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Ocean Law Bulletins

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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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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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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Marine Pollution in the Pacific Ocean - The International Legal Framework - how it works and its challenges for Pacific Island Countries

Sep 16, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Marine Conservation, Forum Fisheries Agency, Environmental Impact Assessments, fisheries law, marine pollution from shipping, Fiji Environmental law, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Marine Spatial Planning Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, Blue Economy, Raising Pacific Voices, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States, Marine Pollution, UN 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.

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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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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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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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Is it time for a code of conduct for marine conservationists?

May 22, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Marine Protected Areas, Fiji fisheries, Marine Conservation, Traditional fishing rights

Our valuable marine ecosystems are under threat for a variety of reasons that are well documented and include over-exploitation, pollution and climate change. It is also becoming increasingly understood that the survival of our own species is dependent on healthy ecosystems.

Marine conservation initiatives champion the conservation of marine ecosystems that support human well being. However, this is often against a backdrop of complex political, economic, social and governance regimes. Often the advocated solution for managing marine ecosystems will appear to be in direct conflict with existing user rights and commercial interests. The existing rights are not just commercial interests, but in Fiji and the Pacific also involve traditional rights holders, subsistence and artisanal fishers.

In a recent thought provoking and well timed academic article entitled An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation N.J. Bennett et al Marine Policy 81 (2017) 411-418,  an impressive group comprising 25 academics and marine conservationists, make an appeal “for the development of a comprehensive and broadly accepted code of conduct to facilitate marine conservation processes and actions that are fair, just and accountable, while supporting the achievement of ecological effectiveness.”

In this bulletin we briefly consider how such a code may assist in Fiji’s legal and governance context, and how it could be implemented.

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