Solomon Islands

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Solomon Islands

The constitution of Solomon Islands sets out the sources of law as follows:

  • The Constitution
  • Acts of Parliament
  • Customary law
  • Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament of general application and in force on 1 January 1961, with such changes as may be necessary to facilitate their application to the circumstances of Solomon Islands
  • Principles and rules of the common law and equity, except where they are inconsistent with the Constitution or an Act of Parliament, they are inapplicable or inappropriate in the circumstances of Solomon Islands, or they are inconsistent with customary laws.

  • The Constitution recognises the importance of the country’s natural resources in the preamble, which states that: ‘The natural resources of our country are vested in the people and government of Solomon Islands’. Chapter XI sets out the process for compulsory acquisition of customary land.

    Featured Legislation

    1970: The Continental Shelf Act was signed. “Continental shelf" means the sea bed and subsoil of those submarine areas adjacent to the coasts of the islands of Solomon Islands but beyond the territorial limits of Solomon Islands, to a depth of two hundred meters below the surface of the sea, or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of exploitation of the natural resources of those areas. Rights of exploration and exploitation of Continental Shelf are vested in the Crown. Any act or omission which: a) takes place on, under or above an installation in a designated area or any waters within five hundred meters of such an installation; and b) would, if taking place in any part of Solomon Islands, constitute an offense under any law in force in Solomon Islands, shall be treated for the purpose of that law as taking place in Solomon Islands. Proceedings for any offense under this Act including an offense under any other law applied by or under this Act and anything which is an offence by virtue of section 5(1) may be taken, and such offense may for all incidental purposes be treated as having been committed, in any place in Solomon Islands. (11 sections).

    1998: The Fisheries Act was passed. The main body of this Act is divided into 2 Parts: A Part relative to fisheries administration, management, conservation and regulation of fishing and a Part dealing with enforcement. For the purposes of this Act the Minister shall exercise in relation to fisheries such powers and functions as provided under this Act. In exercising his powers under this Act, the Minister shall have regard to the principles of fisheries management and conservation as laid down in section 4. There is established a Fisheries Advisory Council which shall advise the Minister on such matters relating to the conservation, protection and development of fisheries in Solomon Islands and such other matters as the Minister may from time to time require (sect. 5). Under section 6 there is established a Fisheries Management and Development Fund for the management and development of fisheries in Solomon Islands. Each provincial government shall prepare and keep under review a plan for the management and development of fisheries in its provincial waters other than fisheries of highly migratory species (sect. 7). Subject to the provisions of the Provincial Government Act each Provincial Assembly may make Ordinances not inconsistent with this Act or any regulations made under this Act, for the regulation of fisheries within its provincial waters. Ordinances made under section 10 may provide for any or all of the specified matters (sect. 10). Sections 17 to 23 contain rules relative to fishing and research fishing by foreign vessels. The remaining provisions of Part II deal with licenses in general, use of explosives, etc., aquaculture operations, import and export of fish, driftnet fishing, fish processing establishments, and records to be kept by persons person engaged in fishing, fish processing, fish marketing or the export of fish or fish products. (sects. 24 to 35). The text consists of 61 sections divided into 4 Parts and completed by 1 Schedule containing rules relative to the Fisheries Advisory Council.

    1998: The Environment Act was promulgated. This Act sets out a general legislative framework for the protection of the environment in the Solomon Islands and provides for the establishment of the Environment and Conservation Division and the Environment Advisory Committee and for development control, environmental impact assessment, review and monitoring and the control of pollution. The Act consists of 55 sections divided into 5 Parts and is completed by two Schedules.

    1998:  The Wildlife Protection and Management Act was introduced. The object of this Act is to comply with obligations of Solomon Islands under the CITES Convention or otherwise to further the protection and conservation of the wild flora and fauna of Solomon Islands by regulating: (a) the export of specimens that are, or derived from, native Solomon Islands animals or native Solomon Islands plants; (b) the export and import of specimens that are, or are derived from animals or plants of a kind that are threatened with extinction; (c) the export and import of specimens that are, or are derived from, animals, or plants, of a kind that require, or may require, special protection by regulation of international trade in such specimens; (d) the import of animal specimen or plants specimen, which could have an adverse effect on the habitats of native Solomon Islands animals or native Solomon Islands plants; and (e) the management of flora and fauna to ensure sustainable uses of these resources for the benefit of Solomon Islands (sect. 3). Sections 4 and 5 define the application sphere of the Act. The Minister may, by Order, declare an Approved Management Programme for purposes of this Act under section 6. Such Order shall state: (a) the manner of taking and collecting of animal or plant specimens for breeding, propagation, growing or exporting for scientific or commercial purposes; (b) the measures to be taken in breeding, propagating or growing of plants or animals in captivity for scientific or commercial purposes; (c) the areas set aside or reserved for the protection, management or conservation of animals, plants or individual species; and (d) the measures to be adopted for the control or destruction of animals or plants deemed to be pests or deleterious to the environment or other animals or plants. Permits to export an animal specimen or plant specimen shall be issued by the Director of for Environment and Conservation in the Ministry of Natural Resources.

