Notes From The Margin

July 21, 2007

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

In a previous article (Venezuela and Bird Island) I talked about Venezuela’s claim on Aves Island. Now Aves Rock (or Island). This island is about 2 meters above sea level at it’s highest point, and is at times completely submerged. However Venezuela has gone to great lengths to make sure that the island is continually inhabited (In a facility built on stilts). We’ll get into the details of why in a minute. But after some careful checking I found some pictures of the “island” that truly give an idea of how big it is.

First, a view of the island from the side of a ship.

Then a shot of the “Permanent Human Habitation” – Note the rubber dingies on the right for scale.

Finally the reason why Venezuela has gone to all of this trouble. The yellow area shows the Venezuelan Economic space, with the effect of Aves Island/Rock.


Under the International Law Of The Sea Aves Island is classified as a rock which does not get the 200mile economic zone, however Venezuela hasn’t signed the UNLOS treaty. This rock effectively removes a significantly removes most of the OECS’ economic zone. The irony is that if Venezuela finds oil in those waters, they’ll sell it to the OECS on REALLY EASY finance terms under Petro Caribe (but at full cost of course!)

So once again…., What does Mr. Chavez get out of Petro Caribe?



  1. Dear “Marginal”,

    Maybe in his view and that of his followers not all benefits should be measured in dollars and cents, perhaps they view their international influence gained this way as a benefit itself, maybe, I don’t know.


    Comment by JSB-714 — July 22, 2007 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  2. To be fair, this claim and the “human habitation” didn’t start with Hugo Chavez. It’s been around for a long time, it is only recently in the Caribbean that we have become aware of the strategic importance of these territorial claims. I don’t particularly think this is so much about influence as resources. In a country that has a thriving petroleum industry they get the value of territory. To my mind that would be the driver behind the claim of Guyana as well as this claim.

    This is not unique. The whole Barbados/Trinidad UNLOS arbitration was about resources as well living and non living. And this was on both sides of the dispute not just the Barbados end.

    What amazes me is that the OECS has been so quick to jump and sign the Petro Caribe agreement without considering this.

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — July 23, 2007 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  3. With PetroCaribe, Chavez gets effective control over a vital part of the OECS economy for very little in up-front payment. Politically and economically, it’s a brilliant move for Venezuala but it doesn’t do anything for the OECS other than put off payment. They weren’t thinking straight – or possibly at all. It’s really mortgaging the future. Bad idea.

    Comment by james — July 25, 2007 @ 12:40 pm | Reply

  4. Marginal,
    Very interesting EEZ map using the “island” scenario. Do you will like to share with us a map showing the rock scenario?
    Thanks, Ya

    Comment by Yayo — August 12, 2007 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

  5. Yayo,

    I don’t have a map, but I believe that under the Law of The Seas convention a “rock” is allowed only a 12 mile “economic zone” as opposed to the 200 Miles given to an island.


    Comment by notesfromthemargin — August 13, 2007 @ 1:30 am | Reply

  6. […] 1. What effect does Petro Caribe have on Venezuela’s claim on Bird Rock, that ffects the terri… […]

    Pingback by Third Petro Caribe Summit « Notes From The Margin — August 14, 2007 @ 2:52 am | Reply

  7. Venezuela is NOT a signatory to UN convention of the law of the sea. However, your blog is still providing excellent “fodder for the brain”. Thanks.

    Comment by Citizen First — August 15, 2007 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  8. Citizen,

    thank you for your kind words, we acknowlege that they haven’t signed in the last paragraph. “…200mile economic zone, however Venezuela hasn’t signed the UNLOS treaty.” Their not signing creates all kind of issues for the future of the Caribbean.

    Thanks again, and we hope you will continue to comment.


    Comment by notesfromthemargin — August 15, 2007 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  9. […] Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea […]

    Pingback by Venezuela Attacks Guyana - Is This A First Strike? « Notes From The Margin — November 20, 2007 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  10. […] Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea […]

    Pingback by Bird Island Again! - Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela. « Notes From The Margin — February 1, 2008 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  11. […] Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea […]

    Pingback by Is This Venezuelan Propaganda Under Hammie La’s Name? « Notes From The Margin — April 14, 2008 @ 8:55 am | Reply

  12. Contrary to other comments, the OECS has been aware of the effect of Venezuela’s 200 mile claim for Aves on its maritme claims for many years and indeed made a protest about this to the United Nations back in the early 1990’s.

    The situation is complicated because France and the USA have already allowed Venezuela to claim full weight for Aves when it clearly does not match UNCLOS criteria. Man-made structures are specifically barred; Aves is otherwise unable to support human habitation on it’s own.

    Comment by simon — March 6, 2009 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  13. Yes I’d agree Simon, however Venezuela’s claim goes back much further. The US and France’s positions come from days when Venezuela was a “bulwark against the communist threat”. Funny how things change…..

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — March 6, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  14. do aves island fall within thier 200 mile zone of any one of the carribean island?

    Comment by don — March 14, 2009 @ 2:08 am | Reply

  15. Dominica is closest.

    which is what made Petro Caribe such a joke.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 14, 2009 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  16. When I look at the map above it is plain to see that Aves Island is closer to Dominica than Venezuela. Dominica should have claimed many centries ago.

    comment by mano

    Comment by Anonymous — November 7, 2009 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

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  24. Venezuela received the titles over Aves Island (Isla de Aves) from an Arbitral Award in 1865, and the Netherlands, which was the country that also claimed the island, accepted the ruling. Venezuela has signed bilateral agreements with the United States, France and Netherlands, and they acknowledged the Venezuelan sovereignty over the island and its waters, including its exclusive economic zone. Venezuela has been exercising her sovereignty over those waters BEFORE the UNCLOS appeared, with no previous claims from the then Brisith, Dutch or French colonies. Therefore, nobody can put a claim over her sovereignty, specially considering that Venezuela isn’t obliged by the Law of the Sea treaty. You should thank Venezuela for her generosity when it sells you its oil with financial preferences, because the truth is that Venezuela doesn’t have any obligation to do so, and it can stop doing it whenever it wants. Period.

    Comment by Alexander — February 28, 2014 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  25. […] … from Notes from the Margin article How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea […]

    Pingback by Venezuela Declares Right to fly Warplanes over sovereign Caribbean Islands | Barbados Free Press — February 24, 2015 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

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