The Legal Framework for the Protection of Maritime Zones

Return to: Coastal Zones / Marine resources

Protection of the Maritime Environment in Mauritius

Translated and adapted from E. Sinatambou: La Protection De L'Environment A L'Ile Maurice

copyright 1995

For presentation purposes, the legal framework can be sub divided into the following sections:

Section I: The Protection of the Maritime Zones

Sub section A: Marine Zones

Sub section B: Coastal Zones

Section II: The Protection of The Marine Fauna

Sub section A: Regulations governing the exploitation of resources

Sub section B: Regulations governing the means and modes of exploitation

Section I

Protection Of Maritime Zones

Articles 3 and 6 of the Territorial Sea Act of 1970 defined the 12 twelve miles of territorial sea waters. In 1977, the Maritime Zones Act defined the Exclusive Economic Zone of Mauritius, finally in 1984 the Maritime Zones (Exclusive Economic Zones) Regulations established for good the limits of the zones.

The protection of maritime zones is inclusive of the stretches of land bordering the shoreline that can be called the coastal zones.

A. The Legal regime for the protection of the marine zones

The most important source of sea water pollution in Mauritius is of inland origin. Domestic and industrial effluents (including that of the sugar industry) flow into waterways and the sewerage system. They are mostly left untreated before discharge into the lagoon or the sea.

The State of the Environment report 1991 on pages 88 to 93 clearly spells out the effects of inland based pollution on marine resources. This sorry state of affairs is due to the poor or non-existent application of the present legal regime.

The few legal instruments available for the protection of marine zones are scattered throughout different texts of law. For example in the Central Water Authority Act of 1971 which has got nothing to do with sea water, this agency can, suprisingly enough, discontinue the supply of water to any consumer who discharges polluted water in the lagoon.

Furthermore article 46 A of the same law, introduced in 1989, condemns all discharge of polluted water with a fine of at least Rs 250,000 and/or an imprisonment term not exceeding two years. Those same legal dispositions also protect the continental shelf in so far as article 4 of the Continental Shelf Act of 1970 states that any laws in force in Mauritius is equally in force on the shelf, except by way of modification or of exception carried out according to reglementary dispositions.???

More generally, article 7 of the Maritime Zones Act of 1977 confers to the Mauritian State an exclusive jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zone of the island to ensure the preservation and the protection of the marine environment and to prevent and control marine pollution. It is the duty of the Coast Guards to prevent any activity that could constitute a threat to the marine zones, including the fauna, flora and coral reefs, and the coastal zones that comprise of the beaches and the shore. ( Article 12 of the National Coast Guard Act of 1988).

The Port Area

The legal measures for the protection of port waters is in part covered by the Ports Act of 1976 that set up the Maurtius Marine Authority, the responsible port authority. The objects of this corporate body are, amongst others, (a) to promote the development and the efficient operation of the port and of the merchant navy, (b) to take the necessary measures for safe navigation, inside the port area and in the territorial waters, for the removal of wrecks and the elimination of obstructions and pollution.

According to regulations of this 1976 act, legal dispositions exist that permit the prevention and control of pollution in marine zones. For example, the Port (Operations) Regulations of 1987 state that any ship stranded or immobilised in the port area or in any adjoining area must take immediate measures to prevent all forms of water pollution by hydrocarbons and any other form of pollution that could be the result of its immobilisation.

These regulations overlap with those of the Shipping and Harbour Regulations of 1939, still in force, that forbid the emptying of ballast waters from the cargo hold while a ship is within the harbour limits, except with permission from the harbour authorities. Similarly, it is forbidden to pump or empty any flammable liquid, alcohol, oil or mixture thereof from a ship or from land into port waters. It is also forbidden to transfer any liquid or liquid cargo from one ship to another within the harbour limits without preliminary authorisation. All compounds classified as dangerous by the International Maritime Organisation cannot be embarked, disembarked nor transported except with instructions or directives from the port authorities. It is paradoxical to note that dangerous products embarked on a ship but not mentioning their nature nor their origin can be thrown overboard.

In case of leakage of flammable products within the port area, harbour authorities must immediately be notified and the captain of the ship so concerned must follow promptly and diligently the directives received from the harbour authorities.

