On 12 May 2020, Fiji’s Ministry of Economy published a working draft of Fiji's first National Ocean Policy (NOP) and opened it up for public consultation. The period of public consultation will end on 25 May 2020. [Editor's note: our firm made its submission on 24 May 2020 and amongst other submissions, we respectfully submitted, in accordance with our analysis below that extending the time to consult on the draft NOP beyond 25 May 2020 would be welcome.]
The NOP represents a step forward for Fiji’s ocean governance in that it endeavours to consolidate ocean initiatives through its aim to increase integration between Fiji government Ministries. As the NOP explains Fiji is blessed with large areas of ocean and marine resources that it has both rights to use but responsibility to manage. These ocean areas accommodate numerous and sometimes competing uses and may be adversely impacted by a range of development activities that are regulated by different government Ministries or Departments. National oceans governance is therefore notoriously difficult unless there is a single vision or policy that commits all of government to follow and implement in an integrated way.
As a small group of Fijian and Fiji-based lawyers, with an interest in law of the sea, oceans governance, traditional rights, and Fiji’s unique law and governance system we provide our analysis of the draft NOP and provide some respectful suggestions for consideration as part of the important consultation process. We note at the outset that we fully support this initiative by the Fiji government and are pleased that this process is being locally driven.
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.