There are oceans and seas covering over 70% of the earth's surface, including
a vast array of different types of organisms. However, due to waste, dumping,
and pollution caused by scientific methods, lack of understanding, and
conscience, marine life has come under threat in recent years. This is
especially true given that marine life is used as a source of money for many
people who are involved in illegal commerce.
Main Threats to the Marine Environment
European waters are bounded by four major seas, including the Mediterranean Sea
and Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, as well as the North Atlantic
Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. As a result, coastal areas may be found in
practically all of the EU's 25 member states. According to the European Union,
the following are the present dangers to the marine environment:
Overfishing is a common problem in Europe's coastal areas, particularly in the
Baltic Sea. Although management plans to preserve these resources from
exploitation have been implemented, a number of commercial fish stocks have been
lost as a result of overexploitation. This excessive amount of fishing also has
a negative impact on other marine life such as seals, seagulls, and other sea
Intentional introductions of non-indigenous species and genetically modified
organisms into the marine environment have a negative impact on the natural
Human activities such as the construction of ports and harbours, as well as
tourism, are rising on a daily basis, with a lack of awareness and concern about
the degradation of the marine environment, which poses a threat to marine life.
Pollution and Climate Change:
Pollution from industrial and urban discharges contributes to environmental
pollution, which in turn contributes to global warming. This is another factor
contributing to the extinction of marine life.
Status of Some Endangered Marine Species
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2006, a
red list was prepared which contains 1,500 endangered species. Some of them are:
These can be found in rocky and coral reef environments across the tropics and
subtropics of the planet. It has a significant monetary worth in the commercial
trade market. Asia is home to almost 250 thousand tonnes of grouper harvest,
according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. At
least 12.4 percent of groupers are currently classified as threatened, with the
remaining 14 percent classified as near threatened and the remaining 30 percent
classified as data poor.
Almost 845 different coral species contribute to the formation of reefs, which
are critical habitat for many animals. In total, more than 27 percent of them
are classified as threatened, with another 20 percent classified as near
As of 2008, six of seven species of sea turtles were classified as endangered. A
total of 4,600 marine turtles were caught and killed in US fisheries in 2011.
The European Marine Strategy
The Ecosystem Approach: A method for integrated management of land, water, and
living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable
manner is defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity as an ecosystem
approach. The proposed marine plan is based on the ecosystem concept and
emphasises the integration of human activities into the overall management of
A look at the Marine Strategy and the new European Union Maritime Policy:
Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union was the title of a green paper
published by the European Commission on June 7, 2006, with the goal of achieving
the objectives of the Lisbon strategy while integrating various aspects of the
maritime sector such as transportation, fisheries and aquaculture, marine
research, and so on.
Natura 2000 and the Marine Strategy: This attempts to safeguard the environment
by defining steps that its member governments must take. Habitats and birds
regulations in the EU developed the Natura 2000 natural network.
Marine Life Protection under International Law
Marine life conservation is currently one of the most pressing problems in the
planet. Marine creatures are endangered as a result of industrial and scientific
contamination. Not only that, but abuse of the food industry, medicine, energy,
transportation, commerce, and other industries endangers marine life. In the
last few decades, several international accords have been enacted to safeguard
The Stockholm Conference
In the year 1972, the United Nations held a summit in Stockholm to offer legal
attention to environmental concerns. All member nations should take
responsibility for protecting and improving the environment for future
generations, according to Principle 1 of this proclamation. It expresses concern
over the depletion of natural resources, including marine life.
Principle 7 assigns all member states the duty for taking the required efforts
to safeguard the oceans and avoid pollution, which might result in massive loss
of human health and marine life.
The Stockholm Declaration surely cleared the way for the 1982 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea, which focuses only on marine life
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1) was signed in
1958. It codified existing customs into four conventions like the Convention on
the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the convention on the High seas,
the convention on fishing and conservation on the living resources of the High
seas, and the convention on the continental shelf. Despite the fact that it was
recognised by a number of states, it has proven to be a huge failure.
UNCLOS 2 was held two years later in 1960, however it failed to achieve the goal
of defining the territorial sea's breadth and resolving the maritime question.
Then, in 1973, UNCLOS 3 was held, with over 150 nations and specialised bodies
participating. It lasted nine years and culminated in the 1982 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea. In the territorial sea, maritime states have
the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea of another state. The
sovereign right to explore, conserve, and manage natural resources belongs to
the exclusive economic zone.
