This is a big year for oceans governance in Fiji and the Pacific. The Fiji government has just published Fiji's first National Ocean Policy (NOP) online and has announced that the NOP will be “enshrined in law” as part of its proposed Climate Change legislation. Fiji will then move towards designating 30% of its 1.2 million km2 of ocean within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as marine protected areas (MPAs) with 100% sustainable management of its EEZ by 2030. These ocean initiatives are line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14 - Life Below Water), and Fiji’s long standing commitments on the world stage.
Fiji’s goal to designate 30% of its EEZ as offshore MPAs presents significant challenges for the Fiji government because - to put it bluntly - this is an expensive initiative. In 2021, more than ever before economies everywhere, and particularly in the Pacific, are suffering. In this context designating MPAs that will alter and limit existing rights and activities, including but not limited to existing fishing practices that contribute to Fiji’s economy, requires both significant political will and long term funding. This funding is essential to undertake a proper process of designating MPAs but more importantly to assist the longer term government burden of regulation of those designated MPAs. This regulatory burden includes the ongoing monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement of Fiji’s EEZ and MPAs across a vast area of Pacific ocean.
In February 2021, the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commission (OPOC), established under the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Dame Meg Taylor launched an excellent “suite of Ocean reports” with a focus on ocean finance. This focus on ocean finance is well timed to assist PICs to address the major challenge of finding a way to make the protection of its ocean ecosystems both politically and economically viable.
In this bulletin we consider OPOC’s paper “Funding Marine Protection At Scale” and make some respectful recommendations in relation to how to increase the funding within Fiji to assist Fiji's government, acting on behalf of the State, to fund the designation and regulation of MPAs.
The importance of healthy sharks, and coastal marine ecosystems, to Fiji’s economy has been recognised by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Fiji government via new customs laws that have expanded the list of banned imports and exports to include shark fins and live coral.
The importation into Fiji of any goods specified in Schedule 1 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports and Exports) Regulations 1986 is illegal. On Friday, 7 June 2019, by Legal Notice No. 31, the Honourable Minister exercised powers pursuant to section 64 of the Customs Act and expanded the list of Prohibited Imports and Exports in Schedule 1 to include shark fins and live coral.
In this legal bulletin we provide a brief update on what this means for the import and export of shark fin.
On Wednesday, 12 June 2019, by Legal Notice No. 32 ("Legal Notice"), the Minister of Fisheries in exercise of his powers amended the Offshore Fisheries Management Regulations 2014 and introduced seasonal bans of species of sea cucumbers, groupers and coral trout with effect from 1 June 2019.
The exercise of the Honourable Minister of Fisheries' powers reflects the growing public concern for the health and sustainability of Fiji's inshore fisheries, the ongoing success of Fiji's 4FJ public awareness campaign and the commitment and vision of Fiji's Ministry of Fisheries working with various NGOs and academics to take action to conserve and manage Fiji's vital fisheries resources for future generations in line with Fiji's commitments to the United Nations Ocean Conference.
In this bulletin, we set out the amendments to the law that are now in force, and briefly discuss the factors that have led to the implementation of this conservation initiative.
The largest ocean on earth is also home to the largest collection of floating rubbish/garbage which scientists have coined "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch".
The statistics about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch provide terrifying reading and are summarised by the National Geographic in a recent online article that can be found here. The article explains that the floating garbage weighs 79,000 tonnes and is predominantly plastics originating from both land based (80%) and ocean based activities (20%), includes discarded fishing gear, waste from the 2011 Japanese Tsunami and perhaps most worryingly contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic of which microplastics comprise 94%.
One of the solutions to this horrendous human made problem is for each country to regulate and control littering and the failure to responsibly dispose of household and consumer waste. In this 3rd legal bulletin in this Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series, we consider Fiji's legal framework to regulate and control littering.
While outside the scope of this legal bulletin we acknowledge that:
The major threats to our oceans are well understood, and include pollution from land based sources.
For a full list of the major threats to our oceans the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sets them out here and also explains that:
Untreated sewage, garbage, fertilizers, pesticides, industrial chemicals, plastics ... most of the pollutants on land eventually make their way into the ocean, either deliberately dumped there or entering from water run-off and the atmosphere. Not surprisingly, this pollution is harming the entire marine food chain - all the way up to humans.
In this second legal bulletin in the Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series, we consider Fiji’s legal and regulatory framework in relation to marine pollution from land based industrial or commercial activities. For those interested in this area, it should be noted that Mr Filimone Tuivanualevu who is admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of Fiji, has also published a legal bulletin entitled "How does the law protect rivers in Fiji from pollution?" which can be found here.
In further planned legal bulletins in this series we will consider Fiji's laws in relation to marine pollution from household waste and the potential civil liability that polluters who cause harm may incur based on common law negligence.
Pollution in our oceans is a major cause for concern as it damages the marine environment that we depend on.
Sources of marine pollution are diverse and include pollution from:
In the Pacific region, the shipping industry is a vital means of transportation and trade. However, pollution from the shipping industry in Fiji has recently become a trending topic as pictures surfaced on social media showing a ship engaged in deliberately pumping of oil into the Suva harbour. This story was covered in Fiji's press including in this Fiji Times article
About the Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series
In this bulletin we consider Fiji’s national laws and the relevant criminal offences in relation to different types of marine pollution from ships. We note but do not consider in this bulletin the additional International laws that prohibit dumping of waste and other hazardous materials at sea and also regulate oil spillages from ships and other vessels.
In further legal bulletins as part of the Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series we will consider the law in relation to marine pollution arising from:
The sustainable management of Fiji’s coastal fisheries is vital for national well-being and food security. One intuitive solution to improve nearshore and coastal fisheries is to enable fish to reach sufficient maturity so they have had the chance to breed before they are caught - in other words the adoption and enforcement of suitable minimum size limits.
The Fisheries Act, 1941 and Fisheries Regulations, at present, regulate nearshore fisheries using various mechanisms that include how fish may be caught, licensing and minimum fish sizes. However, recent work by fisheries scientists in Fiji suggest that the Regulations are out of date and not fit for purpose in the Fiji context. Fisheries scientists suggest that at present too many coastal and nearshore fish are being caught before they reach maturity and this is one reason that is contributing to a decline in Fiji's coastal and nearshore fish stocks.
In this bulletin, we consider the current law on fish sizes and the work being undertaken by fisheries scientists and the Ministry of Fisheries to address the question of what minimum sizes of fish should be caught in its coastal and nearshore waters.
Fishing in nearshore waters in Fiji is a common activity, however, it is not always easy to tell when that activity is lawful or unlawful.
Fiji is a common law jurisdiction and accordingly wild fish and other marine organisms in their uncaptured state belong to nobody and the principle ferae naturae applies. However, legislation can and does:
In this bulletin we consider the fisheries legislation that is applied to nearshore waters and how it applies to different types of nearshore fishing activity with the aim of better explaining what could constitute illegal fishing activity in nearshore fishing waters. Please note this legal bulletin is prepared on the basis of the Fisheries Act, 1941 and the Fisheries Regulations as they are at the present time, and we are aware that the Ministry of Fisheries is reviewing this legislation with a view to updating it to better manage Fiji's important fisheries resources.
Fiji is a common law jurisdiction and a constitutional democracy that guarantees its citizens the right to a clean and healthy environment.
Fiji's Constitution and environmental laws also guarantee the rights of those concerned by any development that may have a significant impact on the environment to participate in the decision-making process.
In this bulletin we consider how those who are concerned may exercise their rights to participate in decisions that will ultimately assist Fiji, its government and people better safeguard the environment, ocean and natural resources that are so vital for its economy and well being.