It is a sad situation in the seas that, from where life arose and sustains,
should now be in danger by the activities of another form of that life. But
though the sea has changed in a sinister way, it will anyway continue to exist:
the threat is rather to human life. Oceans are perhaps the secret of how life
began on earth and then a paradigm shift to land happened. It is because of the
careless acts of humans that oceans are suffering.
Why has maritime wildlife protection become the need of the hour? The large
scale coastal pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, acidification, etc
are a grim reality of the waters. The life of approximately 1000 marine habitat
is severely affected because of pollution and over 100 million animals lose
their lives in the water. With 71% of the total land area being water, today
there are more than 500 dead zones declared where marine life cannot exist.
Who are the stakeholders involved in trafficking?
The stakeholders involved in marine wildlife trafficking are the primary reason
why it has become rife. People must be made aware of how the illegal marine
wildlife trading market is flourishing and has successfully become a global
menace. Marine wildlife trafficking has been happening in countries that have
strict laws and punishments. Who are these stakeholders who carry out illegal
trading? The illegal global trade of eel smuggling is 2.5 billion a year. People
like Gilbert Khoo who illegally trade European eel and other marine animals are
the primary stakeholders in marine destruction.
But on the flip side of the coin, there are also people who are positive
stakeholders. But it is important to bring them on the same page. This is so
because a study based on a survey shows that there is a lack of awareness of
endangered species. Countries must follow the footsteps of the Mombasa port
stakeholders who have taken active steps to tackle illegal wildlife trade. From
hosting workshops to forming associations and then drafting a zero-tolerance
policy, they have successfully tackled an impending menace. It is about time
that incidents like Mombasa port take over the number of Gilbert Khoo for the
survival of marine life.
Demand for goods
It is important to understand that a market cannot sustain unless there is a
demand from the consumer. Any market will only sustain and flourish because of
the demand from its consumers. At this point it is necessary to question, why
does illegal trading take place? Primarily because some of us still demand
marine flora and fauna in some way or the other. The finger must be pointed to
the consumers who still demand such goods!
Along with the enforcement of laws,
it is important that we make effective strategies to influence consumers. There
is a demand for sea turtles, shark fins, totoaba fish in Mexico, commercial
whaling in Japan and Iceland, and manta gills have risen dramatically over the
last decade. The gills can sell for up to $500 per kilogram are among a few
common demands Once there is a fall in consumer demand in the market, the graph
of illegal trafficking will fall too!
Criminalization of trafficking
The laws on wildlife trafficking vary from region to region. Depending on the
jurisdiction, it attracts different penalties for violations of laws relating to
the environment, forests, wildlife, fisheries, endangered species, or protected
areas and further it may give rise to administrative, civil or criminal
liability. Owing to the proliferation of regional illegal wildlife trade, the
global community now considers the illegal import of endangered species a grave
matter of concern.
It would be correct to mention that although criminalization
is the harshest form of regulations because it involves penalties and
punishments, it has become the need of the hour. Different countries have
different statues that help reduce the number of criminal offences against
marine wildlife. For example, the USA has the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 1972
and China under Article 341 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of
China. The ‘ivory queen’ of Tanzania is a landmark case where a Chinese
businesswoman under the nickname ‘Ivory queen’ used her knowledge of Tanzanian
culture to carry out one of Africa’s biggest ivory trafficking rings. As a
result, she was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.
Suggestions for a sustainable ocean
- Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan)
In 2010 proceedings were initiated by Australia against Japan at the
International Court of Justice. It was alleged that Japan in breach of its
obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Regulation of
Whaling has continued an extensive whaling program. ICJ ruled that it was not
legal and must end.
- Ocean Mammal Institute v. Gates
The Navy was sued over the use of sonar. It was feared that the sonar would kill
whales and other marine life. This case dealt with the required production of
documents stating that the defendant was privileged. The Court ordered that
documents be handed over to the plaintiffs because the documents were not in
fact privileged. And the use of sonar must be stopped.
It is the law of the sea that has been of prime importance to international law
in the 21st century. Though there has been an inherent tension between coastal
states and maritime states there was no major convention until most recently.
- The Stockholm Conference 1972
If one was to identify a single event that brought forward the environmental
awareness in international law it would clearly be the Stockholm Conference on
Human Environment in 1972. It was proclaimed in the Conference that man is both
creature and moulder of the environment which gives him physical sustenance and
offers him opportunities for intellectual, moral and spiritual growth.
held that developing countries that have a maximum contribution to various
environmental problems; their priority must be to safeguard and improve the
environment. Industrialized countries should proactively make an effort to
reduce the gap between themselves and the developing countries. Defending and
improving the environment for future generations must be an imperative goal.
conference laid down 26 principles called the Stockholm declarations. The most
significant achievements of the Stockholm Conference were the establishment of
the United Nations Environment Programme, a subsidiary organ of the UN. The
Stockholm Conference was a significant starting point but it remained a little
more than a wish list. Shortly after negotiations began on another major
document in international law that would give greater legal effect to both of
these substantial concerns.
- UN Convention on the Law of Sea 1982
Until 20th-century law of the sea is said to have been governed by customs. An
international conference was held in 1958, the United Nations Conference on the
Law of the Sea, codified much of the existing customs into four conventions the
Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the Convention on the
High Seas, the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of
the High Seas, and the Convention on the Continental Shelf. The particular
contribution of UNCLOS is that is not only fixed the breadth of the territorial
sea at a maximum of 12 nautical miles but it also designated other segments of
the ocean where the interests of coastal states are balanced with the needs of
Laws, regulations, awareness is all one side of the coin, and on the flip side,
our minor lifestyle changes can significantly contribute to a sustainable and
- To reduce ocean acidification, efforts must be made to reduce our carbon
- To prevent more areas like the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ use of plastics and
disposables must be avoided/limited.
- Raising awareness regarding marine wildlife trafficking and reduction of the
market demand for goods that are sold illegally.
- Support organization’s and volunteer for cleanup drives.
- Educate ourselves and then our community about the importance of healthy oceans
and marine life. Support organizations and volunteer for cleanup drives.
Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” At
the end of the day, all governments and courts bow down to public pressure. Laws
can fail but not individual efforts. After all, it is the drops of water that
fill the ocean. Sincere individual contributions will surely have a great
overall impact on the well being of ocean life.
We must understand that life is
a cycle, if there are no blue oceans there will not be any green fields. By
following simple measures like rational use of resources and by being aware of
our surroundings, we can be fairly responsible towards our environment.
- ICJG 471 (ICJ 2014)
- 2008 WL 2185180 (D.Hawai'i)