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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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Fiji Fisheries: Economic and other opportunities from regulation of fisheries in archipelagic and territorial waters

Jun 6, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Marine Protected Areas, Inshore fisheries, fisheries management, Fiji Fisheries decision making, Fiji Fisheries Regulations, Sovereign Rights, Pacific Ocean Rights, Oceans Governance, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Inshore Fisheries Management Division Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws, Fiji Game Fishing

In accordance with Fiji law, commercial fishing within Fiji's large archipelagic and territorial waters is reserved only for Fiji registered fishing vessels. Foreign fishing vessels may be licensed to fish within Fiji Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Fiji registered fishing vessels may also be licensed to fish in Fiji's EEZ.

Fiji has total authority to regulate and manage its fisheries across its vast archipelagic and territorial waters (which we refer to as inshore areas) and this authority derives from Fiji's territorial sovereignty. Getting its fisheries management regime right in these inshore areas is in Fiji's national interest.

In this legal bulletin we describe Fiji's inshore areas and its authority to regulate fisheries, discuss the modern legislative framework Fiji has in place to manage and regulate its inshore fisheries, and set out why Fiji's opportunity to implement sustainable management is dependent on good decision-making processes led by Fiji's Ministry of Fisheries. We also update on some initiatives that are being undertaken by the Ministry of Fisheries to manage inshore fisheries.

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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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Fiji's Minister for Fisheries has created two new Marine Reserves with Regulations made under powers conferred by section 9 of the Fisheries Act, 1941

Jan 30, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Marine Protected Areas, Fiji fisheries, Fisheries Act, Traditional fishing rights, Inshore fisheries, administrative law, Environmental decision making, Fiji law

On, Friday, 19th January 2018 by Legal Notices No. 3 and No. 4 the Honourable Minister for Fisheries exercised his powers pursuant to section 9 of the Fisheries Act, Cap 158 (Fisheries Act) to create two new marine reserves in inshore areas within Fiji’s fisheries waters.

The creation of the marine reserves has been by way of Regulations that are cited as:

Fisheries (Kiuva Marine Reserve) Regulations 2018
Fisheries (Naiqoro Passage Spawning Aggregation Marine Reserve) Regulations 2018.

In this legal bulletin we set out the powers that section 9 of the Fisheries Act provides to the Minister for Fisheries to create and declare marine reserves via Regulations. We also expand on the effect of these new Regulations that have been brought into force by being published (gazetted) in Fiji’s Government Gazette.

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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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The legal framework for effective Marine Protected Areas in Fiji - the Fiji Environmental Law Association's latest publication

Sep 14, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Marine Protected Areas, Fiji fisheries, Fisheries Act, Fiji Oceans, fisheries management, administrative law

The Fiji government has made a bold commitment to designate marine protected areas (MPAs) across 30% of its ocean spaces.

Given the well documented threats to all oceans and their resources it is a natural response to create protected areas that restrict the use of certain areas of ocean. The aims for greater protection may be varied and include to protect areas or species of special scientific interest, to preserve bio-diversity, for fisheries management reasons including for food security or to promote resilience to natural disasters and counter the effects of climate change. However, MPAs are designed to restrict the way a designated area of ocean is used, and because of this the designation of a MPA may alter, restrict, reduce, or remove pre-existing rights and commercial interests to use the marine area subject to the designation. As such the creation of MPAs may raise ethical questions and will definitely raise legal questions particularly in the area of administrative law. Last February we published this bulletin that looked at the designation of MPAs from an administrative law perspective.

In September 2017, the Fiji Environmental Law Association (FELA) together with EDO NSW and the University of the South Pacific (USP) has added to the MPA discussion through a study that considers the existing legal framework in Fiji for the creation of MPAs. This study is entitled “Towards an Effective Legal Framework for Marine Protected Areas In Fiji - a Policy and Law Discussion Paper” (ISBN 975-982-01-0965-0), and available now from the USP bookshop.

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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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Marine Protected Areas and decision making - an administrative law perspective

Feb 21, 2017 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Marine Protected Areas

The Fiji government has made a bold commitment to designate marine protected areas (MPAs) across 30% of its ocean spaces. If this goal is realised, MPA status will be declared over approximately 390,000 square kilometres of Fiji’s ocean spaces. The protection of these marine resources serves several purposes and includes food security for communities, particularly in times of need, and in terms of economic value. In 2014 Fiji’s fisheries were estimated to be worth approximately F$250million.

In this bulletin we consider the legislation that enables the legal declaration of MPAs, how Fiji's common law principles support an inclusive decision-making process leading up to the declaration of MPAs and how following an inclusive and integrated process may lead to more effective MPAs that are suited to Fiji's law and governance context. 

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