Fishermen to protest sea border pact with Lithuania

  • 2000-07-27
RIGA, July 21, BNS - The Latvian Fishermen's Association is threatening to block ports in protest of the ratification of the Latvian-Lithuanian sea border agreement, which they see as "disastrously detrimental" to the Latvian fishing industry, association president Inarijs Voits said.

Commenting on the decision by the Latvian foreign and agriculture ministers to change the sea border agreement terms, Voits told the Baltic News Service that there is no point in signing the fishing cooperation agreement with Lithuania if the border agreement is ratified first.

Latvian fishermen believe that Latvia will lose good fishing areas under the agreement.

Latvia's parliament, when reviewing the document in the first reading, ruled that the final ratification of the sea border agreement was conditional on signing of the agreement on fishing rights with Lithuania.

Now the ratification terms have been changed and the fishermen are set to launch wide protests when Parliament discusses the sea border agreement in the final reading.

"We will not wait for the ratification of the border agreement, we will act immediately because we strongly oppose the provisions under the agreement," Voits said.

Fishermen contend the agreement will cost them popular fishing areas.

"Why could we haul fish there for ten years but in the eleventh year we are told that the area is off-limits? Does the state need it [the agreement] if it will be detrimental to its people and taxpayers?," Voits said.

He stressed that Latvian fishermen were likely to lose about 3 to 5 million lats ($8.33 million).

Voits also said that such agreement should be ratified only shortly before Latvia's accession to the European Union because then Latvian fishermen will be able to use all EU waters, Lithuanian waters included.

Latvian foreign and agriculture ministers agreed in June that there was no need to make the ratification of agreement conditional on signing of a bilateral cooperation agreement in the fishing industry.

Guntars Krasts, chairman of the parliamentary foreign committee responsible for the sea border agreement, said he is unaware of the agreement reached by the ministers.

The Latvian-Lithuanian sea border agreement was signed a year ago. The Latvian parliament has ratified the document in the first reading. Further discussion of the agreement in the parliamentary committee is likely to resume in September, Krasts told BNS.