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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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Seabed mining - how is it intended to be regulated and what are the risks for States that seek a licence from the International Seabed Authority?

Nov 26, 2019 / by James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Pacific, UNCLOS, Environmental governance, Environmental decision making, Law of the Sea Convention, Integrated Oceans Management Pacific, Blue Economy, UN Oceans, Seabed Mining, Oceans Governance, Deep Seabed Mining, Precautionary Principle, School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific

Seabed mining is a new industry that seeks to exploit the value of metals on or in the seabed. The drivers for this industry include the rising demand and costs for the metals in question. Many of the potential mining sites are found under the Pacific Ocean in areas beyond the national jurisdiction of any State. This area of deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("LOSC") as “the Area”.

This new industry is intended to be regulated pursuant to LOSC by the International Seabed Authority (a body created by LOSC). The International Seabed Authority will issue licences to Applicants that are sponsored by nation States (sponsoring States). The licences will be issued subject to conditions that are intended to protect the marine environment, however, sponsoring States are themselves subject to duties under international law and amongst other things are required by LOSC to have their own legislation in place to regulate the mining companies that they sponsor. If this legislation is not in place or is inadequate then sponsoring States will not meet their international law duties, will incur legal risk, and this new industry will not be properly regulated.

In this bulletin, we set out what is known from a legal and governance perspective about seabed mining in the Area, describe how the international regulatory framework is supposed to work and review the results of a recent legal analysis that demonstrates the legal framework is not yet in place to meet various requirements under the international legal framework. We respectfully suggest that this legal analysis supports the view that seabed mining is not, as yet, ready to proceed as an effectively regulated industry in accordance with international law.

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Fiji fisheries law update: Ban on importation and exportation of shark fins and live coral

Jul 15, 2019 / by Emily Samuela posted in Oceans Law, Sovereignty, Inshore fisheries, Fiji Oceans, fisheries management, fisheries law, UN Oceans, Oceans Governance, Precautionary Principle, Fiji Sharks, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji, Inshore Fisheries Management Division Fiji, Fiji fisheries laws

The importance of healthy sharks, and coastal marine ecosystems, to Fiji’s economy has been recognised by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Fiji government via new customs laws that have expanded the list of banned imports and exports to include shark fins and live coral.

The importation into Fiji of any goods specified in Schedule 1 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports and Exports) Regulations 1986 is illegal. On Friday, 7 June 2019, by Legal Notice No. 31, the Honourable Minister exercised powers pursuant to section 64 of the Customs Act and expanded the list of Prohibited Imports and Exports in Schedule 1 to include shark fins and live coral.

In this legal bulletin we provide a brief update on what this means for the import and export of shark fin.

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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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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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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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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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