Georges Bank

Throughout their respective histories, the United States and Canada have been linked not just by a common border, but by common values: respect for law; political compromise; representative government.

In that regard, the ruling by the World Court awarding a part of the Georges Bank to Canada should impel both nations to get down finally to the business of working out mutually acceptable compromises that should have been reached years ago.

Georges Bank is a major world fishing ground. It is also believed rich in oil and mineral resources. The region is located off the New England coast and southwest of Nova Scotia. Canada had claimed up to one-third of the area. The US had claimed all of it. The World Court, a United Nations tribunal, has now drawn a line through the area - slicing off about one-sixth of the region for Canada.

Now, following the decision, New England fishing groups are clearly upset, arguing that the ruling could endanger their livelihoods, since they will be shut off from some traditional fishing grounds.

Perhaps some fishermen will be financially hurt. But that need not be the case, provided both sides take firm measures to ensure the long-range well-being of the disputed territory. That means protecting spawning grounds from other encroachments, such as potential oil development, as well as fishing from non-North American trawlers. Granted, many New England communities base their well-being on fishing. New Bedford, Mass., for example. But many Canadian coastal communities are also fishing-based. And much of Canada's East Coast fish catch is exported to the US.

The United States and Canada are each other's main trading partners. That being the case, representatives from both sides should talk common sense about how to protect a region that is vital to both. Tough guidelines are especially important regarding offshore oil development. If such measures are taken, there should be more than enough fish to go around.

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