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Isla Aves

Isla de Aves (Spanish for "Island of Birds"), or Aves Island, is a Caribbean islet claimed by Venezuela. It has been the subject of numerous territorial disputes between the neighboring independent islands, such as Dominica, and European mother countries of surrounding dependent islands, such as the Netherlands. It lies to the west of the Leeward Islands chain at . It is 375 m in length and never more than 50 m in width, and rises 4 m above the sea on a calm day. According to the UN Law of the Seas it is classified as a rock, which would only give Venezuela a twelve mile economic zone. However, Venezuela claims it is an island which grants it a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Mostly sand, a small portion has some scrubby vegetation. It is sometimes completely submerged during hurricanes. It is 115 miles southwest of the closest land, Montserrat, 140 miles west of Dominica and 340 miles north of the Venezuelan mainland.

For some time the island has been in danger of eroding altogether, and Venezuelan authorities are considering ways to protect it, along with the territorial claims to the Caribbean Sea which radiate from Isla Aves. The impact of Hurricane Allen in the 1980 Atlantic hurricane season divided it into two parts, but accretions of coral have subsequently reunited it. On August 17, 2007, the force of Hurricane Dean severely eroded the island.

The island is a resting and breeding place for seabirds and the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Its low profile makes it a hazard to navigation, and many ships have been wrecked here.

Aves Island is a particularly rare amateur radio "entity", under the ITU prefix YV0. A 2006 expedition by operators to the island required 14 years of planning. Though one member suffered a fatal heart attack, over 42,000 contacts were made during their week-long stay.


The island was most likely discovered by Avaro Sanzze in 1584, though it was not settled. It was subsequently claimed for Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the inhabitants of the Dutch islands St. Eustatius and Saba regularly visited Aves to collect turtle and bird eggs.

In 1854 a US captain discovered the abundant quantities of guano on Aves and systematic collection started not long after. Both the Dutch and Venezuelan authorities found out and protested. The Dutch sent a warship to Aves. Its captain found Americans loading guano. He informed them that the Dutch considered Aves to belong to the Netherlands.

The Dutch authorities on Curacao under whom St. Eustatius and Saba fell, sat down with the Venezuelans and together decided to find a mutually acceptable sovereign to decide about the ownership of Aves Island. The Queen of Spain was accepted by both parties. In 1865 Isabella II ruled on the issue. Not surprisingly, she decided in favor of the Spanish speaking heirs of her ancestors' empire.

However, Isabella's judgment acknowledged the time honored rights of the inhabitants of the Dutch islands St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten to fish in the waters around Aves. As this was the main issue the Dutch had, they accepted the ruling. Later Dutch historians argued that in fact, Isabella's advisors mixed up Aves with Las Aves Archipelago lying between Bonaire and Los Roques, just off the coast of Venezuela.

In the meantime, in 1859 the Administrator of St. Eustatius granted a concession to collect guano on Aves to Edward Green, Kean & Co. in Baltimore at f. 2.50 per ton. He decided that even though Aves was never permanently settled by the Dutch, the inhabitants of Statia and Saba had made use of the island longer than anyone can remember, which constituted proof of possession. He gave a provisionary concession and asked the Governor in Curacao to confirm. The Governor meanwhile had received a request to mine guano on Aves from a group of business men on Dutch St. Maarten, who had assured themselves that Aves was recognized as a possession of the Dutch government.

From 1878 to 1912 the island was again occupied by American guano miners until supplies were eventually exhausted.

Isla de Aves was included in Venezuela's territorial reorganization done by President Joaquin Crespo in 1895. By 1905, Isla de Aves was a municipality called "Municipio Oriental" part of Colon Federal Territory.

In 1950, a Venezuelan Navy fleet consisting of two patrol boats and one transport boat found it necessary to take control of the island with a group of soldiers. On June 2, 1978, the Venezuelan Navy found it neceserry to set up a scientific naval base named Simon Bolivar on the lee (west) side near the southern tip of the island, constructed as a platform built on stilts partially in the water, which was permanently inhabited by a group of scientists and military personnel.

On March 28, 1978, Venezuela using Aves Island as its reference, it agreed its maritime borders with the USA between Aves Island and Puerto Rico. On June 17, 1980 Venezuela agreed with France that longitude 62D 48M 52S W should be the maritime border between Aves Island and Guadeloupe and Martinique.

During the visit to Venezuela, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, in June 2006, stated that Aves Island belongs to Venezuela, ending the territorial claim but not a maritime claim.

Historical Maps

See also

Exclusive Economic Zone

Ankoko Island (Another disputed territory involving Venezuela)

External links

Information about the island

Official Communique from the CARICOM heads of government Subheader OECS-Venezuela

BIRD ISLAND: TIME TO ACT - Editorial on the Commonwealth of Dominica taking steps to reclaim sovereignty over the island.

Aves Island a Strategic Island in the Caribbean Sea - by Thomson Fontaine - Should Dominica Stake a Claim to the Island?

2006 amateur radio activity, including pictures

NASA Earth Observatory

Articles and papers

"Island' talk for Caricom, Venezuela - - Barbados NationNews

OECS searching for Bird Island solution - - Caribbean Net News

Shock over Bird Island - - Barbados Advocate News

Drama over Bird Island - Barbados Advocate News

OECS raps Caracas' claim to island - Barbados NationNews

Caricom to meet over Aves Island - Barbados NationNews

History proves Venezuelan ownership of Isla de Aves

VicePresident Rangel thinks that the "empire" is behind claim to Aves Island

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Isla Aves

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