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Ocean Law Bulletins

Oceans Governance: The Class of 2020 provide promise for the Pacific region

Jul 28, 2020 / by Siwatibau & Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, National Fisheries Policy, Marine Protected Areas, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Environmental Management Act 2005, UNCLOS, International Law, Commercial fishing, Integrated Oceans Management Policy, Forum Fisheries Agency, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, Environmental Impact Assessments, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, traditional rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States, Marine Pollution, UN Oceans, Seabed Mining, Oceans Governance, Pacific Ocean, Precautionary Principle, School of Marine Studies, Tuna Management Pacific, TuvaluExperts, TuvaluNationalOceanPolicy, OceansPolicy

Oceans Governance is a 3rd year undergraduate course offered by the School of Marine Studies, within the University of the South Pacific (USP).

Oceans Governance attracts a number of motivated students from a variety of Pacific Island Countries who frequently bring years of professional work experience to compliment their future careers as marine managers and decision makers. Oceans Governance complements the 2nd year undergraduate course in “Law of the Sea”. Both courses are designed by the highly regarded law of the sea and fisheries legal expert, Mr Pio Manoa who is currently working with the Forum Fisheries Agency.

While our firm has been privileged to coordinate and teach Oceans Governance and Law of the Sea for the last 3 years - to reflect the multi-disciplinary nature and broad topic that is Oceans Governance - a variety of guest lecturers have complimented the course. As well as adding interest and providing inspirational talks for the students this demonstrates the depth of knowledge and expertise in the Pacific. In this brief overview of the course we draw specific attention to the expertise of the visiting lecturers and the efforts made by the talented students of USP and how we think this bodes well for the Pacific region in the future.

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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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Marine Pollution from fishing vessels in the Pacific Ocean - what is the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission doing about it?

Nov 5, 2018 / by Viv Fernandes posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, UNCLOS, International Law, Commercial fishing, Marine Conservation, Forum Fisheries Agency, fisheries law, marine pollution from shipping, Pacific Island Rights, Marine Pollution, Oceans Governance, Pacific Ocean, Tuna fisheries, WCPFC, Marine pollution from commercial fishing vessels

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) emerged as result of the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) that, amongst other things, requires regional cooperation to promote the conservation and management of shared fisheries resources.

WCPFC determines, advises on and implements many of the regional management mechanisms required by international law with the aim of securing cooperation between States to better protect, conserve and manage the Pacific’s vitally important fisheries. This role focuses on the conservation and management of the valuable, shared and highly migratory tuna (and similar fish) resources of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) that are under threat from many sources, not least, marine pollution.

Tackling marine pollution is challenging because of its many sources, most of which cannot be regulated by the WCPFC, and while pollution from shipping is regulated, pollution from or created by fishing vessels has been largely overlooked. In this legal bulletin we consider how the WCPFC is addressing the pressing and important issue of marine pollution created by fishing vessels plying their trade in the Western Pacific. For more information on the issue of marine pollution from fishing vessels please see this report from SPREP: here or Fisheries Consultant, Francisco Blaha's blog on the topic: here

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Fiji fisheries law: Could improved regulation of minimum size limits lead to more sustainable fisheries and bigger fish in nearshore and coastal waters?

May 2, 2018 / by Emily Samuela and James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Fisheries Act, Commercial fishing, Traditional fishing rights, Inshore fisheries, Fiji Oceans, fisheries management, Illegal fishing in Fiji's nearshore waters, Fiji Fisheries decision making, fisheries law, minimum fish sizes

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.

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The management of Fiji’s nearshore fisheries will benefit from a good decision making process leading to Fisheries Regulations

Mar 21, 2018 / by Emily Samuela and James Sloan posted in Beche de mer, Fiji fisheries, Fisheries Act, Commercial fishing, Marine Conservation, Traditional fishing rights, Inshore fisheries, administrative law, Fiji's Constitution, Environmental governance, Nearshore Fiji fisheries, Fiji Fisheries decision making, Fiji Fisheries Regulations

Healthy stocks of fish and other aquatic animals in Fiji’s nearshore waters are vital for the nation’s well-being and food security needs. Healthy stocks are also a priority for the Ministry of Fisheries and Honourable Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau who speaking in Parliament recently explained that the Ministry would refocus its efforts on nearshore and coastal fisheries with the aim of balancing development with national and local needs.

The good regulation of fishing activity in nearshore waters is part of the answer to improve fish stocks.

