COOK ISLANDS SEEK TO EXPAND OFFSHORE TERRITORY

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2009 UN deadline to extend Exclusive Economic Zone

By Helen Greig

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Aug. 14, 2008) – The Commonwealth Secretariat is here to help the Cook Islands in its claim to increase the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by at least 15 percent.

This will mean adding about 300,000 square kilometres north west of one of the largest EEZ's in the Pacific. The country's waters cover 2 million square kilometres.

Legal advisor to the secretariat's economic and legal section of the special advisory services division, Joshua Brien, and the head of his division, Daniel Dumas, are in Rarotonga this week to work with government on this as well as deep sea bed mining policies and legislation.

Brien provides legal and policy advice to Commonwealth member countries on matters concerning maritime boundaries and natural resources.

The United Nations has set a May 2009 deadline for claims to extend Pacific island country EEZs.

Brien says they are assisting with the submission to the UN on extending the Cooks' continental shelf limits, which is a major undertaking. An extension to the continental shelf will mean that a country can have access to the seabed, and any live organisms on or beneath it.

"We've been impressed by the work done by (CI) government to date. The Cook Islands claim won't impinge on another country's waters. Some of the other countries have overlapping claims so the Cook Islands claim will be easier in this sense," says Brien.

Last December the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) said that countries may have to speed up work on these claims because the deadline is fast approaching.

SOPAC maritime boundaries expert Andrick Lal says with limited time, countries are feeling the pressure to make submissions to the United Nations.

"If the countries do not meet the May 2009 deadline, they risk losing potential wealth from the sea such as oil, gas, gold and silver," said Lal.

The other Pacific countries assessing their claims are Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

They can claim in total more than 1.5 million square kilometres of additional space beyond their EEZ under the international law of the sea.

The assistance from the secretariat is funded by its technical cooperation fund.

Cook Islands News: http://www.cinews.co.ck/index.htm

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