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UN court draws Peru-Chile sea border to end fisheries dispute

The UN's highest court has created a new maritime boundary between Peru and Chile, ending a long-running dispute over fish-rich sea. Peru was handed a chunk of Pacific Ocean but Chile kept valuable coastal fishing areas.

The ruling by the Hague-based International Court of Justice draws a line over which country owns some 38,000 square kilometers (14,670 square miles) of ocean in a zone extending to the boundaries of each country's territorial waters.

The UN court's verdict, read out by its president, Peter Tomka, is considered a compromise between the positions of both countries on how the border should be delineated. The zone includes one of the world's richest fishing areas, with an annual catch estimated by the Peruvian government to be worth $200 million (146 million euros).

Tomka confirmed Chile's sovereignty over waters up to 80 nautical miles (92 land miles, 148 kilometers) from the coast, but the verdict significantly enlarges Peru's sovereignty over waters previously held by Chile - a large chunk of ocean beyond that point.

The Peruvian government had brought the case before the court. In Lima, Peruvian supporters watched the final ruling being read out on a television screen in the yard of the Government Palace [seen above].

Nelson Manrique, a Peruvian historian and columnist, told the AP news agency the decision was an "intelligent verdict" that was "not going to please anyone but it's also not going to bring anyone to fits."

Verdict implications

Chile had feared that some 2,000 of its fisherman could lose their jobs if the verdict had gone Peru's way. The bulk of the catch in the formerly disputed zone is an anchovy species that is mostly converted into fish meal, which is used in animal feed and fertilizers.

Peru and Chile are the world's top two exporters of fish meal.

jr/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)