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Submerged States and the legal rights at risk

Mar 30, 2017 / by Kevin Chand and James Sloan posted in Oceans Law, Human Rights, Pacific, UNCLOS, International Law, Maritime boundaries, Sovereignty

Climate change and its impacts are one of the greatest environmental problems of today and its effects include, inter alia, changing climate patterns, warming ocean temperatures, melting glaciers and ice caps, and sea level rise. These impacts while felt globally are disproportionately distributed. Low lying island States are particularly vulnerable with Pacific Islands like the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati facing uncertain futures because of the very real threat of sea level rise submerging their land territory (inundation). As well as the threatened loss of their homes, extinction of their cultures and the unwelcome prospect of becoming climate change refugees, they also face the consequence of losing their rights of sovereignty in International law.

In this piece we examine the unresolved question of whether States threatened with inundation may also lose their claim to their maritime zones and associated legal rights. We consider whether the international climate change regime has provisions that address this threat and briefly look at the limited opportunities for recourse under the present system and suggest an amendment to UNCLOS may be necessary to guarantee the rights of States threatened with the terrifying prospect of inundation.

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Biodiversity on the High Seas

Feb 21, 2017 / by Kevin Chand posted in Oceans Law, UNCLOS, International Law

Areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) includes the High Seas, which accounts for approximately 64% of the world’s ocean, and the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction. In the High Seas no State has jurisdiction, meaning individual States have no management rights, and activities in this area with respect to marine biodiversity remain largely unregulated.

While there are some regional management plans that exist on the High Seas, these are often restricted to certain species or industries and ultimately result in an ad hoc and overall, poorly managed ocean. Overexploitation of fish stocks, increasing marine pollution, and habitat destruction, together with the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification mean that now more than ever there is an urgent need to protect larger expanses of the ocean particularly the High Seas.

In this bulletin we look at the efforts of the international community through the United Nations, as it attempts to regulate the High Seas through international law mechanisms. 

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