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Ocean Law Bulletins

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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Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series - legal consequences of littering and failing to dispose of consumer waste responsibly

Jul 10, 2018 / by James Sloan and Emily Samuela posted in Oceans Law, Fiji mangroves, Fiji fisheries, Marine Conservation, Fiji Oceans, Environmental governance, Fiji lawyers, Fiji marine pollution law, Fiji Environmental law

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:

  • other regulatory and innovative solutions must be found globally to reduce or eliminate the use of plastics and find other more environmentally friendly consumer packaging
  • Pacific Islands are not the main cause of this global issue
  • Responsible consumer choices and manufacturing choices are required
  • Fiji has started using innovative mechanisms to discourage the use of plastics like introducing a charge for single use plastic bags.
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Fiji Marine Pollution Law Series - industrial pollution

Jul 9, 2018 / by James Sloan and Emily Samuela posted in Oceans Law, Fiji mangroves, Environmental Management Act 2005, Marine Conservation, Fiji Oceans, The Environment Management Act, Fiji's Constitution, Environmental governance, Fiji law, Nearshore Fiji fisheries, Fiji lawyers, Fiji marine pollution law, Fiji Environmental law

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.

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Oceans and Climate Change: how can Pacific Islands rise to the challenge?

Oct 23, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, Fiji mangroves, Marine Protected Areas, UNCLOS, climate change, Maritime boundaries, Marine Conservation

The Pacific Island States have a moral authority to call on developed and developing States to curb their CO2 emissions which are the main cause of Climate Change. This is a message that Fiji will, on behalf of the people of the Pacific, lead with when it co-hosts COP23 in Bonn, Germany in November 2017.

In facing the unprecedented challenge of climate change Pacific Island States are also clear about what they want. This includes:

  • The global temperature rise stays below 1.5 degrees celsius
  • Healthy oceans with functioning ecosystems to enable the oceans to continue to capture CO2
  • Meeting the adaptation challenges in coastal areas and on low lying atolls
  • Climate financing for oceans/fisheries projects that promote sustainable use of resources and the return of a fair income from the sustainable harvesting of these resources to Pacific Island economies
  • Innovative solutions to reduce the pollution and CO2 from the maritime shipping industry.

In this bulletin we address 3 specific ocean issues that represent part of how Pacific Islands can rise to the challenges of Climate Change and also illustrate why law and governance is integral to meeting the challenges. The 3 ocean issues are:

  • Legal rights to ocean spaces
  • Mangroves
  • Marine Protected Areas
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How does the law protect rivers in Fiji from pollution?

Jun 15, 2017 / by Filimone Tuivanualevu posted in Fiji mangroves, Environmental Management Act 2005, Fiji fisheries

Access to clean water for drinking and bathing, and clean oceans and rivers are essential for Pacific Islanders. Pollution of our water and oceans can take away the basis of people’s livelihood, survival, and lifestyle. The negative cost of industrialisation, modernisation and unsustainable development has resulted in pollutants being deposited into our rivers and coastal areas.

In this legal bulletin we discuss the serious question of river pollution and how, in Fiji, pollution is regulated by legislation, the penalties and solutions available. We draw on the well known example from the Qawa river located in Labasa to illustrate the importance of this issue for all Fiji citizens, the traditional fishing rights holders, and the natural resources that we depend on.

Finally we consider New Zealand's recent and exciting legal development of granting the Whanganui river its own legal rights. 

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How does the law protect mangroves in Fiji?

Feb 14, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Fiji mangroves, Environmental Management Act 2005

 Mangroves, like the ocean and the reefs, surround or should surround Fiji. They are a hardy species that inhabits the intertidal zone, on State “land”, and if they are left alone or lightly managed they regenerate. Despite the many benefits that accompany mangroves, they are vulnerable in the face of development pressures including pollution, and their fate rests in the hands of our decision makers.

Mangroves and development is a topical issue that concerns many in Fiji. For example at the recent Parliamentary Speaker’s Debate held in Suva on 1 February 2017, the Honourable Minister for Fisheries, Mr Semi Koroilavesau noted the importance of mangrove stands and stated that he is considering a recommendation that any coastal development in Fiji must include preservation of mangrove. The Honourable Minister was responding to a question from a concerned citizen who had noted to her despair that there had been a recent increase in clearing of Fiji’s mangrove stands for development purposes.

In this legal bulletin, we briefly consider how Fiji law protects mangroves, who in Fiji’s complex governance system decides whether they should be cleared in the face of development and consider ways to improve decision-making in relation to mangroves which should follow an approach that involves multiple government agencies and views from various stakeholders.

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