Who Ownes Navassa Island? - La Navase in Haiti

Navassa, an uninhabited island in the Caribbean Sea, is part of mainland Haiti. Between two- and three-square miles, it sits approximately 100 miles from Guantanamo Detention Center.


Founded in 1504 by sailors, its status during the next 300 years is mostly unclear. But between its founding and U.S. acquisition of the island, marine forces occupied it until it was turned over to the U.S. in the 1850s. For four decades, the U.S. mined the island for the phosphate, guano. Foreign and domestic conflicts brought mining to a halt by the end of the century.

The completion of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s raised Navassa's profile again when a lighthouse was constructed on the island. But in 1996, Navassa became abandoned when its lighthouse operations ceased.

Navassa experiences moist and tropical weather and contains coral and limestone deposits. Mainly barren rock, the island nourishes a goat population with grass pastures. Populated growths of tree species and random appearances of cacti are part of the eco-system.

Navassa possesses no harbors because vertical cliffs near the shore are inhospitable to sea vessels. They must anchor off-shore.

Several entities have laid claim to Navassa, among them U.S. government agencies: Coast Guard, Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs (USOIA), and Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS, in late 1999, created a wildlife refuge. The USOIA, who had been managing all government activities on the island since 1997, gave over authority to USFWS for its management as a wildlife refuge in late 1999.

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