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Ocean Law Bulletins

Towards a global agreement on plastics and plastic pollution for the Pacific Islands

Nov 16, 2020 / by Patricia Parkinson posted in Pacific Ocean Rights, Marine Plastics, Plastic Pollution

From the largest cities to the remote villages around the planet, plastic with all its convenience, hygiene and affordability benefits has become ubiquitous in people’s daily life. Unfortunately, the spiraling production of plastic and plastic products, a prevalent throwaway culture, and poor management of waste has devastating effects on the natural environment, the wildlife and, as is increasingly documented, on human health. Micro and nanoplastics are now found in the most remote areas of the planet, from the deepest ocean trenches to the planet’s poles, and on the current trend there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The cultural, environmental, social and economic role of the ocean in the Pacific exposes the islands more than most to the threats of marine plastic pollution. National and regional law and policy measures taken by the Pacific states and territories to curb the problem will not alone resolve what is now a global crisis requiring a global solution. A growing body of research conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Assembly points to the urgent need to review and improve the current fragmented and ineffective global plastic legal regime.

Beginning with a brief outline of the extent of the plastic crisis globally and of its threats to the Pacific islands, this article summarises the key policy and regulatory responses to plastic pollution in the Pacific region and globally, highlighting the limitations and gaps of the current approach[1]. The emergence of a global momentum in support of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) to prevent plastic and microplastics pollution is described in the context of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA) process and the work of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics (AHEG). The last section outlines the historical development of the Pacific islands’ regional position with regards to plastic pollution and the current process to define a common position towards a new global regime governing plastics that reflects the Pacific islands’ regional and national priorities and ensure the protection of people and ocean from plastic pollution and its impacts.

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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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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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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 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 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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Pacific Ocean Legal Rights: The implications for a Pacific Blue Economy, the importance of Integrated Oceans Management and the vital role of Civil Society Organisations

Sep 5, 2018 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, UNCLOS, International Law, Maritime boundaries, Sovereignty, Integrated Oceans Management Policy, Law of the Sea Convention, Sovereign Rights, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Marine Spatial Planning Pacific, Pacific Ocean Rights, traditional rights, Pacific Blue Economy, Blue Economy, Raising Pacific Voices, Oxfam in the Pacific, Pacific Island Rights, Large Ocean States

Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have legal rights to and within enormous ocean areas. These legal rights are, to a large extent, provided by operation of international law and are codified in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC).

The LOSC is often referred to as a “Constitution for the Oceans” because, amongst other things, it sets out and regulates the recognised legal rights that the international community agree that all nations have on or in the ocean to undertake or benefit from various activities that include but are not limited to navigation, fishing and other extractive industry. The LOSC also allocates the legal rights to PICs over and within ocean “zones” that includes the large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). However, fisheries and marine scientists suggest that the sustainable use and management of the PICs’ valuable marine resources can only be achieved by Integrated Oceans Management based on eco-systems and not ocean zones.

In this legal bulletin we set out why the Pacific Island Countries have sufficient legal rights to build and implement effective oceans integrated management systems to support the development of their national and regional blue economies in a way that best suits them and based on an ecosystems approach. However, to meet good governance outcomes (successful, equitable, sustainable) those management systems must be suited to the context of PICs which means that the collective process to create those systems must be inclusive, practical and carefully undertaken.

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