by Julia Cirne Lima Weston
International Law LL.M Graduate from University College London, Bachelors in Law from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul. Based on an article written along with Luciana Fernandes Coelho, Doctoral Student at the World Maritime University.
One of the issues within the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) which presents complex challenges in practice is that of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU Fishing). In order to mitigate the issue, Onboard at-sea observers are hired to provide accurate information regarding fisheries ecology, as well as to supervise the activities from inside fishing vessels. While these observers are indispensable for providing up-to-date information on fisheries activities, in reality some of them end up being sent to their deaths, disappearances, or to places where they suffer abuse and ill-treatment.
Policies towards observers, as well as protection guidelines vary, and are, more often than not, difficult to enforce. The interaction between the Law of the Sea and Human Rights is still an ongoing discussion, as is the case with the issue of observers. In our current framework, flag States are still the main ones responsible for ensuring compliance with Human Rights within their vessels. The LOSC’s regime of flag State jurisdiction means that it is up solely to them to enforce the law over issues happening within fishing vessels, including ‘social’ ones, which would include labour. In this sense, it is important to establish which of the worldwide renowned International Human Rights Law instruments would be applicable to circumstances such as those of onboard observers, and how to apply them.
You can find an attempted answer to this question, as well as many more intriguing Law of the Sea questions at the Brazilian Institute for the Law of the Sea (BILOS)’s Law of the Sea Week, starting on November 9th, 2020. The events can be attended via BILOS’ YouTube account, and those who register at BILOS’ website will be eligible for a certificate. Do not miss this invaluable opportunity to get in touch with intriguing topics on the Law of the Sea and Maritime Law! Schedule available here
 FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. Available at: <https://doi.org/10.4060/ca9229en>, accessed 19 July 2020.
 WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE. Observer Programmes: best practice, funding options and north sea. Available at: <http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/observer_report.pdf>, accessed 19 July 2020.
 HUMAN RIGHTS AT SEA. Fisheries Observer Deaths at Sea, Human Rights & The role & Responsibilities of Fisheries Organisations. Available at: <https://www.humanrightsatsea.org/2020/07/03/report-fisheries-observer-deaths-at-sea-human-rights-and-the-role-and-responsibilities-of-fisheries-organisations/>, accessed 18 July 2020.
 HUMAN RIGHTS AT SEA. Fisheries Observer Deaths at Sea, Human Rights & The role & Responsibilities of Fisheries Organisations. Available at: <https://www.humanrightsatsea.org/2020/07/03/report-fisheries-observer-deaths-at-sea-human-rights-and-the-role-and-responsibilities-of-fisheries-organisations/>, accessed 18 July 2020; UNITED NATIONS. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982. Available at: < https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf>, accessed 20 July 2020, art. 94.