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Fiji Eyes Seabed Claimed By New Zealand - Report

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 14 NZPA - Fiji is eyeing an area of the sea floor in the South Fiji Basin already claimed by New Zealand.

The island republic is waiting to hear from the United Nations Commission on Limits to Continental Shelves over a large swathe of ocean floor it claims south of the island of Kadavu, which is 75km south of Suva.

Fiji's claims will be discussed in the 24th session of the Commission, to be held in New York from August 10 to September 11.

Radio Fiji reported Dr Arthur Webb, islands and ocean programme at the inter-governmental Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), said that the area of the southern ocean floor for which Fiji has made a claim overlaps with the claims made by New Zealand.

He said the technical basis on which the Fijians had made their claim was correct, but Fiji had not yet gone through a process to validate its claim.

"Depending on the outcome of that process, I think they will have to negotiate with New Zealand on equitable division of resources," he told Radio Fiji.

The claim involved mineral-rich seabed could potentially conceal vast deposits of precious metals, gas or even oil.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows states to extend their territorial claim to the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles if they can show that the continental shelf beyond their coastline extends that far.

Fiji has made two other claims, one northwest of Rotuma and for the other, it wants a small pocket of seabed near Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

The nation's territorial claims are bounded in the north by its 200 mile limit and in the east by a median line between Fiji and Tonga.

But reports earlier this year said the outer limit of Fiji's extended continental shelf in the region of the South Fiji Basin covers an area of 77,827 square kilometres beyond the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Eight Pacific island nations, among them Fiji, Palau and Tonga, are reported to have claimed a total of 1.5m square km of extra seabed.

In September last year, the United Nations confirmed New Zealand's rights over 1.7m square km of seabed outside its EEZ -- an area six times the size of New Zealand's land area. NZPA WGT kca mgr

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