LEADERS of seven Pacific Island countries have signed and exchanged eight Maritime Boundary Agreements.
The agreements, signed at the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cook Islands, will bring state-of-the-art accuracy and legal clarity to the boundary positions between several overlapping jurisdictions of neighbouring Pacific Island countries.
A statement from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said the multiple signing event was a remarkable testament of the close kinship and excellent neighbourly relationships between Pacific Island countries and underlined their ability to work together in a spirit of equitable and unified progress.
"By clearly establishing these boundaries and zones under domestic and international law, as set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the signing of these agreements will provide the foundation for improved governance, protection, conservation and management of resources within respective national jurisdictions," it said.
The seven bilateral treaties were signed by the leaders of the Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Nauru and the Marshall Islands.
In addition, the leaders of Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru agreed to an additional tri-lateral treaty concerning the determination of a point where the Exclusive Economic Zones of all three countries intersect.
"Whilst a time of great excitement for those involved, the signing is quite literally the 'tip of the iceberg' of sustained work which has been undertaken to arrive at this point," said the statement.
"The Pacific Islands region has approximately 48 shared boundaries where neighbouring jurisdictions overlap and of these only 21 are currently subject to treaty.
"The signing and settlement of these new treaties is a landmark event and will provide legal and jurisdictional certainty and provide a more accurate and secure basis for the management of the Pacific Ocean space, including fishing activity, marine environmental protection, marine research and the management and exploration of natural resources," the Forum Secretariat said in the statement.