In this legal bulletin we consider the current nearshore fisheries regulatory regime and discuss how the use of Fisheries Regulations could improve fisheries management. The use of regulatory powers is an exercise of public law and as such Fiji’s common law system requires a careful and consultative decision-making process.

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Fiji fisheries law: When is fishing activity illegal in Fiji's nearshore waters?

Mar 7, 2018 / by Emily Samuela and James Sloan posted in Fiji fisheries, Commercial fishing, Inshore fisheries, Fiji Oceans, Nearshore Fiji fisheries, Illegal fishing in Fiji's 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:

  • limit the type of species of fish or other aquatic animals that can be legally caught
  • prescribes limits to the fishing methods that can be used to capture fish
  • regulates other factors including the minimum size of the fish that may be legally caught and when a fishing licence is required.

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. 

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The Forum Fisheries Agency has considered how to improve working conditions in commercial fishing

Oct 25, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, human rights at sea, Flags of convenience, UNCLOS, Commercial fishing, ILO Convention c188, Crewing conditions on Commercial Fishing vessels, Forum Fisheries Agency

Between 9-12 October 2017, the Forum Fisheries Agency hosted a Crewing Workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands to discuss how to increase the benefits to Pacific Island economies from their fisheries resources. The Crewing Workshop addressed 2 questions:

  1. How to promote Pacific Islander crewing and increase Pacific Islander crew numbers on fishing vessels.
  2. How to develop and ensure minimum employment standards for any Pacific Islander fishing crew employed in the commercial fishing industry.

These questions were considered over 4 days by Government officials, training school representatives and private sector representatives from Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. This bulletin sets out the complex legal and governance challenges and the outcomes from the FFA workshop.

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Designating all fisheries officers in Fiji “authorized officers” may assist with inshore fisheries enforcement.

Aug 30, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Fiji fisheries, Commercial fishing, Inshore fisheries

On 25 August 2017, the Ministry of Fisheries hosted an inter-agency National Inshore Fisheries Enforcement Forum and in his opening address Deputy Permanent Secretary Sanaila V. Naqali called for more inter-agency collaboration to assist with inshore fisheries enforcement. The message from the Ministry of Fisheries is that in contrast to Fiji’s oIffshore fisheries, the current status of inshore fisheries is a cause of grave concern. This concern is heightened because inshore fisheries are more important than offshore fisheries in terms of Fiji’s national interest as they provide a vital protein source and food security for so many Fijians as well as a greater contribution to Fiji's economic well being and fish consumption than offshore fisheries.

It seems likely that offshore fisheries have become increasingly well managed and regulated thanks to commitment and hard work by the Ministry of Fisheries, the expertise of its fisheries officers inside the Offshore Fisheries Division, and the valued support from regional fisheries management organisations (amongst others). But is also the case that inshore fisheries are by their nature more challenging to regulate and manage sustainably than offshore fisheries. Inshore fisheries are much easier to access, include within inshore waters traditional fishing rights areas, and involve many more fishers from subsistence fishers up to significant commercial enterprise and everyone in between.

While enforcement is a complex topic: in this bulletin we examine how extending inshore fisheries officers powers pursuant to the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree, 2012 may assist the Ministry of Fisheries better meet the significant challenges that they face in regulating inshore fisheries. The timing may be good to extend inshore fisheries officers powers as the Ministry of Fisheries has made the recent decision to create a new Inshore Fisheries Division within the Ministry of Fisheries dedicated to the good regulation and sustainable management of Fiji's most important natural resources.

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The legal challenges of improving working conditions on commercial fishing vessels

Apr 11, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Labour standards at sea, Commercial fishing, ILO Convention c188

Commercial fishing provides an inherently challenging and sometimes hazardous work environment. Workers carry out their duties on a moving, wet, slippery platform surrounded by heavy machinery and the ocean. They are frequently far from home, required to undertake physical work over long hours, low on resources and without adequate legal and medical protections that many of us would take for granted.

While the concerns and issues that beset working conditions aboard commercial fishing vessels are well known there are significant complexities to the adoption of legally enforced minimum standards because of the cross-border nature of fishing and various issues related to sovereignty of maritime spaces and flagged vessels. However, if a way can be found to get through these complexities there would be significant advantages for the governance of the fishing industry to have accepted minimum employment standards.

In this bulletin we consider the impacts that the International Labour Organisation’s Work in Fishing Convention ILO Convention C.188 (“ILO Convention 188”) may have on the commercial fishing industry as it enters into effect in November 2017.

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