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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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A National Oceans Policy for Tuvalu: 3 experts consider the process to get there

Jul 21, 2020 / by Scott Pelesala I Maani Petaia I Onosai Takataka posted in Oceans Law, Pacific Ocean Rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Pacific Island Rights, Oceans Governance, Pacific Ocean, United Nations, Pacific Island Fisheries, Tuvalu, TuvaluExperts, TuvaluNationalOceanPolicy, OceansPolicy

At present, Tuvalu does not have a national ocean policy that unites Tuvaluans and the Government towards implementing a shared vision and aims for its ocean and resources. The need for a national ocean policy arises due to the importance of the ocean and its resources to Tuvaluans in terms of culture, food, and economy[1], the wide variety of ocean uses, and the need to protect and sustainably manage Tuvalu’s natural resources in an integrated way[2].

In this report the authors review Tuvalu’s governance context, the laws and policies that presently exist and explain why a national ocean policy is needed. The authors set out the sort of process that they think is suited to Tuvalu culture and the Tuvalu context and why they are hopeful that from this process there should emerge a way to create coordination across government and all sectors of Tuvalu society for the benefit of all Tuvaluans and Tuvalu’s ocean and the health of its resources.

The authors believe it is not enough for Tuvalu to have a well written National Ocean Policy, if it is not implemented and owned by the Tuvaluan people. This means the process to create the ocean policy must be locally driven with procedures for inclusive and respectful consultation. This is to ensure that the moralities and legitimacy of an integrated ocean policy are created along with the national ocean policy.

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Fiji's proposed Climate Change law is extraordinary, wide-ranging and open for consultation

Oct 24, 2019 / by James Sloan and Marita Manley posted in climate change, Pacific Ocean, Fiji Climate Change law, Fiji Climate Change Bill, Climate Change Law, United Nations

Fiji’s new proposed climate change law affects every Fiji citizen regardless of whether s/he is a Minister, member of Parliament, Permanent Secretary, a CEO of a company, a builder, an IT expert, a marine scientist or proponent of marine conservation, a retailer, a farmer, or a member of a community or neighbouring Pacific Island country at risk of displacement as a result of climate change.

In the last few years, Fiji has become a global and regional leader in raising awareness of climate change, its effects and what all nation States should do to reduce their emissions to keep us within 1.5C of average global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Fiji's leadership in this arena has in the last month produced a draft Climate Change Bill (the Bill) which is available for public consultation. It has been reported (Fiji Sun, 8 August 2019) that the government of Fiji intends the Bill to become law, by being passed as an Act of Parliament before December 2019. If the Bill is passed it will become the Climate Change Act (the Act). Although not presently law, to avoid confusion we simply refer to the proposed legislation as "the Bill" or "the legislation" in this bulletin as it has not, as yet, become an Act of Parliament.

In this extended and detailed legal bulletin we review the Bill to assist with the further consultations that should take place and, we hope, assist the bold statement and action that Fiji is demonstrating in the face of the climate emergency. All the persons that have been involved in this review support Fiji’s initiative to introduce comprehensive climate change legislation, and provide comments in the spirit of raising awareness of, and assisting with consultation about, the legislation to best suit it to Fiji’s context.

To have your say on the Bill, and to obtain an electronic copy, please click: here

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Deep Seabed mining in the Pacific, a recent lecture prompts the question - Who bears the legal risk under the legal framework for seabed mining outside areas of national jurisdiction (the Area)?

Aug 6, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, Maritime boundaries, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, Fiji commercial lawyers, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Large Ocean States, Seabed Mining, Deep Seabed Mining, Pacific Ocean, Precautionary Principle, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

On Friday 2 August 2019, the School of Marine Studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted an informative and well attended public lecture entitled “The issue of Deep Seabed Mining and Pacific Island States”. The lecture was jointly delivered by Mr Akuila Tawake from the CROP agency SPC who covered technical aspects of deep seabed mining and Mr Michael W Lodge, the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

The lecture was an impressive achievement given that it was arranged a day or so before when Mr Lodge dropped in to say hello to his old friend, Dr Joeli Veitayaki. The high attendance at this public lecture and the robust nature of debate and questions are indicative of the interest and concern that exists in the region relating to the potential risks and rewards for mining ventures that if they do take place will be in areas of seabed beyond the national jurisdictions of continental shelves. This area of seabed beyond national jurisdictions is defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (LOSC) as “the Area”.

