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Feb 22, 2017

Coming to Agreement on the Law of the Sea

A three-day workshop concluded in the city today – two days were spent gathering information from regional and international specialists, including scientists and legal experts, on issues that are relevant on how we conserve and sustainably manage marine biological diversities in areas that are beyond our territorial waters. Today was the final day – a closed panel session summing up the past two days. We spoke with Janine Felson in her capacity as CARICOM’s coordinator of negotiations for the new agreement under the law of the sea. She explains that what they are setting out to do is to develop an agreement that will not only seek to help those waters that are outside our maritime spaces, but will ultimately benefit our marine ecosystem.

 

Janine Felson

Janine Felson, CARICOM Coordinator

“The reason that we are doing that is because we have become aware, from Science, that there are a number of stressors from Oceans that are impactingnot only the ecosystems that will be found in those areas, but it has a knock on effect for ecosystems that are in our territorial waters. It has an impact on the food we eat; it has an impact on how our climate is dealing with the global warming temperatures. So, this is a way in which we can have a context within which we can then discuss are the types of legal obligations we foresee for our states potentially for regionally bodies, in addressing those types of stressors.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, in terms of implementing it, how do we get this particular instrument to work with other agreements that already exist; so that it won’t compete or conflict with each other, but perhaps support and strengthen what’s already in place?”

 

Janine Felson

“Right. So, there are other agreements that deal with biodiversity but not beyond areas of national jurisdiction. There are areas that deal with fisheries, but they are dealt with in regional context and sometimes it is specific to a type of fish, so we don’t have a comprehensive framework and the idea is to have a comprehensive framework. But, you are very right, there could be potential for conflicts in jurisdiction and authority, so this agreement has to be focused on how it complements those but also how it fills in the gaps where they exist.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How does this all tie in, perhaps, from a local perspective?”

 

Janine Felson

“Right. So, there are two ways. There is the one way where our national experience can actually help with some of the thinking at the international level, so we actually do have a very integrated approach to the management of our fisheries, which is important. We have a tremendous number of marine protected areas, so we know how they work. And, again, that information can inform the negotiations. But, I think, what you are getting at is really the reverse of it – how in protecting these areas – we protect what is our own. And you have to think about the ocean not in terms of its legal division; but in terms of it being one major ecosystem. So, whatever happens out there will impact what happens here. And in that way, we could look at it in another measure of our own sustainability and conservation interest.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And finally, what happens from here; now that the three day workshop is over, what is the next step?”

 

Janine Felson

“So, what we have done is that we have created a roadmap of the issues that CARICOM will start pushing forward at the international level and there are two final negotiating meetings that will occur in New York at the United Nations. They are called preparatory committees and they will be held at the end of March and the first week of April – that is called the third prep comm and then the fourth prep comm will be held in July. And at that point in time we will have come to an agreement, hopefully, on substantive recommendations on elements for this new agreement and that then moves on to a final diplomatic conference to negotiate and finalize the actual agreement. So, several steps before we get to the end result, but critical steps.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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