    1999: The Forests Act was established. The declared (sect. 3) objects of the Act are: ensuring effective and ecologically sustainable management of forest resources; promotion of a sustainable commercial timber industry, and; protection and conservation of forest resources, habitats and ecosystems including the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity. The administration of matters affecting forests is entrusted to Commissioner of Forests appointed under section 6 and the Minister who shall be advised by the Solomon Forestry Board established under section 5. The Commissioner shall prepare and supervise the carrying into effect of the national timber industry policy and a national forest resource management strategy (sect. 7). The contents of the policy are outlined in section 12, the contents of the strategy in section 14. A code of practice for timber harvesting and forest management shall be adopted by the Minister in accordance with section 16. The Commissioner may, in accordance with section 20, determine the potential forest uses for an area of forest. Part IV of the Act makes provision for the control of forestry activities such as timber harvesting, contractor arrangements, land clearing, timber processing, timber marketing and exportation of timber. Part V provides in detail for matters regarding “forest access" (defined in section 2), such as the recognition of customary forest access rights and the negotiation of forest access rights. It restricts the transfer, etc. of forest access rights in relation to unregistered customary land in the sense of the Land and Titles Act (cap. 133). A Statement of customary ownership may be lodged by owners of unregistered land under sections 71 to 76. Section deals with disputes in relation to such statements. The Commissioner shall invite customary owners to determine the potential forest uses on their land (sect. 79 and following). The form of a forest agreement, which requires consent by provincial authorities, is outlined in section 83. Part VI make provision with respect to State forests. The Minister may declare land in which the Commissioner holds a freehold or leasehold interest, to be a State forest. The Minister may, for purposes of water conservation, declare any rainfall catchment area to be a forest reserve under section 91 (Part VII: Forest Reserves). Part VIII grants power of enforcement to the Commissioner and to forest inspectors who shall be appointed by the Minister under section 96, whereas Part IX (“Miscellaneous Provisions") grants regulation making powers to the Minister and protects officials against proceedings for acts done in good faith (122 sections completed by one Schedule).

    2010: The Protected Areas Act was legislated. This Act makes provision for the declaration of protected areas and the protection of biological diversity. It establishes the Protected Areas Advisory Committee and the Protected Areas Trust Fund. The Act regulates the conservation and management of biological resources so as to ensure biological diversity within or outside protected areas and promote the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings.

    2013: The Biosecurity Act was brought into force. This Act provides for biosecurity measures in relation with importation and exportation of animals and plants and related materials conducted by persons present in the Solomon Islands. The Act also provides with respect to administration of biosecurity control and deals with biosecurity emergencies.

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

    • In June 2020: Three environmental defenders celebrated their acquittal from arson charges, along with the many supporters who had attended their trial. However, later convictions of two co-defendants suggest their fight for justice are far from over. Referred to as The Nende Five, this group of community members were accused of burning logging machinery belonging to Malaysia-based firm Xiang Lin SI Ltd. After two years since their arrest and multiple court adjournments, the magistrate in the provincial capital Lata ruled that “there was no case to answer” as there was no evidence to link three of the accused to the charges. According to reports, there were no witnesses to the burning of the machines – it was all just hearsay. The charge of arson carries a maximum penalty of life. This series of cases marks a rare victory for Solomon Islanders who try to stand up for their ancestral land rights against foreign logging companies. Locals lament the manner in which foreign companies are allowed to operate with impunity by successive governments. Yet the convictions of the two remaining defendants have left many denouncing what they say is an unfair, corrupt legal system. Freshwater streams have been polluted by felling too close to rivers, in breach of the forestry code, resulting in soil run-off and spews of silt onto the reef. The threats to human security and environmental security are pronounced, as the environmental damage and toxic social impacts of the logging industry on traditional rural communities are replicated across the archipelago provinces, according to anti-corruption watchdog organization Transparency International. The Nende Five have inspired other activists, who are part of a long-running campaign to stop logging on their island, which began in 2017. They claim the operations are illegal because the provincial government of the time had allowed Xiang Lin a logging permit, known as a grant of profit, without consulting local landowners by holding timber rights hearings, a legally enshrined process for constituting timber agreements.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management & Meteorology: