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Security Conflict

Fishing Wars: Competition for South China Sea’s Fishery Resources

Chinese fishing boat
Chinese fishing boat. Photo: Ian Lloyd/flickr.

The hydrocarbon potential of the South China Sea (SCS) has become a source of tension between the littoral states of the region and, to a certain extent, a number of outside actors. However, the SCS’s significance to global oil and gas supplies is over-hyped. Instead, it is the region’s fisheries rather than fossil fuels that have the potential to ignite a regional conflict.

Fish not fuel

Put simply, speculation that the SCS constitutes a ‘second Persian Gulf’ lacks substance. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the region’s offshore energy resources – at just over 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – are comparable to European supplies. Contrary to popular belief, most of SCS’s oil and gas resources are actually located in non-disputed territory, closer to the shores of coastal states. Factors such as technological challenges, inadequate seismic studies, plus huge costs and political risks also place serious limits on deep-water drilling farther into the SCS.

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Conflict

Stormy Waters? The Maritime Border Disputes between Bolivia, Chile and Peru

Map of the maritime claims of Ecuador, Peru, and surrounding countries. Source: Political Geography Now via Wikimedia Commons

International boundaries are often blurred by the processes of globalization, but in South America some maritime borders remain contested. For instance, Chile and Peru, neighbors that have enjoyed sustained economic development over the past few years, remain at odds over approximately 38,000 square kilometers of sea located along their maritime border.

Bilateral negotiations between the two countries were first held in 1980 but no agreement was reached. In 2008, Peru took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in turn, considered the issue at a public hearing in December 2012. The ICJ is expected to make a ruling on the dispute in mid-2013.

In the meantime, Peru continues to argue that the maritime border has not yet been defined by any agreement, with documents signed in the 1950s only relating to access to fishing grounds.  Lima also claims that maritime limits should run diagonally south-west from the land border.

Categories
International Relations

Calming Colombia and Nicaragua’s Murky Waters

Disputed-maritime-border between Nicaragua and Colombia. Image by Tim Rogers/ Nicaragua Dispatch.

After being on the backburner for over three decades, The Hague is finally ruling on a spat between Colombia and Nicaragua over a set of islands that includes San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea. While Nicaragua will argue that the border between the states should be located between its coast and Colombia’s—and not be defined by the 82nd meridian—there is little chance that Nicaragua will succesfully claim sovereignty over the entire archipelago, and the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision by the end of 2012 will set an important precedent for maritime disputes across Latin America.

Aside from deciding where the new border will be, the real focus of the dispute will center on the inhabitants of the islands, who have chosen for over a century to be part of Colombia. A clear ruling would not only settle the difference between these two countries, but also help encourage long-overdue development and security. This will hopefully allow the islands to enjoy the wealth of the region’s untapped natural resources. It should also act as an important model for other such border disputes when two countries can’t reach a mutual agreement, something ICJ encourages before filing claims at the higher court.