19th Session of the International Seabed Authority
The Fiji delegation to the 19th Session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), currently underway in Kingston, Jamaica, has advised the ISA of Fiji’s recently promulgated law pertaining to deep sea minerals in international waters. Earlier this month, Fiji’s Cabinet approved the International Seabed Mineral Management Decree 2013. The Fiji decree is one of the first pieces of national law for the management and regulation of seabed mineral activities in international waters.
Fiji has a history of breaking new ground at the ISA. In 1982, Fiji was the first signatory of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, and in 1996 Ambassador Satya Nandan of Fiji became the ISA’s first Secretary-General.
The Jamaica-based ISA has a membership of 165 countries. Its task is to administer the mineral resources of the deep seabed outside areas of national jurisdiction referred to in the Convention as the “Area”. Under specified provisions of the Convention, the ISA is also empowered to establish global rules, regulations and procedures for the protection and conservation of the marine biological diversity associated with activities in the Area.
On 17th July, Fiji’s Dr Russell Howorth, former Director of the SPC’s SOPAC Division, made a day-long presentation of the report of the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) to the ISA Council. Dr Howorth is the elected Chair of the LTC, the expert body of the ISA that advises the ISA Council.
The Fiji delegation to the 19th Session of the International Seabed Authority is being led by Ambassador Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and includes Malakai Finau, Director of Mineral Development, Gene Bai of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Russell Howorth and Timaima Vakadewabuka of Attorney-General’s Chambers who is also on an internship programme with the ISA.
Other Pacific Island countries represented at the 19th Session are the Kingdom of Tonga, the Cook Islands and Federated States of Micronesia. Also present is Ms Hannah Lily, Legal Adviser to the Deep Sea Minerals Project at SPC’s Suva-based SOPAC Division.
The Council is the executive organ of the ISA. Fiji is currently serving a five year term on the 36 member Council. On 19th July, subsequent to the advice of the LTC, Council approved two applications for plans of work for seabed mineral exploration by China and Japan. Due to lack of time, the LTC was not able to make recommendations to Council on applications for plans of work from Russia, Singapore, UK and India. These applications will be considered by the LTC in February next year and will be put before the Council for approval at the 20th session of the ISA in July 2014.