We were privileged to be joined by Mr Lodge who provided an informative and eloquent talk in his role as Secretary General of ISA. ISA is the international organisation created by LOSC to regulate deep seabed mining in the Area. In this legal bulletin we update on his lecture and consider the specific question of legal risk associated with DSM. Please see our earlier legal bulletin for a full explanation of the legal framework for seabed mining, including deep seabed mining in the Area: here

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Human rights abuses and poor working conditions in the offshore fishing industry call for fundamental changes in international, regional and national governance

Jan 10, 2019 / by Francisco Blaha and James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, human rights at sea, Flags of convenience, Labour standards at sea, human rights abuses at sea, UNCLOS, Sovereignty, ILO Convention c188, Crewing conditions on Commercial Fishing vessels, Forum Fisheries Agency, fisheries law, Law of the Sea Convention, Pacific Island Rights, UN Oceans, Oceans Governance, Pacific Ocean, Tuna fisheries, WCPFC

The international awareness of inequitable and often inhumane working conditions in the offshore fishing industry has increased in recent years.

Unfortunately, it has reached a point where offshore fishing is an industry that has become synonymous with poor working conditions and human rights abuses when compared with other ocean industries like shipping. This is because the activity of fishing itself takes place outside of the legal jurisdiction of any nation State, on the “high seas” and within EEZs where no State has sovereignty to make and enforce laws. In effect it is an industry where bad players can get away with being unregulated and through the regime of flag State registration effectively claim "immunity" from legal oversight in relation to working conditions. This is not to say all offshore fishing vessel operators are bad players but those fishing vessel operators who do want to comply with good employment standards do not compete on a "level playing field".

The awareness raised by civil society organisations (CSOs) and stakeholders has led to various recent developments, including the development of a specific International Labour Organisation Convention (“ILO”) (Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188)) (“C-188”). C-188 entered into force in November 2017.

Six months ago, in Cape Town, South Africa, the provisions of C-188 were brought to bear by South African authorities against a foreign owned fishing vessel (a link to ILO’s report on this story can be found here).

The problem of unregulated labour standards in offshore fishing exists because some flag States who do have the legal jurisdiction to enforce labour standards on vessels on the high seas that are registered to that flag State lack the ability or willingness to regulate offshore fishing vessels that "fly their flag". Effective and universal flag State regulation is an issue of oceans governance and this is same issue that underpins Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (“IUU”) fishing on the high seas and within coastal States’ EEZs. Solving this ocean governance issue in the fishing industry would likely lead to direct benefits for Pacific Island States both because employment opportunities would improve for Pacific Islanders and because those fishing vessels that are well regulated are more likely to comply with conservation and management measures put in place to protect the Pacific’s essential fish stocks.

In this extended legal bulletin we summarise the international law problem of unregulated labour standards in the offshore fishing industry and consider recent efforts that provide steps in the right direction to bring an end to a shameful problem that should no longer be tolerated in the 21st century. After all, as things stand, on the high seas (areas beyond national jurisdiction) the transportation of slaves by sea is an international crime and is regulated by the law of the sea framework. Contrast this with forced/slave labour and human rights abuses on people “employed” on fishing vessels in the same areas of ocean, and who fall outside any effective regulatory law of the sea framework and as a consequence find themselves outside the reach and protection of the law. To change this may require an overdue shift in general international consensus to amend the current law of the sea and governance framework. 

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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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Seabed Mining in the Pacific Ocean: To mine or not to mine?  Exploring the legal rights and implications for Pacific Island Countries

Oct 4, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Sovereignty, Environmental Impact Assessments, Fiji commercial lawyers, Law of the Sea Convention, Pacific Blue Economy, Blue Economy, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States, UN Oceans, Seabed Mining, Oceans Governance, Deep Seabed Mining, Pacific Ocean, Precautionary Principle

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.

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