Environment Ministry: Newly gained area a foundation for sustainable fisheries

Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology Aminath Shauna. (Sun Photo)

Environment Ministry, on Sunday, has described the decision by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to award the bigger portion to the Maldives in the maritime border dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius as a foundation for sustainable fisheries.

ITLOS, on Friday, concluded that the conflicting Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Maldives and Mauritius will be divided between the two using the equidistance formula as argued by Maldives in the case. The bigger portion, however, is awarded to the Maldives.

The disagreement between the two nations in dividing the zone via the equidistance formula arises from Mauritius' request to lay measurements from Blenheim Reef which is visible during low tides.

Maldives argued that the Blenheim Reef did not fall within the maritime borders of Mauritius. ITLOS, on Friday, decided against accepting the proposition put forth by Mauritius.

With this decision, Maldives will gain an additional 4,687 square kilometers of maritime area.

In a statement regarding the matter on Sunday, Environment Ministry described the declaration of Maldivian maritime border in accordance with international practices as a huge breakthrough in the government’s efforts to ensure maritime safety and security as well as the protection and conservation of marine life.

Four atolls of the Chagos archipelago alongside 640,000 square meters of sea surrounding them have been protected as a marine reserve since 2010.

The Ministry detailed that the gain of the protected marine area will significantly boost fisheries in southern Maldives. They also stressed that the Chagos’ marine reserve is among the areas in the world with the richest in marine life. Henceforth, the Ministry said that the guarantee of protected area will also aid in sustainable fisheries.

“We also see the decision as a step towards reaching High Ambition Coalition and Global Oceans Alliance’s 30x30 goal set down under the Global Biodiversity Framework in the Convention on Biological Diversity aimed at ensuring 30 percent of the world oceans are protected areas,” the statement read.

The Ministry further stated that a marine spatial plan of the area will be drawn up through the ‘Noo Raajje’ project presently underway. This plan will be based on scientific findings. Meanwhile, the combined protected marine areas of Chagos and the Maldives would aid in the conservation of marine life in the Indian Ocean and promote sustainable fisheries.

ITLOS’ ruling awarded Maldives 47,232 square kilometers from the 95,563 square kilometers of maritime territory in dispute while Mauritius was awarded 45,331 square kilometers.