Da Legal Stuff...

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Canada May Claim the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks

According to a recent CBC article, Canadian researchers will begin mapping the floor of the Arctic Ocean next year in an effort to enhance the country's sovereign rights to the area. The mapping process, which is part of a multi-year plan, is estimated to cost about $70 million and will provide an undersea inventory of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The program to map these areas began after Canada ratified the International Law of the Sea agreement in 2003. This United Nations convention allows countries to claim ownership of territory past their traditional 200-mile limit. Canada now has 10 years from the signing date to prove that the continental shelf off its coast is an extension of its landmass.

According to the article, a United Nations study suggests that Canada's continental shelf contains up to $700 billion worth of natural resources.

Canada will begin mapping its east coast later this year.

This is obviously good news for Canada as a whole, but it may also be the news Newfoundland and Labrador has been waiting to hear for decades. If Canada can convince the UN that specific areas of the Grand Banks commonly referred to as the “Nose” and “Tail” of the banks are part of the countries continental shelf, it will mean that Canada can extend its 200 mile limit and jurisdiction to include this area.

About 10% of the Grand Banks, the richest fish nursery in the world, lies outside the current limit. As a result, it’s been all but impossible to take foreign vessels to task for illegally fishing in the area. The situation has been a major concern for the NL fishing industry for years.

Over the past couple of decades, large numbers of vessels have been spotted over fishing and using illegal nets in this area. Vessels from Portugal, Iceland, Spain and several other countries regularly skirt the edge of the 200 mile limit and rape this key breeding area of its resources.

Canada has made a couple of highly publicized arrests over the years, but since the area is technically outside the Country’s sovereign jurisdiction, prosecuting these vessels has been an uphill battle. In one case, not only did the offending vessel return to its home port after being arrested, the government was later successfully sued for wrongful arrest and forced to pay reparations.

The Province has been fighting to have the Canadian government take custodial control of the area ever since the collapse of the cod fishery in the nineties. It is an accepted theory in many circles that until the over fishing in this critical area is stopped, the cod stocks will not rebound and the local fishing industry will continue to struggle for survival. Canada has been reluctant to move toward policing the area since it is technically regarded as international waters.

This new mapping and the ability to claim the entire continental shelf may finally allow Canada to take necessary steps to protect and nurture the area. The hope is that the area will be allowed rebuild it’s stocks and eventually allow for the re-building of an ailing and ever worsening industry in Canada’s poorest province.


Mike said...

The next step once we claim the area should be to setup a navy base on the island to ensure a regular military presence in the area.

No good owning it if we don't protect it.

Rick said...

Knowing the Canadian government they'll lease the fishing rights to some other country anyway if they can get away with it.

I'm keeping an eye on the case in the courts that might show that DFO and the Feds have no legal right to control our fishery. If nothing else it could mean that we can catch some fish for ourselves even if the commercial fishery is all but dead.

Anonymous said...

It'll never happen. The Canadian government is too afraid of the world wide image they project to cause an international rucus just because it is something one of the provinces wants and because it is the right thing to do.

Attila the Pun said...

Poor and small Namibia had the same problem as us until they got more aggressive with the foreigners, mostly Spanish and Portuguese. Needless to say, the Namibians probably do not depend on as much trade with the EU as much as Canada. The point is, the Namibians simply brought in laws and enforced them. The Europeans simply respected the laws and left. No silly Brian Tobin-style grandstanding and no B.S. Royal Commissions. No token arrests by Canadian fleets or banning boats from docking in Newfoundland (so they can go to St. Pierre instead). Simple, effective and straightforward..... and people wonder why I am a separatist! Mind you, I am not narrow-minded. All Canada has to do is follow what Namibia did. Maybe then I will be a Canadian.