I am so proud to see this work finally published and in-print! This is one of my first few research collaborations when I was starting out my post-doc career in 2014. It is also a meaningful paper (and I hope it won’t be my last!) that merges the brains of environmental lawyers and a marine biologist to synergise on the information we have from our respective work and put it to good use by making arguments for using existing ocean laws to protect endangered species in the South China Sea. This is also how I got interested in understanding the various ocean laws that govern the boundaries of the open seas, and how scientific research and baselines can be used to support the application of marine environmental laws! 🙂

You can read the Abstract of our new paper below:

Lyons et al. 2018-01

What is the premise of the paper?

It is stemmed from the widespread harvesting of fossilised giant clam shells in the South China Sea. You can read more about it at The Story of Shells Part 1 and 2.

What did we suggest?

Okay, this may get a little technical, but here’s the gist: we made recommendations based on scientific evidence such as life history of the giant clams, reproductive strategy, and the vulnerability of populations in the South China Sea. On the basis that all of the scientific evidence points to the species being endangered, we highlighted numerous Obligations that nations should adopt as they are all Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). These Obligations are already listed in UNCLOS, and the paper highlights how each Obligation is relevant to the case study based on science! Here are the four main Obligations:

  1. Obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment
  2. Obligation to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats
  3. Obligation to consult and cooperate
  4. Obligation to protect and preserve species under CITES

Another motivation that we had wanted to address in this paper is that the South China Sea is a geopolitically sensitive region, and recommendations such as demarcation of boundaries would not work so easily due to conflict of interests from neighbouring countries. Instead, we proposed alternative application of UNCLOS to get the States to cooperate through their Obligations to the Convention as Parties.

What is next?

So, publishing our argument is one thing, but how can we actually apply this? First, we need to disseminate the paper and information to the relevant people and authorities. So yes, accessibility to the paper is my first step! I will think about the rest when the time comes… 😉

If you would like a copy of this paper, please let me know and I am happy to send it to you. 🙂

Tanmen - 21
Tridacna gigas shells found in a factory located in Tanmen Village, Hainan Island, China.