A Summer of Practical Matters: Working at Ecotrust

By Charlie Crittenden

Upon the completion of my first year at UBC Law, I searched for a summer opportunity to put some of my newfound knowledge into practice. I had taken in my fill of coursework and now I wanted to see what it was like (at least to some extent) to be lawyer.
I had the privilege of receiving a research position with the Fisheries Law Centre and Ecotrust Canada. The general subject of my research was looking into intellectual property rights related to software developed by Ecotrust Canada to help West Coast fishermen. Although I could not provide definitive answers as a student, my task was to assemble a memo that would lay down some basic research for future reference. With a big “GUYS FOR REAL I AM NOT A LAWYER YET” disclaimer at the top of each page.

Ecotrust has a lovely and welcoming office where I spent some time throughout the summer interviewing staff. These discussions provided the most useful takeaways from the summer. Each person I encountered knew way more than me about the area of discussion—programming, fishing, managing a business—and so my job was to figure out how I could best help them with what little knowledge I had. Working with legal issues through that kind of personal contact was the highlight of my time.
I also gained legal research skills, with the extra dash of motivation that comes when someone’s actually needs your answers. While law school does a good job of getting your brain in gear each day, there is still no substitute for being in a workplace where the answers you find matter. Grades are a great motivator, but I really enjoyed the sense of value and utility that I got out of my work this summer.
I had an array of legal issues to consider—intellectual property rights and contractual interpretation in particular—and so I had my work cut out developing the skills to find the right (or, at least, right-ish) answers. Placing those answers in a memo in plain and clear language was a great capstone to the experience, as I had to translate some terrible legalese into a helpful, accessible document.
The second year of law school is now gaining momentum as I plunge into a new set of classes. I remain grateful for this past summer of practical matters under the aegis of the Fisheries Law Centre and Ecotrust Canada, and would encourage any law students out there to consider spending some time volunteering with these groups in the future.

Ecotrust Canada - http://ecotrust.ca/program_area_overview/fisheries
Ecotrust Canada – http://ecotrust.ca/program_area_overview/fisheries

The Global Internship Experience (GIE) in Fisheries Law

The FLC is excited to announce the expansion of the Global Summer Internship Program (GSIP). The FLC’s internship program will now be available to interested students and organizations throughout the year as the Global Internship Experience in Fisheries Law (GIE). The GIE is designed to train students in the area of fisheries and seafood law as well as raise awareness about complex problems facing small-scale fisheries and their livelihood. There is a gap in training and education in fisheries law since this highly specialized topic is not taught at the majority of law schools.

Beruwala Fishery Harbour. Photographer: Hafiz Issadeen. https://www.flickr.com/photos/yimhafiz/

The FLC is committed to enhancing access to justice to coastal fishing communities and small-scale fisheries. Small-scale fisheries make an important contribution to nutrition, food security, sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation. Despite this significant contribution, the issues constraining the sustainable development of small-scale fisheries remain poorly understood. Students will develop a working knowledge of global small-scale fishery issues and work hands-on in this field. The GIE is designed to further the guidelines set forth by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation; the spirit embodied in these guidelines is the promotion of responsible and sustainable fisheries management.

The GIE will provide interested law students with the opportunity to engage in community-based learning with various universities, NGOs and not-for-profit organizations around the world. Students will collaborate on areas of research relevant to local communities as identified by hosting organizations. Through interaction with researchers, fishermen and leaders in coastal communities, interns will have exposure to a variety of research areas including fisheries management, seafood safety, traceability and labeling. The FLC will provide student interns with guidance throughout the internship. Interns will have the opportunity to write and publish articles on topics of their desire as well as engage and collaborate on one research paper. At the end of the internship, the intern will receive a certificate in Fisheries and Seafood Law.

The FLC will work with students to develop a learning plan that meets the student’s interests and learning goals. The GIE is a community-based learning initiative that is designed for students with a strong interest in environmental law and the work of grass root organizations. Students are encouraged to contact the FLC with proposed internships and learning plans.

