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Ocean Law Bulletins

Fiji's proposed Climate Change law is extraordinary, wide-ranging and open for consultation

Oct 24, 2019 / by James Sloan and Marita Manley posted in climate change, Pacific Ocean, Fiji Climate Change law, Fiji Climate Change Bill, Climate Change Law, United Nations

Fiji’s new proposed climate change law affects every Fiji citizen regardless of whether s/he is a Minister, member of Parliament, Permanent Secretary, a CEO of a company, a builder, an IT expert, a marine scientist or proponent of marine conservation, a retailer, a farmer, or a member of a community or neighbouring Pacific Island country at risk of displacement as a result of climate change.

In the last few years, Fiji has become a global and regional leader in raising awareness of climate change, its effects and what all nation States should do to reduce their emissions to keep us within 1.5C of average global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Fiji's leadership in this arena has in the last month produced a draft Climate Change Bill (the Bill) which is available for public consultation. It has been reported (Fiji Sun, 8 August 2019) that the government of Fiji intends the Bill to become law, by being passed as an Act of Parliament before December 2019. If the Bill is passed it will become the Climate Change Act (the Act). Although not presently law, to avoid confusion we simply refer to the proposed legislation as "the Bill" or "the legislation" in this bulletin as it has not, as yet, become an Act of Parliament.

In this extended and detailed legal bulletin we review the Bill to assist with the further consultations that should take place and, we hope, assist the bold statement and action that Fiji is demonstrating in the face of the climate emergency. All the persons that have been involved in this review support Fiji’s initiative to introduce comprehensive climate change legislation, and provide comments in the spirit of raising awareness of, and assisting with consultation about, the legislation to best suit it to Fiji’s context.

To have your say on the Bill, and to obtain an electronic copy, please click: here

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A new set of minimum terms and conditions for crewing employment conditions in the Pacific

Sep 19, 2019 / by Kevin Chand and James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Human Rights, human rights at sea, Flags of convenience, Labour standards at sea, human rights abuses at sea, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, UNCLOS, International Law, Commercial fishing, ILO Convention c188, Revocation of Fiji fishing licence, fisheries management, Crewing conditions on Commercial Fishing vessels, Forum Fisheries Agency, Environmental governance, Law of the Sea Convention, Migrant labour Pacific

Fish stocks around the world are in decline with a large proportion of this decline attributable to the widespread practice of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Declining fish stocks result in increased fishing efforts to make up the shortfall of catches and this often leaves fishing vessels operating beyond economic and ecological sustainability. Subsidized fishing fleets often backed by national governments are one way to skirt this economic inconvenience.

Tragically, another alternative is cost-cutting on the human side of commercial fishing. This results in poor working conditions for fishing crew, forced labour, slavery and even human trafficking. This forms a hidden subsidy of sorts for IUU fishing that impacts those directly responsible for catching fish and tainting the seafood that is supplied globally. The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) which was established with the mandate to assist Pacific Island Countries manage their fishery resources is taking measures to address this oft-neglected aspect of fisheries.

FFA members lay claim to some of the richest tuna stocks globally. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states have sovereign rights to manage their 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This means that the right to issue licences and on what terms and conditions lies with these states and within their EEZ. In this legal bulletin we consider how the FFA is implementing a decision of its members to use licence conditions to better regulate working conditions on fishing vessels that operate in its waters.

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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 fisheries law update: Ban on importation and exportation of shark fins and live coral

Jul 15, 2019 / by Emily Samuela posted in Oceans Law, Sovereignty, Inshore fisheries, Fiji Oceans, fisheries management, fisheries law, UN Oceans, Oceans Governance, Precautionary Principle, Fiji Sharks, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Inshore Fisheries Management Division Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws

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.

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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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Fiji Inshore Fisheries Management: commitment to conserve grouper and sea cucumber leads to amendments to Fiji’s Offshore Fisheries Management Regulation

Jun 14, 2019 / by Emily Samuela and James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Beche de mer, Fiji fisheries, Fisheries Act, Underwater breathing apparatus, Marine Conservation, Inshore fisheries, Fiji Oceans, Nearshore Fiji fisheries, Fiji Fisheries Regulations, fisheries law, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Pacific Blue Economy, Oceans Governance, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Inshore Fisheries Management Division Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

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.

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Fiji Fisheries Regulation and the enforcement of minimum sizes for mud crabs

Jun 10, 2019 / by Emily Samuela posted in Fiji mangroves, fisheries management, Illegal fishing in Fiji's nearshore waters, Fiji Fisheries Regulations, fisheries law, Pacific Ocean Rights, traditional rights, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws, Fiji mud crabs

The mud crab (Scylla serrata) is a delicacy in Fiji and can fetch high prices. However, over-crabbing in recent times has led to the decline in mud crabs. This has resulted in juvenile or undersized crabs being sold in markets and roadside stalls on a regular basis.

Recent reports in Fiji's media have highlighted the commendable work done by Ministry of Fisheries officials in monitoring the sale of undersized crabs and the confiscation of any such crabs smaller than the minimum size set by Fiji laws.[1]

In this bulletin, we outline the applicable law in Fiji that stipulates the legal sizes of crabs that may be harvested or sold, and the powers of the Ministry of Fisheries officers in the enforcement of such laws.

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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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