At the Seventh Session of the South Pacific Forum the Leaders of the countries of the South Pacific underline the importance they attach to developments now taking place in connection with the Law of the Sea. Having considered a paper submitted by the Prime Minister of Fiji, they reaffirm the need for continuing consultation and agree that their delegations will work together very closely at the forthcoming session of the Law of the Sea Conference due to open in New York on 2 August.
The countries represented in the Forum have a common interest in seeing a positive outcome of the Conference. All members stand to benefit from the creation of a 200 mile economic zone. whose resources would be under their control, and for many of them it will open the way to major new economic opportunities. The steps they take over the next year or two are therefore of great political as well as economic importance.
The Forum Leaders recognise that much needs to be done to prepare for the establishment of 200 mile economic zones and to ensure that, once established, the zones work to the maximum advantage of the South Pacific countries. This will call for coordination and cooperation on a regional basis. The members of the Forum will seek to avoid decisions which, because of lack of consultation or coordination, could benefit one or more members only, at the expense of others and of the region as a whole.
Several major steps will be needed once 200 mile zones are established. These include negotiations with countries that send their fishing fleets from outside the region. The Forum Leaders recognise the value of a coordinated approach in these negotiations with distant- water fishing countries that now operate in the area.
It will also be necessary to develop a capability for maritime surveillance and policing. The problems involved in this can best be tackled through joint or cooperative action.
The Forum agreed that, given the stage which the Law of the Sea Conference has reached, it will be desirable for the member countries to meet shortly at Government level. Their objectives will be to consider the timing and terms of the creation of 200 mile zones; the problems and opportunities associated with them; the conservation of marine resources; the possible creation of a South Pacific fisheries agency; and the prospects for joint action and regional cooperation in matters such as surveillance and policing.
The meeting will be held at the Headquarters of the Pacific Bureau for Economic Cooperation in Suva soon after the Fifth Session of the Law of the Sea Conference concludes.
27 July 1976