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Ocean Law Bulletins

James Sloan


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The Importance of regional cooperation between Pacific Island Countries for fisheries management and to increase the benefits for Pacific Islanders

Apr 27, 2020 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Human Rights, Pacific, human rights at sea, Flags of convenience, Labour standards at sea, human rights abuses at sea, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, UNCLOS, International Law, Maritime boundaries, Sovereignty, Traditional fishing rights, Integrated Oceans Management Policy, fisheries management, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, fisheries law, Fiji commercial lawyers, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, traditional rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Blue Economy, Pacific Island Rights, Tuna fisheries, WCPFC, Tuna Management Pacific, Covid-19, Pacific Island Fisheries

In accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have the use and management rights to the resources within and under huge areas of Pacific ocean. These rights include the exclusive sovereign rights to use and manage all of the resources in these ocean spaces and on and under the seabed. However, there remains disagreement between some PICs over where the maritime boundaries should be drawn as well as a lack of a unified position in relation to how the resources should be exploited.

As the world goes through unprecedented change due to the Covid-19 pandemic, renewed cooperation among PICs is more important than ever to secure better governance, more effective fisheries management and more benefits from the resources flowing back to Pacific Islanders.

Dr Transform Aqorau has recently published an insightful article that explains some of the resilience more Pacific based tuna operations are experiencing in the face of Covid-19. This is available here.

In this legal bulletin we set out an explanation of the law and governance context that we hope explains why and how more regional cooperation to implement a shared plan with more transparency at regional and national levels will benefit Pacific Islanders.

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Seabed mining - how is it intended to be regulated and what are the risks for States that seek a licence from the International Seabed Authority?

Nov 26, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, UNCLOS, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, Law of the Sea Convention, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Blue Economy, UN Oceans, Seabed Mining, Oceans Governance, Deep Seabed Mining, Precautionary Principle, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

Seabed mining is a new industry that seeks to exploit the value of metals on or in the seabed. The drivers for this industry include the rising demand and costs for the metals in question. Many of the potential mining sites are found under the Pacific Ocean in areas beyond the national jurisdiction of any State. This area of deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("LOSC") as “the Area”.

This new industry is intended to be regulated pursuant to LOSC by the International Seabed Authority (a body created by LOSC). The International Seabed Authority will issue licences to Applicants that are sponsored by nation States (sponsoring States). The licences will be issued subject to conditions that are intended to protect the marine environment, however, sponsoring States are themselves subject to duties under international law and amongst other things are required by LOSC to have their own legislation in place to regulate the mining companies that they sponsor. If this legislation is not in place or is inadequate then sponsoring States will not meet their international law duties, will incur legal risk, and this new industry will not be properly regulated.

In this bulletin, we set out what is known from a legal and governance perspective about seabed mining in the Area, describe how the international regulatory framework is supposed to work and review the results of a recent legal analysis that demonstrates the legal framework is not yet in place to meet various requirements under the international legal framework. We respectfully suggest that this legal analysis supports the view that seabed mining is not, as yet, ready to proceed as an effectively regulated industry in accordance with international law.

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Deep Seabed mining in the Pacific, a recent lecture prompts the question - Who bears the legal risk under the legal framework for seabed mining outside areas of national jurisdiction (the Area)?

Aug 6, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, Maritime boundaries, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, Fiji commercial lawyers, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Large Ocean States, Seabed Mining, Deep Seabed Mining, Pacific Ocean, Precautionary Principle, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

On Friday 2 August 2019, the School of Marine Studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted an informative and well attended public lecture entitled “The issue of Deep Seabed Mining and Pacific Island States”. The lecture was jointly delivered by Mr Akuila Tawake from the CROP agency SPC who covered technical aspects of deep seabed mining and Mr Michael W Lodge, the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

The lecture was an impressive achievement given that it was arranged a day or so before when Mr Lodge dropped in to say hello to his old friend, Dr Joeli Veitayaki. The high attendance at this public lecture and the robust nature of debate and questions are indicative of the interest and concern that exists in the region relating to the potential risks and rewards for mining ventures that if they do take place will be in areas of seabed beyond the national jurisdictions of continental shelves. This area of seabed beyond national jurisdictions is defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (LOSC) as “the Area”.

We were privileged to be joined by Mr Lodge who provided an informative and eloquent talk in his role as Secretary General of ISA. ISA is the international organisation created by LOSC to regulate deep seabed mining in the Area. In this legal bulletin we update on his lecture and consider the specific question of legal risk associated with DSM. Please see our earlier legal bulletin for a full explanation of the legal framework for seabed mining, including deep seabed mining in the Area: here

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Fiji Planning law: Fiji’s government has announced new Town Planning Schemes may be adopted for Suva, Lautoka and Nadi - an opportunity for consultation and good decision making

Jul 1, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Environmental Management Act 2005, Investing in Fiji, Fiji commercial lawyers, Fiji Planning Law, Fiji Planning and Environmental Law, Town Planning Fiji, Town and Country Planning Fiji, Town Planning Schemes Fiji

In common with other common law jurisdictions, Fiji exercises State control over land including but not limited to how it may be developed. The regulation of development falls within the domain of planning and environmental law.