In case a ship, craft or raft is stranded, sunk, on fire or has capsized within or just outside the port area, the person in charge of the ship will be held responsible for all damages resulting from the incident. He will have to undertake, at his own expense, all the necessary operations as required by the harbour captain.

In all other cases, Mauritius must apply the London Convention of the 2nd of November 1973 on the prevention of pollution by ships (MARPOL) that was ratified by parliament on the 5th of April 1995.

The Environment Protection Act of 1991 grants jurisdiction of the management of maritime zones to the Ministry of the Environment. In doing so, the Act enables the ministry to pass bye laws or regulations that are thought appropriate to prevent, reduce and control all forms of pollution. Thus the Act allows the ministry to set up the legal instruments needed in the fight against sea water pollution. Indeed, the act defines maritime zones as " the maritime zone under the jurisdiction of the state of Mauritius, and include the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone, and the continental shelf". The coastal zone is defined as

(i) " any area of sea water including any low tide elevation, land, beach, islet, reefs, rocks, lying between the baseline and the high water mark."

(ii) " any land which is situated wholly or partly within 81.21 metres from the high water mark."

However, the 1991 Act already prohibits the dumping in the zone as the following articles show.

Article 44 (1) " Subject to subsection (2), no person shall release or cause to release into the zone such toxic, harmful or noxious substances from or through the atmosphere or by dumping.

Article 44 (2) It shall be a defence to a prosecution under subsection (1) to prove that the release or the dumping was due to or was rendered necessary by "force majeure", or for the protection of human life.

Article 67 (2) specifies the conviction to be handed out for the above offences

Article 67 (2) : Any person who commits an offence under sections ....., 44(3),.... shall -

(a) on first conviction, be liable to a fine which shall not be less than Rs 10,000 and not more than Rs 25,000 and to imprisonment for a term not more than 4 years.

(b) on a second or subsequent conviction, be liable to a fine which shall not be less than Rs 50,000 and not more than Rs 250,000, and to imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than 6 years and not more than 12 years.

Furthermore, the minister can decree regulations that he judges appropriate to prevent, reduce or control pollution. These regulations may provide for (a) such measures as are necessary to ensure that activities in the zone are conducted so as not to cause damage by pollution to the natural environment; (b) the control and prevention of pollution from vessels, crafts, and other engines used in the zone; (c) the control and prevention of pollution from installations and devices used in the exploration or exploitation of the natural resources of the sea bed and sub soil of the maritime zone; (d) the control and prevention of pollution of the marine environment arising from land based sources, including rivers, estuaries, pipelines, and out fall structures; (e) the control and prevention of pollution of the marine environment arising from or in connection with seabed activities and from artificial islands, installations and structures in the maritime zone; (f) such other matter relating to the preservation and conservation of the environment of the zone.

Up till now no regulations have been decreed under the above dispositions. The only measures imposed by the minister are the conditions attached to the operation licences of enterprises and activities listed in annexe I of the Environment Protection Act of 1991. This first annexe lists 66 types of general activities and enterprises, and those related to the marine zones are the creation of artificial islands, the exploitation of corals and coral sand, the exploitation of the sea bed, the dredging of lagoons, the construction of marinas, jetties and all harbour developments.

These enterprises, activities or installations must be the subject of an environmental impact assessment report in virtue of part IV of the 1991 Environmental Protection Act before the minister decides whether or not to grant a licence with the conditions he sees fit to include.

B: The Legal Regime for the Protection of Coastal Zones

The Mauritian shoreline is close to 177 kilometres in length and is surrounded in most parts by coral reefs that enclose a lagoon of area around 243 square kilometres. Virtually all of the land that borders the shore line is composed of the so called "Pas Geometriques", and very exceptionally of private lands. The Pas Geometriques lands (Pas Geometriques Act of 1895) begin at the high water mark, which is the limit of the territorial sea, and extend 81 metres and 21 centimetres inland. The only places were there are no Pas Geometriques are Blue Bay, Albion, Trou Aux Biches and Baie Du Tombeau. The minister for Housing, Lands and Town and Countryside Planning can lease by contract or by auction, for a period not exceeding 30 years, any plot of land on the Pas Geometirques. Every year the lessee must plant trees on an area equivalent to a fifth of the plot leased till the whole surface is thus covered while at the same time taking care of the existing trees. Though the legal dispositions of the Pas Geometriques Act of 1895 have been praised by officials of the World Bank as a unique opportunity for Mauritius to have a zone of protection between the sea and the land, the excellent dispositions of this act must be contrasted with the fact that the majority of the Pas Geometriques lands have already been leased to private individuals for the construction of bungalows or to hotel developers according to article 10 of the said act. Note that although the lease for individuals cannot exceed half a hectare of land, hotel developers have been granted, at times, huge tracts of land, tens of hectares per project.

