International law lecturer says argument is weak
Posted By: News In Response To: Flying Fish or Bajan Red Herring (Ayinde)
Date: 22, February 04, at 9:04 a.m.
In Response To: Flying Fish or Bajan Red Herring (Ayinde)
BY JUHEL BROWNE, http://www.guardian.co.tt/
Barbados has been saying they want more access to the fish in T&T's waters, but they have not been offering anything in return said Anselm Francis, a senior lecturer at the Institute of International Relations.
Furthermore, Francis said oil and gas reserves in T&T's waters could be one of the resources Barbados is seeking access to as it is now challenging the legality of a delimitation agreement between this country and Venezuela.
"It is a possibility," said Francis.
He also said that there was no link between Barbados' claims of unfair treatment regarding fishing access in T&T's waters and the $1 billion plus in trade between the two countries.
Barbados has placed monitoring licences on a majority of goods imported from T&T. This was in response to the arrest of two Barbadian fishermen who were charged with fishing in T&T's waters two weeks ago.
"The trade thing is not really connected to fisheries," Francis said. "It is unfortunate that that link has been established in terms of the access by the Barbadian fishermen to the waters of T&T.
"What one has to bear in mind is that Barbados was not offering anything in return. T&T's fishermen were not seeking any access to Barbados' waters."
Francis also said there are Caricom treaties that govern trade within the region while fishing rights are a bilateral issue.
Arguing within boundaries
Francis was interviewed by phone on Tuesday, one day after Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur said he would seek the intervention of the UN's Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) to resolve his country's dispute with T&T.
In a statement to reporters on Monday after he met with a high level T&T delegation, led by Prime Minister Patrick Manning in Barbados, Arthur said his Government did not recognise a 14-year-old delimitation agreement between T&T and Venezuela.
As long as there is no settlement over territorial boundaries between T&T and Barbados, one side can always contend it has the right to access specific areas because the lines are not clear, said Francis.
On Monday, Arthur said the T&T/Venezuela delimitation agreement infringes upon "an enormous part" of the maritime territory Barbados and Guyana, as well as one-third of Guyana's land territory.
Yet Francis noted when it comes to fish stocks in T&T's waters, the laws on the issue are very specific.
"If there is a surplus of fish resource, surplus being the operative word, the country should give access to other countries to harvest that surplus," Francis said.
"T&T's surplus is to be determined by T&T. It is not Barbados which, according to the law, is to determine that surplus."
Francis agreed with the T&T Government that Barbados has no right to extract fish supplies from this country's territorial waters without its permission.
"Because of the trade imbalance between the two countries, they (Barbados) think that they should gain access to the fish resources in T&T's exclusive economic zone. That is not a legal argument," Francis said.
He noted that T&T never said Barbadian fisherman cannot access this nation's waters, but the issue had to do with the number and the size of the boats.
This is an issue on which the two sides are yet to agree.
However, in his opinion, fish should be a shared resource since they move from territory to territory.
The right to fish
As for Barbados' argument that Taiwanese fishing vessels are being given preference to Barbadian boats, Francis said that argument is weak.
Barbados has said its fishermen should be allowed to collect fish in T&T's waters and bring it back to Barbados instead of having the fish collected by the Taiwanese and then sold to them.
Francis said the fish that the Taiwanese collect from T&T's waters is processed locally and not sent to Taiwan.
"What they (Barbados) are asking for is not really similar to the deal between T&T and the Taiwanese," he said.
However, Francis disagreed with Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday who said neither the United Nations nor its Convention on the Law of the Sea has any authority over the fishing dispute between T&T and Barbados.
"Both T&T and Barbados are parties to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. That convention provides the machinery for settling this issue."
Francis said it was his view that Caricom did not have the mechanism for dealing with these maritime issues.
CSME under pressure
Institute of International Relations senior lecturer Anselm Francis said the T&T/ Barbados fishing and territorial dispute could have a major impact on the progress of the Caricom Single Market Economy scheduled to take effect in 2005.
Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, has been charged with the responsibility of leading the CSME initiative.
Francis said he is hopeful T&T and Barbados will soon resolve their differences as trade sanctions by either sides would affect more than the relationship between the two states.
"That (dispute) could undermine the integrity of this Caricom (trade) treaty and could delay the establishment of the Caribbean Single Market Economy which is the direction that many would want to see us move in," Francis said.
He believed that once arguments on the territorial dispute are heard before the International Tribunal of the Conventions on the Law of the Sea, that will ultimately bring a conclusion to the negotiations of that issue and the fishing agreement.
Francis said the fact that Barbados has carried T&T before the UN body does not mean that relations between the two countries have deteriorated beyond repair.
"Sometimes very friendly countries do submit issues to arbitration," he said.
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