Legal cover for turtles

Legal cover for turtles

THE Fiji Environmental Law Association (FELA) is an independent, locally registered not-for-profit organisation with its head office based in Suva. The primary objective of FELA is to promote sustainable resource management and the protection of the environment through law. FELA was established in 2008 by a passionate group of lawyers and scientists to address the lack of awareness of environmental laws among the legal profession, as well as generally across all sections of Fiji’s community.

Key activities which the FELA focuses on include:

* Policy and legal analysis to improve coastal and fisheries management;

* Community and legal awareness aimed at promoting public understanding of environmental law and the active public involvement in environmental decision making processes;

* Legal assistance for community groups and civil society organisations;

* Professional development services for legal practitioners, and professionals in the private and public sector as well as in the NGO community; and

* Institutional strengthening to enhance the capacity of FELA staff including the ability to raise income and diversify its funding base.

Without sustainable use and conservation of Fiji’s natural resources and the protection of its marine and terrestrial environment, future generations will be deprived of the fish, clean water, fertile soils and all nature’s gifts that our generation and our forefathers have taken for granted and have supported communities’ livelihoods and the nation’s economic development. FELA is dedicated to supporting laws and policies that promote sustainable use and conservation of Fiji’s natural capital and build Fiji’s resilience to global environmental threats particularly climate change.

FELA’s publications are one of the means by which FELA seeks to increase awareness and interest in environmental law. Two of FELA’s recent publications reviewed here, Saving Sea Turtles in Fiji — A Guide for Law Enforcement and Regulating Fiji’s Coastal Fisheries — Policy and Law Discussion Paper have been developed through a consultative process with stakeholders to best meet their needs.

Saving sea turtles

in Fiji; the guide

In 1995, in response to rising concerns about the decline of the marine turtles in Fiji, the (then) Fisheries Department issued an initial one-year ban (a moratorium) on the harvest of marine turtles that has since been extended to this day.

Apart from their ecological and cultural significance, sea turtles and turtle products also hold significant value in Fiji’s economy.

However, after the ban, sea turtles and their eggs continued to be taken illegally.

Responding to the gap in law enforcement, FELA, in consultation with stakeholders including the (then) Department of Fisheries, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Environment and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), developed Saving Sea Turtles in Fiji — A Guide for Law Enforcement.

Its purpose is to support the conservation of sea turtle by raising awareness on the moratorium and by facilitating its enforcement. To this effect, its summarises the relevant pieces of legislation, including the Fisheries Act and regulations but also the Endangered and Protected Species (EPS) Act and the international Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The guide also contains a table of offences relating to sea turtles and corresponding penalties and describes the enforcement process.

It also contains a section with tips for authorised officers and for Police when they investigate offences. In addition, the guide features photos of the various species of sea turtles, and graphics assisting with their identification.

Coastal fisheries;

a discussion paper

FELA’s latest publication is a study produced jointly by FELA and the Environmental Defenders Office New South Wales (EDO NSW). The paper was financed by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and supported by Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and endorsed by the Fiji National Protected Areas Committee.

It was launched by the then minister of education, Mahendra Reddy, at the World Book Day celebration on April 29 at the Fiji Museum in Suva.

Fiji is increasingly taking a lead role in international fora in promoting a shift of Pacific Island countries and Small Island Developing States towards a blue-green economy development model.

However, the sustainable management of coastal fisheries in Fiji remains a challenge. Given the value of coastal fisheries to the economy, community livelihoods and food security, there is an urgent and critical need to address the over-exploitation of coastal fisheries and other threats responsible for their decline.

Under the impetus of the 2014 Green Growth Framework for Fiji (GGFF), the national blueprint for sustainable economic, environment and social development, Fiji has embarked upon significant policy, legislative and institutional reforms pertaining to fisheries, coastal resources and ocean management.

The main objective of FELA’s Regulating Fiji’s Coastal Fisheries — Policy and Law Discussion Paper is to inform and provide inputs into the development and implementation of a systematic approach to fisheries and coastal management at a national level that is adapted to Fiji’s needs and resources, as well as to its system of dual governance of coastal and inshore resources which comprises western and traditional elements.

To these ends, the discussion paper:

(i) Outlines a framework for analysing environmental law;

(ii) Presents key concepts relevant for best practice fisheries management derived from international and regional policy;

(iii) Identifies key challenges in relation to inshore fisheries management in Fiji and the related policy and law issues arising out of these challenges;

(iv) Analyses and make recommendations for addressing the main policy and law issues relating to inshore fisheries management; and

(v) Identifies next steps for making progress in relation to the policy and law aspects of fisheries management.

This discussion paper was part of FELA’s submission towards the development of Fiji’s National Fisheries Policy, and contributed to the discussions leading up to the UN Oceans Conference.

Both these publications have been published by the USP Press and are available at the USP Book Centre. Those wishing to get a copy can either contact Vinesh Maharaj via email on or visit

* Kiji Vukikomoala is the co-ordinator of FELA. The views expressed are the author’s and not that of the University of The South Pacific or this newspaper.