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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Nauru

While there is no reference to the right to have a healthy environment or to principles of sustainability and the rights of future generations in Nauru’s Constitution, the independent republic as taken steps to uphold the Environment Management Act through the enforcement of relevant Ordinances, environmental practices and projects, and obligations under international conventions and agreements.

Featured Legislation

1937: The Wild Birds Preservation Ordinance was brought into force. According to the legislation, it is an offence to knowingly or willfully destroy or take certain birds, use any lime, trap, snare, net or other instrument to destroy or take certain birds, or possess certain birds.

1972: The Criminal Procedure Act was signed. This legislation makes provisions for procedures to be followed in criminal cases in the Supreme Court and the District Court. This law is of relevance to any criminal prosecutions which may be undertaken in relation to offences against any environment law.

1983: The Litter Prohibition Act was introduced, dealing with littering is an important aspect of environmental management.

1997: The Sea Boundaries Act was passed, demarcating Nauru’s sea boundaries and the maritime zones within those boundaries to declare the rights of the Republic of Nauru in these zones. The legislation also ensures the effective exercise of jurisdiction over the nation’s maritime zones and the implications for its capacity to protect its environment and implement its international obligations.

1997: The Nauru Rehabilitation Corporation Act was approved. This legisla ensures that a Corporation is charged with responsibility for coordinating, promoting, carrying out, managing and participating in rehabilitation works in Nauru.Specifically, this law makes specific provision for the rehabilitation of degraded lands in Nauru.

1997: The Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority Act was enacted. This law oversees matters related to the regulation, management and conservation of Nauru’s fisheries and marine resources.

1997: The Fisheries Act was brought into force, prohibiting the taking of certain fish and marine resources, and restricting the means by which they may be lawfully taken.

1999: The Criminal Justice Act was signed, permitting appropriate penalties to be applied to persons committing littering offences and other offences which affect the environment. The option of requiring community services is seen as effective and appropriate in this context.

2000: The Marine Pollution Prevention Bill was drafted. This legislation  controls marine pollution and the capacity of the country to respond to marine pollution incidents, drawing upon key aspects of its domestic laws and international obligations in the environment context.

2006: The Port Authority Act was adopted, governing the powers by the Nauru Ports Authority in relation to the marine environment.

2017: Ozone Layer Protection Act. The objectives of the Act are (I) prevention and minimization of the release of ozone depleting substances into the environment to protect human health and the environment; (II) control and reduction of the import, export, use, sale and storage of ozone depleting substances with a precautionary approach; (III) management and control of the phasing out of ozone depleting substances except for essential uses pursuant to the obligations under the Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer and Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; and (IV) fulfillment of the obligations under the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol. To this end, this Act lays down provisions on the duties of the Department of Commerce, Industry and Environment; application criteria and procedures for import, export, sales, handling, and premises licenses; conditions for and duration, renewal or denial of license; establishment and maintenance of a register of licenses; prohibitions for importing, exporting, handling, sale or purchase of controlled substance in bulk or refrigerant, and premises without license; re-export of items seized by authorized officers; disposal, handling, and testing of controlled substances, prescribed goods, refrigeration or air-conditioning equipment; obligation of license holders for record keeping; and offences and penalties. The Minister may by notice in the Gazette authorize an officer of the Department, a Police officer or a Customs officer to be an authorized officer for the purposes of this Act. Controlled substances and a list of products containing controlled substances are listed in Schedule 1 and prescribed goods are listed in Schedule 2.

2020: Environmental Management and Climate Change Act. This Act lays down rules for environmental management and protection and climate change, with a focus on sustainable use and development of natural resources, sustainable use and management of land and water, environmental impact assessment, pollution control, management of hazardous and ozone depleting substances, waste management, access and benefit-sharing, food security, coastal zone management, biodiversity management and conservation, conservation of endangered species, resilience to the impacts of climate change, disaster risk management, and public participation in the decision-making processes in the fields of environmental management and protection. The Secretary shall be responsible for the implementation of this Act and submit an annual report to the Minister. The Environmental Conventions and Protocols which Nauru is a party to are listed under Schedule 1 and this Act sets forth provisions in accordance with these conventions and protocols. An Environmental Impact Assessment Committee shall be established for monitoring the development projects. The application for permit for biodiversity prospecting and access shall be evaluated by the Committee. This Act sets forth measures for pollution control and waste management related to water pollution, emission, and discharge of hazardous wastes, chemicals, and oil into the environment. Climate change strategies shall be implemented to protect water resources, coastal areas, land, biodiversity, fisheries and public infrastructure. A Climate Change and Environment Protection Fund shall be established for the conservation of the reef and foreshore, protection of flora and fauna, prevention of coastal erosion, food security, health, soil conservation, ecosystem preservation and pollution control. Furthermore, this Act sets out offences including non-compliance with conditions of permit, offences against authorised officers, and related penalties. To this end, an authorised officer may issue an environmental offence fixed penalty notice on a person who contravenes this Act. The Minister may make an emergency order where a situation poses a serious threat or risk to the environment, in consistency with the National Disaster Risk Management Act 2016.

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

  • Overfishing and poor waste management has plagued Nauru in recent years, placing tremendous strain on the nation’s underwater world. The government has made strides in conserving Nauru’s biodiversity, but control and management of landfills remains lacking; for instance, bio-waste from medical facilities is often burned without proper disposal, posing a considerable risk to human health. What is needed, according to officials, is more resources to build capacity.  A recent Chemicals and Waste Management Programme has been launched in an attempt to implement sound chemicals and waste management in accordance with the Basel and Stockholm conventions, to which Nauru is party. Specifically, the campaign will outline a comprehensive analysis to create a holistic profile of waste management, and spearhead an audit of national legislative frameworks for chemicals and waste disposal to reduce overlap, close legislative loopholes, and strengthen national capacity for environmentally sound chemicals management. The project will also propose an Integrated Chemical and Waste Management Policy, highlighting a long-term national approach for the environmentally sound and sustainable life-cycle management of chemicals. The objective, ultimately, will be the ratification of policies such as: a licensing regime for chemical importation and sustainable financing mechanisms to support end-of-life management of chemicals and associated wastes. Nauru is also attempting to create the country’s first centralized database for chemicals and waste, providing up-to-date data on chemicals and hazardous substances to be collected, stored and reported to all government agencies. An offshoot of the database will be the completion of a national marine litter survey to assess the amount and source of waste ending up in the ocean. The survey will lead to the creation of a National Marine Litter Action Plan, which will identify appropriate interventions to reduce human impact on the country’s underwater ecology.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment: Mr. Reagan Moses,