On 28 April, 2022, Fiji's High Court (Hon. Mr Justice Gounder) passed sentence on a Fiji Company: Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited fining it FJ$1m for two counts of carrying out unauthorised development contrary to Fiji's Environment Management Act, 2005 (EMA). The sentence is in Criminal Case No. HAC 282 of 2021 in State V Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited ("Sentence").
The legal requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for certain development activity has been in place in Fiji from 2008, and this Sentence is a timely reminder of the serious criminal penalties that will apply to developers who are found by Fiji's courts not to have followed the requirements of EMA.
This case may be the subject of an appeal - however, the Sentence sends a message in support of environmental law and standards for Fiji, and in this update we provide a summary of the Sentence and note the requirements for EIAs in Fiji and the Pacific.
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.
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.
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.
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.