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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Marshall Islands

The Constitution of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) provides for the separation of powers, conferring: Legislative power to the Nitijela (Parliament), Executive powers to the Cabinet and Judicial power to the Judiciary. In 1980, the Local Government Act was passed in order to implement article IX of the Constitution. The Act ensures local governments have been given responsibility for:

  • Development of land, water and agricultural resources
  • Coastal and marine management
  • Intra-atoll transportation
  • Providing safe drinking water and energy supplies
  • Public safety
  • Featured Legislation

    1984: The National Environmental Protection Act was enacted, establishing the RMI Environmental Protection Authority. Other environmental institutions that also manage the environment in RMI include the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) and the Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination (OEPPC). The legislation also establishes a National Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for the protection and management of the environment. The Act requires the EPA to:

    • Formulate an appropriate land use scheme
    • Recommend a policy related to the management and conservation of the nation’s natural resources
    • Recommend a system of national fisheries and aquatic resources exploitation; and define appropriate soil conservation programme

    • 1986: The Land Acquisition Act was adopted, detailing compensation arrangements for land acquired by the Government for public purposes.

    • 1987: The Planning and Zoning Act was brought into effect, governing:

    • A legal framework to allow the people of the RMI to voluntarily register their interests in land to create more certainty for land owners and those with interests in land
    • Standards and criteria for land leases
    • Records of land and land transactions open to the public

    1988: The Coast Conservation Act was approved, establishing the RMI EPA as the relevant authority and creating a position within the RMI EPA for a Director of Coast Conservation (Director). The Director’s functions include the formulation and execution of schemes of work for coast conservation within the Coastal Zones, and the conduct of research, in collaboration with other ministries, departments, agencies and institutions for the purpose of coast conservation.

    1994: The Environmental Impact Assessment was passed. The regulations were drafted with the intent of guiding both government officials and the general public to “understand the environmental consequences of their decisions and take action consistent with the goal of protecting, restoring and enhancing the environment”. Part II requires that every proposed development activity include an assessment of the possible adverse impacts to the environment and possible alternatives to mitigate those impacts.

    1997: The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Act was ratified. The legislation was made to establish the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) responsible for managing all marine resources within the fishery waters, which includes the exclusive economic zone, the territorial sea and internal waters.

    1998:The Marshall Islands Fisheries Regulations were introduced to regulate authorisations required under the Marine Resources Act, licensing procedures and requirements, transshipment, fish export certification, vessel reporting requirements, and exportation of fish.

    2003: The Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination (OEPPC) Act was signed. The Act establishes the Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination (OEPPC) and provides for its functions. The OEPPC is an advisory body to the Office of the President, Cabinet and the Ministries and government agencies on matters related to environmental planning and policy generally.

    2003: The Land Recording and Registration Act was created to oversee  the Land Registration Authority, overseeing the recording of all land interests, registration of certain land interests, and guarantee of title to registered interests.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • In October 2021: Empire Bulkers Ltd., Joanna Maritime Limited and Chief Engineer Warlito Tan were indicted in New Orleans for breaking environmental and safety laws related to the Motor Vessel Joanna, a Marshall Islands registered Bulk Carrier. The jury concluded that the aforementioned companies and Tan manipulated oil pollution prevention equipment and falsified the ship’s Oil Record Book. When records were inspected by the Coast Guard, it was discovered that the ship’s Oily Water Separator had been tampered with by inserting a piece of metal into the Oil Content Meter; this would cause the meter to detect clean water instead of what was actually being discharged overboard. The falsified records obstructed the Coast Guard’s inspection, and contravened the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, failing to report hazardous situations that negatively impact the safety of the ship and U.S. ports and waters. What is more, leaks in the ship’s purifier room were discovered, lending to imminent catastrophic fires and explosions. The criminal prosecution is being handled by the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Criminal Investigations Division.

    References and Further Reading


    Environmental Protection Agency (RMIEPA), Deborah Barker Manase (General Manager):, Telephone +692 625-3035/5203