What I learned in International Law: New Zealand ignores International Laws

As a last assignment for the international law students, they had to find a recent news story and tie it to something that they have learned this semester.  Here is the first of a series of articles; this student chose to focus on the Law of the Sea.

From the BBC news article on New Zealand’s Maui dolphins.

Despite having the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, New Zealand has put the Maui species in critical endangerment of extinction. The Maui dolphins are only found off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, where they are subject to the commercial fishing and the disease caused by ship waste discharge. As stated in the BBC news article “Protective measures are a ‘death sentence’ for rare dolphin say campaigners,” only 55 Maui dolphins are known to exist, thus “the Maui’s have been declared critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who passed a motion urging full protection in waters up to 100m deep.” As we learned in class, UNCLOS II, clearly states the interest and regulations of internal waters, territorial waters, and the contiguous zones. The Law of the Sea Convention that ranged from 1973 to 1982 defines the rights and responsibilities of states in their use of the oceans, instituting guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources (“United Nations”). “New Zealand has ignored the facts and the advice of the world’s scientific community to accommodate the commercial interests of its fishing industry,” thus violating the protection of marine life in its territorial water and proving evidence of international law failure.

According to Article 117 of UNCLOS, “All States have the duty to take, or to cooperate with other States in taking such measures for their respective nationals as may be necessary for the conservation of the living resource of the high seas,” moreover, Article 119 states, “In determining the allowable catch and establishing other conservation measures in high seas, states shall: take into consideration the effects on species associated with or dependent upon harvested species with a view to maintaining or restoring populations of such associated or dependent species above levels at which reproduction may become seriously threatened” (“United Nations”). New Zealand’s failure to protect the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin is not only a blow to marine conservation, but also negligence to UNCLOS.

Additionally, Kristina Gjerde’s Ted Talk, “Making Laws on the High Seas” informs us that international law has protection on waters closest to a state’s shore, however the strength of the law decrease the further from the shore. As a result we have garbage patches the size of Texas, and species like the Maui threatened. New Zealand has been encouraged by The International Whaling Commission and the Society for Marine Mammology organizations to make an effort to ensure protection to all aspects of their waters. More global states should standup together to push the New Zealand government to push regional management organizations to declare certain areas off limits to high sea fishing, administrations such as NABU International have already started to boycott sea food from New Zealand.

If newspaper outlets like BBC News would write more articles like this, it would highlight areas that require our international attention, thus potentially preserving endangered species across our global society by simply and directly recognizing Article 120 in UNCLOS, which applies to “the conservation and management of marine mammals in the high seas.” The UN has done its job in laying the foundation of water regulations, now New Zealand most improve its efforts in abiding these guidelines in their respective water jurisdiction, and this article could have been much better understood if this violation of international law had been mentioned.



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