The economic development of Mauritius and the increasing number of tourists visiting the island, have brought about a rapid rate of development along coastal zones. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the number and sizes of the beaches available to the public.

Most unfortunately, the dispositions of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1954 have not been used effectively by the local authorities to slow down the emergence of concrete jungles along certain stretches of coastal zones. Yet, as far as urban regulations are concerned, local authorities are the sole competent authorities that can grant development permits on those segments of the coastal zones that fall within their jurisdiction and impose conditions that are judged appropriate by them.

Furthermore, the legal instruments that enable the protection of coastal zones by local authorities are numerous and wide ranging, since under the Act " development " includes "all buildings, civil or mechanical engineering works, and other operations carried out, on, below, or above ground level and any material alteration in the use of a building or piece of land.

Though the potential for environmental action by local authorities is extensive, in practice this potential has been much neglected. A new stricter law than the Act of 1954 has been voted by Parliament in 1990, in view of straightening out things but, unfortunately, has never been proclaimed.

Widespread construction on the Pas Geometriques and the few private lands on the shore line has given rise to considerable problem due to the erection of fences that prevent access to the shore and beaches by the public. So much so that a law had to be voted making it an offence punished by a fine not exceeding Rs 2000 any persons who, without authorisation, prevents or hinders the free passage of pedestrians to any beaches ( Criminal Code ( Supplementary) Act, Article 110(1) ). Furthermore, in case the obstruction consists of a permanent installation, a court of law can order its demolition at the expense of the accused.

Fortunately, it is to be noted, the remaining beaches that are accessible to the public are subject to rather rigid regulations. The Local Government ( Public Beaches ) Regulations of 1992 forbid (a) to light fires, except in specially provided for fire places, (b) to anchor boats, (c) to erect any structures without prior authorisation and (d) to throw away waste or garbage except in the waste bins specially provided for. In case that, with proper authorisation, it is allowed to organise a public gathering, the organisers will have to give a caution the amount of which is to be determined by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Authorities. Costs of any damages inflicted to the environment or to facilities during that public gathering will be deducted from that caution. Offences will be punished by a fine not exceeding Rs 2000 or a prison term not exceeding one year. On a more general level, it is forbidden to dump sand, corals, earth, rocks, wood or any other object on any beach of the island ( except the sea ). Offenders are liable to a fine of between Rs 50 to Rs 2000 and a prison term not exceeding 6 months ( Crown Lands Act of 1874, Article 34 (1) ).

Though coastal zones are not yet perceived, by the authorities, as geographical entities that require set policies of management and protection, it is to be noted that the attributes of the Ministry of the Environment as defined by Part 7 of the Environment Protection Act of 1991 constitute an important step towards the emergence of a comprehensive law of the environment.

For instance, any coastal zones project that is listed in annexe I of the 1991 law must invariably have prior authorisation before the project can even begin. Failure to comply with this requirement is punishable with a fine of between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000 and a prison term not exceeding 6 years. Subsequent convictions carry a fine of between Rs 50,000 and Rs 250,000 and imprisonment for a term not less than 6 years and not more than 12 years ( Article 67(2)(a).

The request for an authorisation can only be granted if it is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment ( E.I.A) report. Article 14 of the Act specifies the required contents of this report.