The government has announced that in the public interest it is in the process of updating its Town Planning Schemes for Suva, Lautoka and Nadi. This is an important nation building initiative because a Town Planning Scheme will shape future development in all these cities. But, it is also a significant undertaking that provides an opportunity for, and in our view, requires - wide consultation. If this consultative process is successful it will result in better planned development that along with the effective regulation of environmental standards, is essential to create sustainable and resilient cities and towns for Fiji’s future and its citizens' well-being.

In this update, we take a look at Fiji’s planning law framework and set out various reasons why it is vital for Fiji’s citizens to become involved in the consultation process that is being led by the Ministry for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development to create and adopt new Town Planning Schemes.

The reasons that public involvement is vital include but are not limited to:

  • the significance of Town Planning Schemes to the way planning law and decisions operate in Fiji law
  • the fact that the decisions made pursuant to Town Planning Schemes will have far reaching effects on all citizens, and may affect existing property rights
  • Town Planning Schemes should be suited to Fiji’s context and linked to a shared and bold vision for Fiji’s future.
Each citizen who becomes involved in this consultative process has an opportunity to provide her/his views on how Fiji’s towns and cities should develop to improve but also what aspects of Fiji’s culture and values should be part of that future too.
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Oceans Governance: The Class of 2019 from the University of the South Pacific, School of Marine Studies

Jun 6, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in fisheries law, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Oceans Governance, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

Oceans Governance is a 3rd year undergraduate course offered by the School of Marine Studies, USP that complements the 2nd year undergraduate course in “Law of the Sea”. Both courses offered by the School of Marine Studies are designed by the highly regarded fisheries legal expert, Mr Pio Manoa.

Oceans Governance promotes an understanding of how the international legal frameworks fit with national legal and governance frameworks to provide a rules based approach to oceans use. This means that as part of the course there is a detailed look at how the varied uses of the ocean are regulated and how more modern concepts like sustainable development and an eco-systems approach to natural resource management should be taken into account by decision-makers.

Major themes that have arisen throughout the semester include: the importance of consultation and due process for good decision making, legal concepts of sovereignty and sovereign rights, and the importance of the ocean and traditional rights for Pacific Island cultures. Our firm has been fortunate enough to coordinate and teach this Semester's class of 2019 and provide this update relating to the course and their progress that involved contributions from many individuals demonstrating the multi-disciplinary approach required for oceans governance.

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Fiji Fisheries: Economic and other opportunities from regulation of fisheries in archipelagic and territorial waters

Jun 6, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Marine Protected Areas, Inshore fisheries, fisheries management, Fiji Fisheries decision making, Fiji Fisheries Regulations, Sovereign Rights, Pacific Ocean Rights, Oceans Governance, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Inshore Fisheries Management Division Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws, Fiji Game Fishing

In accordance with Fiji law, commercial fishing within Fiji's large archipelagic and territorial waters is reserved only for Fiji registered fishing vessels. Foreign fishing vessels may be licensed to fish within Fiji Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Fiji registered fishing vessels may also be licensed to fish in Fiji's EEZ.

Fiji has total authority to regulate and manage its fisheries across its vast archipelagic and territorial waters (which we refer to as inshore areas) and this authority derives from Fiji's territorial sovereignty. Getting its fisheries management regime right in these inshore areas is in Fiji's national interest.

In this legal bulletin we describe Fiji's inshore areas and its authority to regulate fisheries, discuss the modern legislative framework Fiji has in place to manage and regulate its inshore fisheries, and set out why Fiji's opportunity to implement sustainable management is dependent on good decision-making processes led by Fiji's Ministry of Fisheries. We also update on some initiatives that are being undertaken by the Ministry of Fisheries to manage inshore fisheries.

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Marine Protected Areas in Fiji waters: The law and governance context requires careful consideration and transparent decision-making

Apr 30, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Marine Protected Areas, Marine Conservation, Fiji Fisheries decision making, Fiji Fisheries Regulations, Law of the Sea Convention, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, UN Oceans, Oceans Governance, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws

Scientists have, for decades, warned us that oceans are warming, expanding, and becoming more acidic and polluted. In addition, humans are overfishing and failing to control the amount of waste material, particularly plastic, that ends up in oceans. In the face of these and other threats, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) may be seen as a potential solution. The call for MPAs has a long history in international legal conventions, which have also expressly called for MPAs to be made consistent with the law of the sea framework after following a transparent and consultative process. This principled and process-led approach to MPAs reflects the important point that MPAs will curtail activities and potentially user rights in the ocean.