According to UNCLOS Articles 56 and 61, the coastal area has the authority to
enact its own conservation rules, and other governments are prohibited from
exploiting the resources in the exclusive economic zone. High seas also said
that the state can enact legislation to protect marine life. Because all
governments are equal, they can enjoy the same UNCLOS-guaranteed freedoms, such
as freedom of passage, fishing, laying underwater cables and pipelines, and
scientific study. Among all of these, however, fishing freedom is critical to
the survival of marine life.
No state has the right to overfish; they lack the authority to enact regulations
governing sustainable yield and the best use of the high seas. According to
UNCLOS Article 116, if a member state is a party to one or more regional fishery
accords, high seas fishing must be conducted in conformity with the convention's
other responsibilities. As a result of UNCLOS, the coastal state now has
responsibility for marine conservation.
Article 194 stipulates that states must take all necessary steps, individually
and collectively, to avoid, mitigate, and control pollution of the maritime
environment from any source, using the best practical means at their disposal
and within their capacities, in accordance with this convention.
There are four causes of pollution in the water, according to Art 194 (3): the
emission of hazardous, dangerous, and noxious chemicals, pollution from boats,
and pollution from the installation of any technologies that aid in the search
of natural resources on the seabed. Art 194 (5) requires that essential measures
be taken to safeguard and preserve unique and vulnerable ecosystems.
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
This convention was adopted on 2nd November 1973. It is the main International
Convention for the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships.
Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil (2nd October 1983): This
annexure safeguards the marine environment against contamination caused by ship
oil spills. It requires new tankers to have twin hulls. The twin hulls on
existing tankers should also be repaired.
Regulations for the Control Of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
(2nd October 1983): It calls for the regulation of pollution caused by toxic
liquid substances transported in bulk. Almost 250 compounds were reviewed and
included in the convention's appendix list. Only reception facilities are
allowed to dump their residues until specific concentrations and conditions are
met. Within 12 miles of the nearest land, if the discharge of residues does not
contain harmful compounds, it is permissible.
Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
(1st July 1982): It requires the publication of a detailed standard on packing,
marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, and quantity restrictions, among
other things. The word "harmful substance" is used in this annexure to refer to
substances that are utilised for marine pollutants under the International
Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or that follow Annex 3 of this Convention.
Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships (27th September 2003): It forbids
the release of sewage into the sea and regulates pollution, although it exempts
situations in which the ship is operating an approved sewage treatment plant
that is located more than three nautical miles from the nearest shore.
Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships (31st December 1988): This
Annexure made it illegal to throw any kind of plastic into the ocean.
Organisations Fighting for Marine Life Conservation
Despite the fact that there are a number of international conventions and
methods in place to protect marine life, a number of non-profit groups continue
to work for marine conservation. They run a number of campaigns and other
initiatives to conserve and restore the maritime environment. Here are a few
This organisation is known as a leading advocacy group that works for the
protection of special marine habitats. It also works to restore viable fisheries
and, most importantly, to protect the maritime environment from human
interference. It was founded in Washington, D.C. in the year 1971.
It educates the public and advocates for policy changes to keep the ocean
ecology and marine life in balance. For almost 30 years, this organisation has
hosted the International Coastal Cleanup programme, which brings together
millions of volunteers to clean beaches all around the world.
The Surfrider Foundation:
It is a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving oceans and beaches all
around the world. It recognises the threats that pollution, climate change, and
offshore development pose to oceans. Water quality, plastic pollution, beach
access, coastal protection, and maintaining the marine and coastal ecology are
all areas where it works. This California-based organisation examines ocean
water all year to ensure that the public is informed about local water quality.
It has been working to conserve the ocean since its founding on August 22, 1984.
The organisation was granted public beach access to South Cardiff State Beach in
San Diego in 1987. It was instrumental in the groundbreaking decision to halt
the marina's construction in 1989. (an ocean entrance and a mile-long
The Surfrider Foundation has fought hard to put new environmental legislation in
place, such as the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act, to protect rivers,
lakes, and coastal waters. It recently assisted in the passage of legislation
prohibiting the hazardous chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate from being used in
sunscreens in order to protect coral reefs and human health.
Oceana: It was created in 2001 in Washington, D.C., with the goal of restoring
and protecting oceans through policy initiatives. This organisation began a
campaign in 2013 to "rescue the ocean, feed the world," and has now won over 100
victories. It has also expanded its operations to include Brazil, the
Philippines, Peru, and other countries.
Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project:
This project was funded in the year 1982 by Richard (Ric) O' Barry who worked
within the dolphin captivity industry and against it. He trained about five
dolphins for the TV show Flipper, but after one of them died, he decided to stop
training and instead safeguard the dolphins from captivity. On August 5, 2019,
he began his dolphin project with some local partners.
Cases violating Marine Laws
Despite all of the efforts to safeguard marine life, there have been and
continue to be several examples of violations of maritime legislation. It
demonstrates public apathy and an inability to adequately administer
Criminal Jurisdiction for Ship Collision and Marine Pollution in High Seas: M/V
Earnest Hemingway case, 2015:
On January 16, 2015, about 10 miles east of Busan, South Korea, a Liberian
container carrier, M/V Earnest Hemingway, collided with a Korean fishing boat
heading towards N-5 Cemetry. M/V Earnest Hemingway was heading towards N-5
Cemetry in Busan at 14 knots. A Korean fishing boat, the Geunyang ho, was
working at 2 o'clock in the direction, about 8 miles in, but it was
misunderstood by the M/V Hemmingway's second officer and an able seaman. The
Korean fishing boat remained present and continued sailing, resulting in a
collision at 3:31 p.m.
The captain and a fisherman from Geunyang ho, as well as Korean nationals, died
in this disaster after falling into the water. The boat was also sunk at sea,
spilling around 600 litres of fuel oil into the water. Following that event, the
M/V Earnest Hemingway anchored at N-5 Cemetry in Busan, South Korea, at 4:54
a.m. and proceeded for Qingdao port, China, at 11 a.m., but returned to Busan as
directed by the coast guard.
The second officer of the M/V Earnest and the seaman were charged by the Busan
District Court for failing to meet their obligations to change the sailing
direction or make a declaration to avoid a ship collision by failing to use
sound signals, light emission signals, and communication devices as warning
After the occurrence, the ship also fled the scene and refused to assist in the
rescue, in violation of the Act on "Aggravated Punishment, etc., of Specific
Crimes, as provided by the Specific Crimes Act." Furthermore, for oil spills, it
violates the Marine Environment Management Act.
Two defendants were fined two million dollars by the district court, while the
other accusations were withdrawn owing to a lack of jurisdiction. According to
the Permanent Court of International Justice, South Korea does not have
jurisdiction under UNCLOS Article 97 (1).
The reason for this is that the court stated that it applies to all criminals
and crew members who were liable for the collision, other navigational
accidents, and physical damage caused by the flag state and the state of the
alleged offender's nationality. Because the flag state's exclusive jurisdiction
on the high seas is superior to that of other states, it would be reasonable for
them to exercise complementary jurisdiction in this situation if the flag state
and the alleged offender's nationality state did not have criminal jurisdiction.
This is also required by UNCLOS if a vessel approaches a state's port or
offshore terminal freely and creates marine pollution in the state's territorial
sea or EEZ.
If South Korea prosecutes marine pollution under the jurisdiction of the
vessel's flag state, and UNCLOS specifies the jurisdiction of coastal states
based on the severity of pollution and damage to marine life, it can be
concluded that UNCLOS needs to be implemented more effectively and that an
amendment is required.
US Law - Criminal prosecutions of MARPOL Violations: Case of the United
States v. Lonia Management:
The appeals of the second circuit court have been joined with the appeals of the
fifth circuit court to confirm that ship owners and operators may be criminally
prosecuted and held vicariously liable whenever a false entry of US water in the
oil record book is made to conceal waste oil discharges, resulting in a MARPOL
In this case, a three-judge panel ruled that the Act to Prevent Pollution from
Ships, also known as the US version of the MARPOL Convention, imposes a positive
duty on ships to ensure that their oil record books are accurate (or at the very
least not knowingly inaccurate) when they enter US ports and navigable waters.
The tanker KRITON carried oil goods to several US east coast ports in the
aforementioned case, and Lonia was the ship manager of that vessel. During the
trial, jury members discovered that the engine room staff habitually released
waste oil into international waters on the orders of the chief engineers by
circumventing the oily water separator and making entries in the ORB.
Jurors also discovered that a senior engine room employee instructed his younger
crew members to lie to the coast guard and destroy evidence. The company was
found guilty of vicarious criminal culpability, which means there was no need to
prove that the company's management was aware of the vessel's criminal action.