Article 14: Contents of an EIA

An EIA shall contain a true statement and description of -

(a) the location of the undertaking and its surroundings;

(b) the principle, concept and purpose of the undertaking;

(c) the direct or indirect effects that the undertaking is likely to have on the environment;

(d) the social, economic, and cultural effects that the undertaking is likely to have on people and society;

(e) any actions or measures which may avoid, prevent, change, mitigate or remedy the likely effects of the undertaking on the environment, people and society;

(f) the inevitable adverse environmental effects that the undertaking is likely to have on the environment, people and society, if it is implemented in the manner proposed by the proponent;

(g) the irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which will be involved by the undertaking, if implemented in the manner proposed by the proponent;

(h) any alternatives to the proposed undertaking;

(i) such other information as may be necessary to a proper review of the potential environmental impact of the undertaking.

The legal dispositions concerning the prior authorisation required and the EIA take their full importance when one considers that the mining of sand from the lagoon for commercial purposes is one of the most serious problem affecting the coastal zones due to the resulting depletion of the stocks, in addition to the critical modification of the shoreline by groynes and jetties that interfere greatly with the natural movement of sand along the shoreline. Prior to 1991, it was the Sand Removal Act of 1975 that regulated the sand quarries and deposits of the island. It forbid (a) the disembarkation of sand outside designated depots, (b) the exploitation of sand without prior authorisation, (c) the removal of sand except from a sand quarry or deposit and (d) any transfer operation or removal of sand as from dusk to dawn. According to Article 4 of the said law, all the quarries or deposits must have been designated as such by the minister for Housing, Lands and Town Planning and any transporter of sand must have the required permits for every load of sand carried away (Article 7 and 10). Article 16 of the Act specifies that any offence is punishable by a fine of between Rs 1000 to Rs 5000 and a prison term of less than a year. Furthermore the same article authorises the confiscation of any vehicle used in the illegal transport of sand. Article 17, on the other hand, provides for the revocation and non renewal of licences of operators.

Section II

Protection Of the Marine Fauna


The legal protection of marine fauna in Mauritius is carried out on different levels as the nature of the resources exploited is different. Fisheries resources, for example, are found in particular regions of the Exclusive Economic Zone of 1,700,000 square kilometres. The three most important regions being the lagoon and regions just outside it, the fishing banks of Nazareth and Saya De Malha, and the high seas. Similarly, the modes of exploitation vary accordingly. In the lagoon and regions just outside it, fishing is artisanal whereas on the banks and on the high seas, fishing methods are industrial, though the industrial methods used will vary depending on the resource under exploitation.

The legal protection of the fauna is not limited to fisheries resources only, but extends to all species of the marine fauna. The principal law in this field of marine fauna protection is the Fisheries Act of 1980 which replaced the Fisheries Ordinance of 1948 which was no longer suited to present day needs. This law of 1980 defined a fish as being any animal organism that is aquatic and includes (1) sea shells and corals, alive or dead, (2) fish that is salted, dried, cured or frozen. An all encompassing definition whose aim is to ensure the protection of the fishing stocks and of the marine fauna in general.

A. Regulations Governing the Exploitation of Resources

The Fisheries Act of 1980 and its regulations came about, amongst other things, to straighten out an anomaly of the Fisheries Ordinance of 1948 whereby it was forbidden to fish or to be in possession of more than nine fishes in any given day. The legal dispositions of the act, however, established a system of sizes whereby it is forbidden to fish, sell or be in possession of fishes measuring less than 15 to 30 centimetres according to the species ( Fisheries Regulations 1983, Article 7 and annexe V ). It is also forbidden, in spite of any other laws, to fish within the limits of the fishing territory of Mauritius, except in the territorial seas, without the prior authorisation of the Prime Minister. In practice, the procedure is that all relevant documents are processed by the Ministry for Fisheries. The aim of those regulations is to ensure proper management of the fisheries stock by regulating not only the local fishermen but also foreign fishing concerns operating in Mauritian maritime zones. In the same spirit it is also forbidden, without prior authorisation form the ministry of fisheries, to import or export live fishes, live or dead corals or seashells. The underlying idea of control is easily understood when taken in the context of the protection and preservation of the marine fauna. But it is not possible to understand why non live fishes have been excluded from the above specially when one considers that the term fish is applied to all molluscs, crustaceans or even the whole marine fauna as defined by the Fisheries Act of 1980. This gap in the mauritian laws still remains though the minister can, by regulations, prohibit fishing in any regions of the maritime zones for a duration that he deems appropriate.

