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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Tuvalu

Tuvalu’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 26 guarantees the “conservation of the environment”. Classified as a least-developed country, the islands contain very few natural resources. The primary economic activities of the country are subsistence farming and fishing; income from foreign aid is also an important part of the economy. Paani Laupepa, the former assistant secretary at Tuvalu's Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, expressed that climate change, and its effects, are a top priority for the nation. For the 21st century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that Tuvalu sea levels will rise to almost one meter.

Featured Legislation

1999: The Conservation Areas Act was passed. This Act provides for the institution of “Conservation Areas”, i.e. areas declared to be such under section 3. Conservation Areas may include marine areas within the territorial sea, any terrestrial area including swamps, islets, reef flats, channels, sand banks and coral reef" in the territory of Tuvalu. The purposes of a Conservation area may be one or more of the following: (a) environment protection, including coastal, marine and terrestrial areas; (b) conservation and protection of biosphere reserves and habitats; (c) biological diversity preservation; (d) promotion of scientific studies and research on conservation areas. No person shall hunt, kill or capture any turtle, bird or fish in conservation areas designated under this Act.

2006: The Marine Resources Act was enacted. This Act makes provision for the management, conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources of and regulates fishing in fishery waters of Tuvalu, i.e. the exclusive economic zone, contiguous zone, territorial sea, internal waters as described in the Marine Zones (Declaration) Act 1983, and all other waters over which Tuvalu exercises jurisdiction or sovereign rights, and including lagoons and inland waters, and any such waters proclaimed as “fishery limits". The Act also regulates to a certain extent aquaculture, mariculture and the fishing of Tuvalu fishing vessels outside the Fishery Waters of Tuvalu.

2008: The Environment Protection Act 2008 (Cap. 30.25) was approved. This Act makes provision for the protection and management of the environment in Tuvalu. “Environment” includes all natural, physical and social resources and ecosystems or parts thereof, people and culture and the relationship that exists between these elements. One of the objectives of the Act is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

2008: The Ozone Layer Protection Act was promulgated. This Act makes provision for the control of ozone-depleting substances. It gives effect to Tuvalu’s obligations under the Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Act sets out, in the Schedule, substances and goods, the importation, manufacture or sale of which is prohibited. It also specifies substances the export of which to a non-complying country is prohibited. The Minister may grant permits for goods that are exempted by this Act from prohibitions. The Act grants regulation-making powers to the Minister.

2009: The Waste Operations and Services Act was signed. This Act makes provision for the management of solid waste (domestic, bulk, hazardous) in Tuvalu and environment protection in relation with collection, recycling and disposal of waste. Regulatory control over waste dumps and waste disposal sites shall be exercised by the Department of Environment and designated waste management operators, whereas the regulation of waste disposal at sea by the dumping and incineration of wastes shall be the responsibility of the Marine Department under the Marine Pollution Act 1991, and the Department of Environment in accordance with regulations made to implement the relevant international conventions. The Solid Wastes Agency shall have principal responsibility for formulating and implementing a National Wastes Strategy, and the implementation of programs and projects in support of the Strategy. Regulations made under this Act may impose requirements in relation to certain wastes having adverse impacts on the environment or human health. The Act also provides for the registration and licensing of private waste operators and defines functions of waste management operators designated for a specified waste service area.

2016: The Energy Efficiency Act was laid down.This Act provides with respect to energy efficiency. Its purpose is to promote, in Tuvalu, energy efficiency, energy conservation and to give effect to certain obligations that Tuvalu has under the Climate Change Conventions and related conventions. It defines the precautionary approach to be observed by all persons and agencies having responsibilities under this Act and requires the Minister to determine standards for minimum energy performance and/or energy labelling for the products subject to this Act. The Director of Energy is designated as the Regulator of products for purposes of the Act. He or she shall maintain a register of products complying with the Act.

2017: The Biosecurity Act was brought into force. This Act lays down rules for the protection against the entry or spread of regulated pests and diseases affecting animals, plants, human beings and the environment; surveillance and monitoring of pests and diseases; eradication or control of the movement of the present regulated pests and diseases; safe importation of animals and plants and their products, and related equipment and technology; the export of animals and plants and their products in accordance with the biosecurity requirements of the receiving countries; and international cooperation to prevent the spread of pests and diseases affecting plants, animals, human beings and the environment. The Minister may prohibit the import of particular regulated articles from all or one or more countries in case of an unacceptable biosecurity risk to Tuvalu. The seaports, airports and mail exchanges may be designated as biosecurity points of entry. This Act sets forth provisions on biosecurity controls and quarantine; the duties and powers of biosecurity officers; sanitary or phytosanitary certificates; biosecurity risk assessment; pest and disease surveys relating to animals, plants, animal and plant products, land, water and the environment; and offenses and penalties. The Minister may make regulations in accordance with this Act for the effective implementation of this Act and biosecurity management.

2019: The Climate Change Resilience Act was introduced. This Act lays down rules to strengthen the legal and policy frameworks for climate change resilience in line with the agreements related to climate change; promote low carbon development; establish effective governance structures for the implementation of sound climate change policies and coordination of climate change actions; and promote public awareness and involvement in climate change issues. The international conventions that Tuvalu is a party to are listed in the Schedule annexed to this Act. The emissions reduction targets for Tuvalu are in line with its nationally determined contributions made pursuant to the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, this Act sets forth provisions on the duties and powers of the Minister taking into consideration the gender perspective; the establishment and duties of the Department of Climate Change and Disaster; the creation of a National Climate Change Resilience Forum and National Advisory Council on Climate Change; the development and implementation of national climate change policy and other strategies and plans to address climate change; the establishment of the Climate Change and Disaster Survival Fund and its administration in accordance with the Climate Change and Disaster Survival Fund Act 2015; prohibition on the exploration, mining and extraction of fossil fuels; offenses and penalties.

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

  • “Tuvalu is sinking” – this is the new catch-all phrase for the effects of climate change on the tiny island archipelago on the frontline of global warming. A Polynesian country situated in Oceania, Tuvalu is located between Hawaii and Australia, and is the fourth smallest nation in the world. At present, two of Tuvalu’s nine islands are on the verge of going under, the government says, swallowed by sea-rise and coastal erosion. Most of the islands sit barely three meters above sea level, and at its narrowest point, Fongafale stretches just 20m across. Scientists predict Tuvalu could become uninhabitable in the next 50 to 100 years, but indigenous groups argue that this fate could be much sooner. The United Nations Development Programme classifies Tuvalu as a resource poor, “least-developed country”, that is “extremely vulnerable” to the effects of climate change. Its porous, salty soil has made the ground incompatible with agricultural project, destroying yields of various fruits and vegetables. Climate-related illnesses are on the rise, as ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested microalgaes expelled by bleached coral. When fish infected with these ciguatera toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhea. Climate-related illnesses that have increased on par with the changing weather include influenza, fungal diseases, conjunctivitis, and dengue fever, according to the hospital’s research. This is exacerbated by rising temperatures which put people at risk of dehydration, heatstroke and heat rashes.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructure, Environment, Labor, Meteorology and Disaster: tilia.tima@gmail.com; ttima@gov.tv