Julie Girling – Reforms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy

Julie Girling is the Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar. She currently serves as the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Coordinator for the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and also sits on the Committees on Agriculture and Women’s Rights. In the last parliamentary mandate she also sat on the Committee on Fisheries, and worked on key elements of fisheries and agriculture reform. – www.juliegirling.com.

GIRLING_Julie (1)

By Julie Girling

As the post-election dust settles and the MEPs of the 8th Legislature take their seats, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the successes of the last mandate.

I would argue that one of the real success stories of the last mandate was the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. It was almost universally acknowledged that the Common Fisheries Policy had been a disaster, leading to overfishing and unacceptable levels of discards. When “reform” was promised, I think few believed that the EU would really be able to deliver – I admit myself that I was sceptical. With large Member States such as France and Spain having such vested interests in the status quo, it seemed unlikely that any ambitious proposals would succeed.

I am glad to say that my concerns were unfounded. The final deal which was reached after years of intense negotiations between the European Parliament and Council delivered on promises to ban on the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish, to introduce legally binding targets for fishing at sustainable levels, and to ensure greater regional control allowing Member States to choose the measures appropriate to their fisheries. I am proud to say that the quality of the final deal was in no small part due to ambitious demands from myself and like-minded MEPs in the European Parliament, which forced the less ambitious Member States to compromise.

Of course, having set out the aims and targets in the new legislation, the huge task of implementation must be undertaken. The European institutions must be open and flexible in finding ways to make these proposals work; we are asking a lot of the fishing industry and me must be prepared to do our part also.

The financial pillar of CFP reform – the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) – was also agreed during the last mandate, and included similarly ambitious calls for more EU funds to be spent on research and data collection, control and enforcement, and on new equipment and training to enable fishermen to comply with the requirements of the reformed CFP. This agreement was worlds away from the previous fund (the European Fisheries Fund) which allowed for crippling subsidies which only served to contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.

I think that all of those who were involved in such negotiations should be extremely proud, as we have set an example to both policy-makers and citizens that reform is possible. Hopefully such a lesson will inspire the new Parliament and Commission to pursue ambitious and meaningful change across other policy areas.

As the new mandate starts, I wish every success to the new Chairman of the Fisheries Committee, Mr Alain Cadec. I worked closely with Mr Cadec and his office on the EMFF, and despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, we were able to find constructive solutions together. He and his committee will be faced with many challenges. Most notable of these is the so-called “Omnibus” proposal which seeks to make legislative changes to ensure the smooth implementation of the landing obligation from 1 January 2015. Of course, the real benefits of CFP reform will be seen in its implementation, and we need to ensure that the ambitious targets agreed are deliverable; otherwise the agreement on paper means nothing. Therefore this “Omnibus” proposal will be essential in ensuring that from 1 January 2015 the discard ban will be fully applicable across the EU. I shall be following these developments very closely.

Unfortunately, following a post-election “reshuffle”, I shall no longer be serving as a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. However, I will continue to follow all issues affecting South West Fishermen, and take an active role where necessary.

CSF’s: Just for the Developed?

By Tyler Omichinski

Though not a legal issue per se, Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) represent a new and unique business model to develop fisheries. Taking this business model from Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), it rests upon two key concepts:

1)   The subscription business model: this is accomplished through most CSFs requiring individuals to pay up front for the upcoming year. This can be accomplished in multiple ways, however, but commonly requires a payment upfront.

2)   Supporting local fishermen (farmers): where CSAs sought to support local farmers directly, CSFs merely extend this concept into the realm of fishermen.  This is an especially effective concept for marketing as it not only supports a specific individual instead of a shopping mart or similar, it also is regularly used to market the CSF’s catch as being organic/environmentally sustainable.

Photo Source: Globefish - "The CSF Model" www.globefish.org/the-community-supported-fishery-csf-model.html
Photo Source: Globefish – “The CSF Model” www.globefish.org/the-community-supported-fishery-csf-model.html

We have been working on developing a legal source for CSFs internally, and from this work I have begun to wonder whether the concept can be exported outside of North America and Europe. To date, there have been zero non-developed country CSFs that I have been able to find, and more talk about how it could be exported to the rest of the world than actual success.

CSFs, for better or worse, have tended to rely upon the subscription model with the bulk, or entirety, of the payment up front. This requires there to be sufficient liquid capital in the hands of consumers for this purchase to be made. In areas that are live far more month-to-month, this lump sum represents an insurmountable problem. Though it is possible for this to be addressed through alternative payment schemes and the like, it remains a problem of economics and an inability to pay.

In addition, there are problems regarding shifting the burden of risk to those who lack of the financial reserves that many of us in the developed world have. Specifically, the CSF model shifts the financial risk from the fisherman to the consumer. Within a predictable legal system that is relatively accessible to the common person, the shifting of a burden of risk is relatively small. Though social norms can also manage this problem, there may be concerns about giving away finances prior to receiving a good or service. Enforcing subscription contracts of this type have only recently become widely successful around the developed world, reflecting changing attitudes towards this type of system.

The other key aspect is the support of local fishermen. The CSF system, from an economic perspective, utilizes this as, essentially, a luxury good.[1] This type of luxury may not only be of limited interest to developing countries and communities, it may already be the way of life. Many small communities, particularly in areas like the South China Sea and coastal Africa, often have the locals doing much of the fishing to support the local area. In addition, individuals often rely upon fish stocks as an ad hoc social safety net when finances or food is scarce. Supporting local fishers, as a result, is a luxury good that may be without a market there.

As a result, the situation for CSFs to be exported outside of the Developed World does not look good. From a legal standpoint, the systems might not exist to fully export these. Nevertheless, the business model is not a piece of technology that can necessarily be exported abroad without a full appreciation of the situation on the ground, likely requiring a fully holistic understanding and appreciation of the situation on the ground.

[1] Note, this is not to say that it is not a moral good, merely from an economics perspective this is a luxury good.

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant: Potential Danger to Marine Life

It’s Development v. Environmental Gain.

By Sukanya Thapliyal

Photograph source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/commercial-generation-by-kudankulam-first-reactor-in-45-days/article6216668.ece?topicpage=true&topicId=1169
Photograph source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/commercial-generation-by-kudankulam-first-reactor-in-45-days/article6216668.ece?topicpage=true&topicId=1169

One of the negative consequences of the technological and industrial revolution that has become more and more evident with time, is its potential to harm our environment if not in safe hands. Although a friendly relationship between these two can exist. Factually speaking the fault does not lie with the scientific developments taking place all around the world but with the sense of values in the contemporary world that ignores the rights of others and is oblivious of the longer perspective.[1]

The energy crisis is all over the world and the time has come when humans have to look for alternative sources of energy as soon as possible. In this context, nuclear power can really solve numerous problems as it is clean, safe, reliable, competitive and capable of replacing significant parts of fossil fuels like charcoal, gas, oil etc. But this so called nuclear power that is being seen as a solution comes with immense responsibilities and duties that are unfortunately overlooked. The unfortunate events that occurred at Three Miles Island Power Plant USA, Chernobyl, Ukraine, Fukoshima Japan and Union Carbide, India are few of the examples where nature paid a huge price for insensitivity and recklessness on the part of mankind.[2]


India is currently handling 20 nuclear power plants in different parts of the country. Basically in India, the constituent assembly discussed the formal legal framework in order to regulate atomic energy in the year 1948 and a legislation named as the Atomic Energy Act 1948 was enacted. This act paved way for the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Department Of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1954. The AEC is the  apex body in the sector that provides directions over the policies created and reports to the Prime Minister Of India from time to time with regard to such policies. DEC on the other hand deals with the implementation of such policies. The Atomic Energy Act went through several amendments from time to time and several new provisions regarding safety and proper regulations were added.[3]

