France to declare exclusive fishing zone in Mediterranean



France intends to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean in a bid to protect dwindling fish stocks, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said Monday.

"The French government has decided to declare an EEZ in the Mediterranean ... with a perimeter of approximately 70 nautical miles, corresponding to our existing environmental protection area," Borloo told reporters.

Defined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an EEZ lets coastal states extend their jurisdiction beyond their 12-mile territorial waters, up to a maximum of 200 miles.

France, which has the world's second largest EEZ after the United States due to its many overseas territories, had not previously declared an exclusive zone in the Mediterranean "because there was no justification for doing so," Borloo said.

Borloo said the French move was aimed at "protecting French fishing, but especially to protect fish" and to "avoid the arrival of powerful industrial fleets in the closed sea of the Mediterranean."

"We are changing policy because it is unacceptable for boats from around the world to be able to draw on resources, especially of fish, anywhere except in the 15-mile territorial waters, without any control," he said.

Under the terms of the UN convention, an EEZ gives a coastal state sovereign sovereign rights to regulate fishing activities, explore and exploit all natural resources within the zone's waters, seabed and subsoil.

Coastal states have the right to determine the fish catch within their EEZ, while working to prevent over-exploitation in concert with regional and international organisations.

Until now, very few states have declared EEZs in the Mediterranean. Were all coastal states to do so, every point in the sea would fall under one or other state's jurisdiction.

Borloo said France hoped to see more countries decree EEZs, within the framework of the 43-member Union for the Mediterranean, "and for us to have a debate among ourselves for the total protection of the Mediterranean."

Launched in Paris a year ago, the 43-member aims to foster cooperation in one of the world's most volatile regions, with protecting marine resources one of its main stated goals.

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