Geneva Plans May Lead to Barring Israel from Fishing in Mediterranean

Israel’s fishing in the waters of the Mediterranean will be affected by two new moves made today at the 87-nation International Maritime Conference. These moves could, in effect, bar Israel from coastal fishing and might result in a scarcity of fish in the Jewish State where the major protein food is fish.

This morning the Canadian, Mexican and Indian delegations introduced a proposal to extend the limits of the territorial sea six miles from the coastline of littoral states. It also provided for exclusive fishing rights for nationals of littoral states in the next six mile belt, up to a maximum of 12 miles. Finally, it would grant states which, prior to the opening of the conference claimed territorial rights for more than six miles, rights for that distance up to a 12 mile limit.

Last night, the United States, in a surprise move, tried to end the deadlock over the limits of the territorial sea by abandoning its traditional stand on a three mile limit in favor of a compromise which would extend the territorial sea to six miles with the addition of a further six miles for a restricted fishing zone. Under this proposal, only vessels of nationals of the state littoral to the waters for at least ten years shall continue to hold fishing rights in the six to twelve mile belt.

Since the State of Israel is barely ten years old, and its fishing fleet has been built up over the years, Israeli trawlers are in danger of being barred from coastal fishing waters if the new proposal is accepted. The U.S. proposal has no bearing on international legal right of innocent passage through straits and gulfs, in which Israel with its developing port of Elath, has a vital stake.

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