Our major concern and point of discussion is the Nuclear Power Plant that has been set up by the Indian Government at the south eastern tip of India at Kudankulam in the state of Tamil Nadu and its possibility of creating havoc for marine life and people residing and dependent on seafood for their survival.[4]

This Nuclear Power Plant has been opposed from the very beginning. The reason being its location near a biosphere reserve and the potential of this nuclear plant to cause damage to a very large extent. There have been a large number of questions posed by the environmentalists, native people and fisherman whose livelihood is very much dependent on the health of such areas. There are serious allegations questioning the environmental clearances from MOEF (Ministry of Environment And Forests) and TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) and unrestricted exemptions in several crucial issues.[5] Other than this there are questions regarding the liability in case such damage occurs and dumping of nuclear waste created in the process.[6]


Ever since this nuclear plant has come into emergence, it has been surrounded by numerous controversies and protests from the native people. The construction of this nuclear project and the subsequent working has been actively opposed by People Movement Against Nuclear Energy, fishermen and other people residing in the concerned area.[7] Their reasons are genuine. This nuclear plant is located nearby a biosphere reserve at the south eastern tip of India which is an important habitat to several living organisms.[8] Not only flora and fauna but huge numbers of fishermen are dependent on the natural surroundings for their survival. There is a rift between the two sectors namely the fishermen, native people and PMANE and the government on the important issue of nuclear power plant’s possible impact on the marine life, sea shore and lives of people residing there. While the government is completely confident about the safety and management of such a huge responsibility, PMANE and supporters lack faith in the government, reason being its past record at Bhopal Gas Tragedy  and numerous exemptions granted to this nuclear power project regarding the environmental clearances.

The Protesters further filed 2 PIL at Madras High Court and the Supreme Court Of India which unfortunately ended with few directions about the safety and management of the nuclear power plant but failed to provide any concrete relief to the unsatisfied mass of protestors.[9]


A nuclear power plant is undoubtedly a solution to the problem of the energy crisis, but this same nuclear power plant can cause damage to an unimaginable extent to the environment. The decision to set up a nuclear power plant in an environmentally rich zone can prove to be quite fatal. It has the potential to damage the marine life and coastal region to a large extent. The negligence of the government in looking at the situation from the environmental perspective especially the issues regarding the environmental clearances definitely creates doubt regarding the intention of the government about the people and fisherman of Kudankulam. Unfortunately the nuclear power plant has been commissioned after the court has decided in its favour looking at the larger public interest.

This particular case is one of the instances where we get to know about our insensitivity towards the natural resources and value of the lives of the people when compared to the so called development. Another question that evolves out of such instances is: can a development that poses survival threats to people and our natural resources be a development in the truest sense?


[1] Smt. Indira Gandhi (late Prime Minister Of India) Plenary Session Of UN conference on Human Environment Stockholm 14Th June,1972

[2] G. Sunderrajan v. Union Of India

[3] The Atomic Energy Act of 1948 is repealed and was replaced by the Atomic Energy Act of 1962. This act was further amended in the year 1986,1987. These amendments were brought keeping in mind the changing scenario in atomic energy field.

[4] The Nuclear power plant at Kudankulam is the result of an international agreement between India and Russia (then USSR) in the year 1988. However due to political reasons the construction of the project started quite late in 2002

[5] There are severe allegations that the environmental clearances were not taken seriously in this particular case. No NOC(No Objection Certificate) were granted by State Pollution control Board(TNPCB) and other clearances . Other environmental clearances were also disregarded. These issues were also raised while filing PIL at Madras HC and Supreme Court of India.

[6] The project lacks at liability front as well. The Russian counterpart in this particular project is exempted from any major liability.

[7] http://www.dianuke.org/tag/pmane/

[8] Supra 2