The interdiction to fish or be in possession of any fish of small size (Articles 9(1) and (2) ), except by way of special authorisation for the capture of juveniles for scientific or reproductive purposes, can be viewed as further steps taken to protect and preserve the marine fauna. Unfortunately to this date the sizes and species of the fishes concerned have not been specified as it should have been by way of regulations. However, concern for the preservation of marine species can also be seen in the Female Sea Turtles (Prohibition of Import) Regulations of 1950. It prohibits the importation to Mauritius of female sea turtles originating from outer islands under the jurisdiction of the Mauritian State in order to ensure the reproduction of the species. The Fisheries Act of 1980 has gone a step further in requiring that an authorisation be sought for the fishing of any sea turtle or of any marine mammals (Article 6(2)). This had been done to be in accordance with the undertakings of the African Convention of the 15th of decembre 1968 on the conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Regional Convention for the protection of maritime zones drafted under the auspices of the United Nations Programme for the Environment (UNPE) that set up a sanctuary for whales and baleen in the Indian Ocean. The former convention had been jointly drafted by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a working group of the Organisation Of African Unity (OAU).

Furthermore, in view of having an optimal protection for the marine fauna, it is also forbidden to throw away, dump or cause to throw away or dump in the fishing waters of the island, any products that could be harmful to fishes, as defined in an exhaustive manner by Article 2 of the 1980 Act. Measures can be prescribed to preserve all natural and living resources within the mauritian continental shelf ( Article 6(f) of the Continental Shelf Act 1970).

At this point it is important to draw attention to the fact that a new law, the Fisheries And Marine Resource Bill, which will replace the Fisheries Act of 1980 and consolidate the laws related to the exploitation of marine resources is currently being prepared. It appears that the priority of this bill is to aim for a rational management of the marine fauna and in that perspective it will set up a National Council For Fisheries And Maritime Resources. The functions of this council will be to advise the minister on all aspects of policy concerning fisheries, to enquire and make recommendations to the minister on all aspects related to fisheries and maritime resources as required by him (Article 5 Fisheries And Marine Resource Bill). This council will replace a previous council for fisheries which had similar functions but had never worked satisfactorily.

Though reproducing to a great extent the articles of the Fisheries Act, this bill also makes provision enabling the responsible minister to take, by way of regulations, all measures that he judges appropriate for the protection, management and conservation of marine species, and in particular the control of exploitation rights, the prior authorisations and the setting up of quotas.

However, a notable innovation in that law bill is the provision for an appeal right granted to members of the public in case of refusal, suspension, revocation, or any changes in the terms of reference of an authorisation within 30 days following such a decision. Furthermore, an appeal tribunal for fisheries and marine resources will hear all appeals against the decisions of the minister.

B. Regulations of the modes and means of Exploitation

The protection of the marine fauna necessarily involves the regulations of the modes and means of exploitation and for that purpose the Fisheries Act of 1980 sets up a detailed system of policing. The possession at sea of all fishing instruments is prohibited save for a dozen implements whose dimensions and sizes are rigourously regulated by law (These implements are the fishing line, the harpoon, the fishing net for bait, the fishing net for shrimps, the fishing net for sardines, cast net, the fishing net for "mulets", the fishing net for migratory fishes, the 500 metres long fishing net, the fishing net for "Carlet" and the fish trap; Article 11). The aim of theses detailed specifications is to ensure, for example, that the nets have a mesh big enough to allow juveniles to escape. Even though the responsible minister has the right to allow other fishing implements, the regulations governing fishing nets remain very strict, nobody having the right to posses any except by prior authorisation, and the commerce of nets can only be lawfully carried out with a relevant permit ( Article 15(2)). The law of 1980 also limits very strictly the number of nets allowed in operation. Concerning 500 metres long nets, only 33 are authorised in Mauritius, 14 in Rodrigues and 8 on the fishing banks. As for the nets of less than 250 metres long, identical numbers are allowed for the above mentioned regions (Article 3(6)). Requests of authorisations for the use of fishing nets are made at the Ministry of Fisheries whose aim it is to manage in a rational way the granting of authorisations and the use of the different types of nets. All fishing vessels, defined as any raft, craft or vessel of any size used or capable of being used for fishing must be registered with the ministry and it is forbidden to fish in an unregistered boat (Article 23 and 25).

