What is the Legal Division?
On a daily basis, the legal division handles legal advice to the Board and Management of MIMRA regarding fisheries legal issues at the national, sub-regional, regional and international forums. The legal division proffers legal services to both Coastal and Oceanic Divisions. For the Oceanic and Industrial Affairs Division, the legal division is tasked to review national fisheries laws that may
require review against regional and sub-regional measures that are binding on the RMI as a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Parties to the Nauru Agreement and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In addition to this obligation, the legal division assists MIMRA in legal representation in court for prosecution against fishing vessels or companies alleged to have committed unlawful acts against the national laws and regulations of the RMI in terms of fisheries cases (e.g. IUU, Contravention of Condition of Fishing License, Observer Obstruction, Misreporting, and so forth). For the past four (4) years, most cases have been settled out of court by way of summary proceedings which is accorded under the Fisheries Enforcement Act.
In-house training is also provided to compliance and enforcement officers within MIMRA by the legal division on a ‘as needs’ basis for capacity building and understanding of the laws of the Republic. The legal division also handles legal drafting of Bills, Resolutions, Regulations, Bilateral Access Agreements, and/or Local Government Ordinances for the purposes of safeguarding natural marine resources in the RMI. The legal division also partakes in negotiations with the management on selling fishing vessel days to fish in the RMI EEZ against the market price per day with bilateral fishing partners and domestic partners (in line with the FSM Arrangement which gives preferential treatment to RMI flagged domestic Purse Seine fishing vessels). Before fishing vessels are issued fishing licenses to fish in the RMI EEZ, it is mandatory for fishing vessels to have an access agreement with MIMRA before commencement of fishing prior to January 1 of each new year as license conditions are outlined in an access agreement required under the Fishing Access and Licensing Act. All other legal matters are dealt with the legal division, for upholding the rule of law and conserving our marine resources for the benefit of our local people.
Coastal Fisheries Law is still a fairly new landscape, especially for the Marshall Islands. As such, a lot of the work that the legal division of MIMRA does focuses on drafting the legislation and reviewing policies so that the framework for the Coastal Division is there in terms of law, enforcement, monitoring, and ensuring compliance of individuals and businesses that interact with RMI’s coastal waters. The current coastal legislation focuses on regulating the licensing process; regulation and conservation of certain species that are used for commercial purposes; and regulation of the import and export process for sea cucumbers and aquarium fish. The legislation that is currently being updated and/or developed are Protected Areas Network regulations, Tuna Game Fish Conservation Zone (Amendment) Act, Tuna Game Fish Conservation Zone regulations; Fish Size regulations, and finalization of the Aquaculture Regulations.
For further details, contact:
Laurence Edwards, II, Esq.
MIMRA Legal Counsel
MIMRA Legal Counsel
Dr. Transform Aqorau