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close this bookConflict over Natural Resources in South-East Asia and the Pacific (UNU, 1990, 256 pages)
close this folder6. Conflict over natural resources in the Pacific
View the document(introductory text...)
View the document6.1 The region and its resources
View the document6.2 Conflicts over marine space
View the document6.3 Conflicts over the marine environment
View the document6.4 Conflicting maritime claims
View the document6.5 Conflicts over pelagic resources
View the document6.6 Conflict over seabed mineral resources
View the document6.7 Conclusions
View the documentReferences

6.1 The region and its resources

The Pacific region contains some 10.000 islands having a total land area of 550 000 sq. km and a total population of approximately 5 million (Table 6.1; Figure 6.1). The total area claimed by the island states as part of their 200-nmi exclusive economic zones (EEZs) is about 30 000 000 sq. km in an ocean with an area of 165 000 000 sq. km.

The tropical islands of the Pacific are distributed both north and south of the equator roughly between 1400 W and 1300 E longitude (Figure 6.1). These are islands that have long stretches of white sandy beaches, palm trees, and summer all year long. Not all of them are low-lying coral atolls-some, such as Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomons, are high islands. They are relatively rich in land-based natural resources including minerals such as gold, copper, and manganese.

Because of their geographical location, all of these islands have two resources that are particularly important-climate and marine space. Climatic and related conditions provide an environment that attracts increasingly large numbers of travellers, and the islands are becoming resort areas financed by international sources of capital. This development provides jobs for islanders, thus sustaining increasing appetites for foreign-produced goods and services. This is part of the vicious cycle of import dependence and adverse balance of trade that characterizes the islands' economics.

TABLE 6.1 - Population and Land and Sea Area of Countries in the South Pacific Commission Areal

Country Population (mid-1978) Land Area (sq. km) Sea Area (sq km) Sea Area
        Land Area
American Samoa 31,500 197 390 000 1,980
Cook Islands 18,500 240 1 830 000 7,625
Fiji 607,000 18 272 1 290 000 71
French Polynesia 141,000 3 265 5 030 000 1,541
Guam 90,000 541 Included in TTPI n.a.
Kiribati 56,000 684 3 550 000 5,190
Nauru 7,000 21 320 000 15,238
New Caledonia 138,000 19 103 1 740 000 91
New Hebrides 101,500 11 880 680 000 57
Nioe 3,700 259 390 000 1,506
Norfolk Island 1,900 36 400 000 11,111
Papua New Guinea 2,990,000 462 243 3 120 000 7
Pitcairn Island 100 5 800 000 160,000
Solomon Islands 214;000 28 530 1 340 000 47
Tokelau 1,600 10 290 000 29,000
Tonga 93,000 699 700 000 1,001
Trust Territory of the        
Pacific Islands 133,000 1 832 6 200 000 3,384
Tuvalu 7,400 26 900 000 34,615
Wallis and Futuna 10,000 255 300 000 1,176
Western Samoa 153,000 2 935 120 000 41
Total 4,798,200 551 033 29 390 000 (Av.) 53

Source: Feleti Sevele and Alan Bollard (1979), South Pacific Countries: A Statistical Summary, Occasional Paper, v. 15. Noumea: South Pacific Commission.
n.a. = not available.
1Includes 200-ntiti EEZs.