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Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie, has underscored strong the “ownership rights” which Caribbean countries have of the territorial waters which they encircle.

He emphasized this point while delivering the keynote address at a lecture held at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in the US Capital, Washington, D.C., last Thursday (Nov. 8), on the topic: “Who owns the Caribbean Sea?”

Ambassador Vasciannie, who alluded to the provisions in the Law of the Sea Convention which addresses ownership of aquatic resources, pointed out that this was determined, primarily, by the principle of distance.  

"Countries own parts of the sea on the basis of proximity. So, for example, Jamaica's territorial sea is that part of the Caribbean Sea stretching 12 miles from the country’s baseline," Ambassador Vasciannie explained, while adding that where ownership in this regard has been determined, countries are duty-bound to protect the waters within their territorial proximity.

IDB Executive Director for the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, Kurt Kisto, who also spoke, issued a call for greater interest to be shown by nations globally in protecting the world’s seas and oceans, and their resources.

This position was supported by Assistant Secretary General, Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Albert Ramdin, who also spoke on issues relating to pollution, maritime cooperation, and nuclear transshipment.

The Forum was organized by the IDB and Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS), in partnership with a number of Caribbean Embassies and Missions, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. 

President and Founder of ICS, Dr. Claire Nelson, pointed out that the forum brought into sharp focus a critical question facing the countries bordering the Caribbean Basin. 

She said while the 15-member CARICOM countries often take centre-stage in discussions pertaining to the Caribbean, there are some 32 countries, territories and dependencies that are impacted by the Caribbean Sea, and who have “ownership rights” to that body of water, as well.

Dr. Nelson indicated that the ICS would be undertaking other activities to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Law of the Sea Convention.