Here’s something that could develop into something quite interesting. It follows on from the “Memorandum of Understanding reached by the two Governments with the support of the Northern Ireland Executive… on marine jurisdictional issues.” As I said then
If you were wondering why the lines stop at the entrances to the respective Loughs, that would be because there is still no full agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the delimitation of a territorial water boundary – hence the “Without prejudice to the negotiation of territorial sea boundaries”.
But it’s a start!
And a start it appears to have been. Here’s a written answer yesterday in Dáil Éireann from Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, TD.
In international law the sovereignty of a coastal state extends beyond its land territory to the adjacent band of water and to the seabed and subsoil beneath it. A coastal state exercises jurisdiction within that area. The extent of that jurisdiction will depend, amongst other things, on any boundaries that may have been agreed with a neighbouring state. There is currently no agreed maritime boundary within Lough Foyle.
The question of property rights to the seabed is a separate issue, regulated by domestic law. In this jurisdiction, with some small exceptions, the seabed adjacent to the coast belongs to the State and is currently vested in the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the State Property Acts. In the UK ownership of the foreshore is vested in a number of bodies, including the Crown Estate in Northern Ireland.
Uncertainty concerning the extent to which each side exercises jurisdiction within Lough Foyle, and the separate but related issue of property rights, have created practical difficulties for the conduct of a number of activities there. This has included difficulty in creating a system for the licensing of aquaculture by the Loughs Agency in accordance with the intentions of the Irish and British Governments under the 1999 Agreement establishing Implementation Bodies. Discussions between relevant Departments and agencies on both sides of the border on specific issues have been taking place on a case by case basis.
Recently the two Governments agreed to address issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough in the round. A first meeting of officials took place last week in London. While the issues involved – including the roles of the Crown Estate and all other relevant actors – are complex I am satisfied that both sides are committed to resolving them as soon as possible. [added emphasis]