Fiji has, via government and Ministry of Fisheries leadership created several MPAs. In addition there have also been numerous community led initiatives assisted by Fiji's Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA) to establish fisheries management tools that have included no fishing zones (also known as tabu areas) within traditional fishing grounds.

Fiji’s efforts are consistent with the law of the sea framework which, at present, provides MPAs can only be created within areas of ocean where nation States have the authority to do so.

In this legal bulletin we particularly consider Fiji’s legal and governance framework, and how this may assist with the sort of transparent, open and consultative process that was envisaged in modern international legal conventions. We also briefly consider why MPAs will not be a solution, unless Fiji also adopts an integrated management approach to its oceans, which will include, but not be limited to the establishment of MPAs following due process.

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Seabed Mining in the Pacific Ocean: To mine or not to mine?  Exploring the legal rights and implications for Pacific Island Countries

Oct 4, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Sovereignty, Environmental Impact Assessments, Fiji commercial lawyers, Law of the Sea Convention, Pacific Blue Economy, Blue Economy, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States, UN Oceans, Seabed Mining, Oceans Governance, Deep Seabed Mining, Pacific Ocean, Precautionary Principle

Although not yet an operational industry, seabed mining is a trending topic in the Pacific. This is because the exploration of the seabed beneath the Pacific ocean is revealing or has revealed potential mine sites for valuable minerals that are in global demand particularly for new technologies.

Proponents of seabed mining suggest, amongst other things, that mining of seabed minerals will ease demand for, and have less negative social impact than, terrestrial mining, will assist in the development of new greener technologies, and will provide economic benefits to those who participate in the mining ventures. Those who oppose seabed mining question, amongst other things, the potential environmental effects of or from the activity of seabed mining, the resultant damage to other uses or users of the ocean, whether developing nations will benefit from the mining ventures, and whether it will, in fact, ease pressure on terrestrial mining.

This legal bulletin considers the international legal framework of seabed mining and how it is regulated or intended to be regulated. This legal framework is important for Pacific Island Countries (PICs) because the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) has granted to PICs sovereignty or exclusive sovereign rights to extract (explore and exploit) resources from the seabed within vast ocean areas. The legal framework may assist PICs as they decide how to balance potential adverse environmental impacts of seabed mining against the value of their exclusive rights to, and benefits from, other living resources within the oceans.

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Marine Pollution in the Pacific Ocean - The International Legal Framework - how it works and its challenges for Pacific Island Countries

Sep 16, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Marine Conservation, Forum Fisheries Agency, Environmental Impact Assessments, fisheries law, marine pollution from shipping, Fiji Environmental law, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Marine Spatial Planning Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, Blue Economy, Raising Pacific Voices, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States, Marine Pollution, UN Oceans

Pollution of the oceans and marine environment is an important issue for Pacific Island Countries (PICs) because it damages natural resources, reduces the economic value of PICs' legal rights to those resources, and negatively impacts fishing communities as well as income generating activities like tourism.

A significant challenge is that marine pollution comes from many sources and most of those sources are land based, including but not limited to, careless discard of plastics. For more information on plastic pollution in the Pacific ocean please see here

This legal bulletin examines the overall international legal framework for the protection and preservation of the marine environment set out in the the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) and suggests other actions that PICs, regional organisations, and CSOs may take in accordance with LOSC to address marine pollution in the Pacific ocean.

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Pacific Ocean Legal Rights: The implications for a Pacific Blue Economy, the importance of Integrated Oceans Management and the vital role of Civil Society Organisations

Sep 5, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, UNCLOS, International Law, Maritime boundaries, Sovereignty, Integrated Oceans Management Policy, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Marine Spatial Planning Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, traditional rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Blue Economy, Raising Pacific Voices, Oxfam in the Pacific, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States

Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have legal rights to and within enormous ocean areas. These legal rights are, to a large extent, provided by operation of international law and are codified in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC).

The LOSC is often referred to as a “Constitution for the Oceans” because, amongst other things, it sets out and regulates the recognised legal rights that the international community agree that all nations have on or in the ocean to undertake or benefit from various activities that include but are not limited to navigation, fishing and other extractive industry. The LOSC also allocates the legal rights to PICs over and within ocean “zones” that includes the large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). However, fisheries and marine scientists suggest that the sustainable use and management of the PICs’ valuable marine resources can only be achieved by Integrated Oceans Management based on eco-systems and not ocean zones.

In this legal bulletin we set out why the Pacific Island Countries have sufficient legal rights to build and implement effective oceans integrated management systems to support the development of their national and regional blue economies in a way that best suits them and based on an ecosystems approach. However, to meet good governance outcomes (successful, equitable, sustainable) those management systems must be suited to the context of PICs which means that the collective process to create those systems must be inclusive, practical and carefully undertaken.

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