Defining a maritime border between The Bahamas and the United States will allow for more efficient management of the country's marine resources, according to Brent Symonette, minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister.
The two countries began their first session of technical meetings yesterday on the delimitation of a maritime boundary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices at the Goodman's Bay Corporate Centre.
Symonette revealed to Guardian Business that the session was the beginning of formal negotiations that will ultimately define The Bahamas' maritime borders.
"For The Bahamas, the delimitation of its maritime boundaries is of paramount importance, as boundaries express in concrete terms the space in which a country has the right to fully exercise its sovereignty," he noted.
"A defined maritime border between The Bahamas and the United States will allow for more effective law enforcement of The Bahamas' maritime area, including a more efficient management of fisheries resources and further advancement towards mitigating environmental degradation."
He pointed out how The Bahamas was among one of the first countries in the world to permit U.S. shipriders to exercise limited jurisdiction within its national territory.
"The sea connects both countries as does our commitment to the rule of law and our mutual recognition of fundamental principles of the international legal principles governing the world's oceans," Symonette added.
Additionally, Symonette explained that a maritime border will give legal certainty to both countries, clarifying the extent to which The Bahamas is able to harness the future potential of marine resources.
Michael Braynen, director at the Department of Marine Resources, told Guardian Business that these negotiations are expected to clearly define a limit between the United States and the waters of The Bahamas.
"It will make a lot of difference on the Bahamian side with respect to law enforcement and also with the respect to turning the attention of people to the waters well beyond our coastal areas," he said.
"In The Bahamas, most of our fishing takes place in coastal areas. I think some of the attention that will arise from these delimitation talks will cause Bahamians to look more at these resources of the deeper waters."
John Dinkelman, the temporary U.S. ambassador to The Bahamas, noted that both countries are called upon to be good stewards of the environment and the resources found in and under the waters of their shores.
"The waters we will be examining are the source of commerce, travel, recreation and livelihoods. They link the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean; they give birth to the mighty Gulf Stream; and they are home to precious aquatic life that is a heritage not only for our generation but for the ones that will follow," he said.
He continued: "Each time we consider the question of a maritime boundary, we encounter unique and novel challenges, yet we can draw confidence from knowing there is a foundation of useful guidance and experience on which to build. This will be the first of multiple meetings and dialogues on this issue and I am confident that each will bring us one step closer to our objectives."
To date, The Bahamas has completed an agreement with Cuba and has initiated talks with the United Kingdom in respect of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
However, these talks were suspended due to internal issues that exist in those islands.
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