The second circuit court adopted the fifth circuit's decision in United States
v. Jho, deciding that the felony under APPS was failing to maintain the ORB. The
MARPOL convention gives the flag state jurisdiction over compliance in
international waters, but the court stated that because the failure to maintain
the ORB occurred in US waters, the port state had jurisdiction to prosecute the
company and individuals for failing to comply with the port state's positive
duty under international law to refer the matter to the flag state.
Through circulars, news stories, and seminar presentations, Gard Marine and
Energy Insurance has been warning about the harsh penalties for MARPOL
violations. Not only the United States, but also European ports and flag states
are affected by marine pollution. Despite several warnings from maritime groups,
ship owners continue to expose themselves to liability by engaging in illegal
activities that negatively impact the water and marine life.
Oily wastewater should be treated by an oily water separator, and discharges
from it should be appropriately reported in ORB, according to convention. It was
put into effect in 1983. As signatory, all maritime nations have mostly observed
this convention, but sadly, no one follows it properly.
Mauritius Oil Spill reveals the weakness of maritime security architecture in
the Western Indian Ocean:
Near the end of July 2020, a Japanese-owned ship, the MV Wakashio, arrived
at the Mauritian coral reef. Around 1,000 tonnes of oil was leaked, posing a
hazard to the Blue Bay Marine Park (considered one of the most sensitive ecology
sites and marine treasures of Mauritius). Following the event, India, Japan, and
the International Maritime Organization dispatched a team of experts (IMO).
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. A ship had
previously become trapped at this spot. It is only a few miles between Asia and
the Cape of Good Hope, where nearly tens of thousands of ships pass by on their
way to the South Pole. The Mauritius authorities were well aware of the tragedy,
and they were aware of the dangers of a repeat calamity.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) launched the "Djibouti Code of
Conduct" regional maritime security cooperation pact in 2008. It was initially
focused on piracy, but in 2017, it was expanded to include other environmental
The Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environmental Programme and
the Nairobi Convention continued to work on capacity building. This programme
had a workshop a few months ago, during which oil spill prevention was reviewed
and Mauritius provided an update on its national readiness status.
As a result, the Djibouti Code proceedings have begun, and the Nairobi
Convention or regional cooperation agreements may play a significant role in
However, no progress has been made in this area. Locals have been attempting to
remove the oil from the water, but it is proving to be a challenging task.
Several marine species and coral reefs have perished.
It is a flagrant breach of Annex 1 of the MARPOL Convention, which governs the
avoidance of oil pollution from ships, and advises that new and existing tankers
have double hulls. Mauritius was aware of this fact as well, but did not take
any precautions. As a result, the authorities can be regarded insignificant and
should be held accountable for the protection of marine life.
Our environment benefits from marine life. It is our obligation to safeguard and
conserve it. Laws are pointless unless and until they are properly implemented.
We also need to address our lack of understanding and conscience when it comes
to marine life protection. We are also unwilling to conserve and preserve it
because we are caught in a loop of trade and commerce at the expense of marine
As quoted by William Shakespeare, "Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the
great ones eat up the little one" people are destroying the habitats of
marine animals because of their greed. They don't follow the laws and policies
of states, and on the other hand, states have also failed to implement them.
It is crucial to emphasise, however, that various non-profit organisations are
working relentlessly to achieve the goal of marine life protection. Even if they
are doing their best, marine life still requires the public's and government's
combined efforts. It is critical that we recognise our responsibility for marine
biodiversity as soon as possible.
- Joao Pedro Silva, Wendy Jones Et All: Life And The Marine Environment:
- ID Silva.
- Beth Polidoro, Roderic Mast Et All: Status Of The World's Marine
- SUPRA, Silva
- Howard S. Schiffman: International Law And The Protection Of The Marine
Environment: Encyclopedia Of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
- Shamseer Mambra, 15 Brave Organisations Fighting To Save Our Oceans,
- Changwoo Ha, Criminal jurisdiction for ship collision and marine
pollution in high seas-Focused on the 2015 judgement on M/V Ernest Hemingway
- Gard News Editor, US law - Criminal prosecutions of MARPOL violations
- Christian Bueger and Timothy Edmunds, Observer Research Foundation,
- William Shakespeare, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre", Act 2, Scene 1, 1609.