Mexican, Salvadorian and Colombian fishermen.

Last February, a Papeéte court handed out a10 million French Pacific franc (US$102,564) fine for each of three foreign boat captains for illegally fishing off Clipperton Island.

A French Navy vessel surprised two Mexican captains and one Costa Rican captain in April 2005 as they were fishing off the atoll. The holds of the three fishing boats contained a combined total of 1,600 tons of fish.

Unlike the coral atolls in French Polynesia, which have passes through the coral reef, allowing the ocean waters to replenish and revitalize the lagoon daily, Clipperton's coral formation completely surrounds the stagnant fresh-water lagoon, serving as home for thousands of sea birds and millions of land crabs.

Most of the island is no higher than six feet (1.8 m), except for Clipperton Rock, a volcanic rock formation that peaks at a height of 69 feet (21 m).

The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan originally discovered Clipperton Island in 1521. The French first visited the island in 1708, naming it "Ile de la Possession" and annexing it for France.

At the end of the 19th Century, an American and then a British-Mexican guano mining company exploited Clipperton and a lighthouse was built in 1906.

The last residents left the island in July 1917, which sparked an ownership dispute between France and Mexico that went to the Vatican and finally to the King of Italy to decide. Victor Emanuel II declared in 1931 that Clipperton was to be a French possession.

The French Navy visits the island occasionally, along with scientific expeditions.

August 23, 2006


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