Certain modes of fishing are strictly regulated. Underwater spear fishing is forbidden (Article 22(1) ) for it enabled divers to kill a number of species in their habitats with the consequence that they deserted their usual feeding grounds. Exceptionally, an authorisation can be granted by the Ministry of Fisheries for scientific purposes or for the capture of aquarium fishes under conditions determined by the administrative authority ( Article 22(2) ) It is to be noted that in 1990 more than 20,000 fishes and invertebrates of diverse species were exported live from Mauritius). Finally, in order to exert a real control on this activity, the importation of under water equipment requires a permit ( Article 22(3) ). The use of dynamite, at one time a real calamity for the island, is now strictly forbidden with no allowed exception ( Article 21 ). It is also forbidden to fish or to have in one's possession seine fishing nets from sunrise to sunset. In addition, there is a fishing season for seine fishing in view of avoiding the collapse of the over fished stocks.

Fishing with the help of artificial lighting is forbidden except (a) inside a barachois, with the agreement of the owner or lessee, (b) for the capture of shellfish to repopulate a barachois, (c) for the capture of shrimps with a shrimp net, (d) for the capture of flying fishes outside the lagoon, the authorisation of the ministry being required for the last three types of activities (Article 18).

Furthermore, to allow juveniles to grow to size, it is forbidden to fish with nets in certain areas set as reserves or to lure fishes outside those prescribed reserves (Article 19). Finally, for reasons more relevant in the context of navigational safety than in the context of the protection of marine fauna, it is forbidden to fish with nets in a reef channel or to place any objects that may hinder navigation (Article 20).

In the real world, the major hindrance towards an effective protection of the marine fauna is, without doubt, the poor application of the law. Very stringent measures exist that allow the confiscation of any vessel, boat or craft used by the accused (Article 34(5) ). The severity of the existing laws is such that the owner of any accessories, implements, vessel, boat or craft used by third parties in the offence is held accused of the same offences unless he can prove that (a) he was completely unaware of the offences being committed and (b) that he had taken all reasonable measures to prevent the unlawful use of his equipment by third parties.

More often than not, these measures are applied against poor fishermen involved in artisanal fisheries whose equipment represent all their belongings. Meanwhile, the unlawful exploitation of mauritian fishery resources by foreign vessels remains virtually unhindered because the mauritian state has not been able to exert control over the waters over which it has jurisdiction through lack of appropriate surveillance equipment. The International Centre for Oceanic Development had indeed begun in 1987 a study for the regional surveillance of fishing territories of countries of the Indian Ocean based on the common purchase of surveillance equipment, the harmonisation of policies having an impact on marine resources, the follow up of findings and the training of technicians. Unfortunately nothing worthy of note has been accomplished up till now.

This has for results that it is specially the powerful and better equipped offenders who can continue to endanger the marine fauna of the Mauritian State. For example, in 1992, was passed the Prohibition of Drift net Act, which prohibited the use of drift nets longer than 250 metres (Article 11). The Coast Guards can, at any moment, stop and examine, or detain any suspected ship and confiscate the implements according to Article 5 of that law. But up till now they have not carried out a single arrest in that respect because the means at their disposal being vastly inferior to those of the offenders.

This state of affairs has created much uneasiness amongst the artisanal fishing community for they perceive that instead of taking measures which essentially affect destitute fishermen, the authorities should be more involved in fighting the real plunderers of the marine species and especially to prevent any development destructive to this fauna that is so important to the country.

Conclusion

In spite of the vital importance the marine environment has for the economic well being of the country and of future generations, there still does not exist a general law that calls for a comprehensive policy of development, protection and "mise en valeur" of that entity. We have seen how, instead, punctual and specific laws exist linked to the protection of maritime zones and marine fauna which regulate the different human activities and interventions. The connexion between these two aspects of the protection of the marine environment does not need anymore to be established as far as it is clear that they complete one another, the protection of marine species essentially being carried out through the protection of their habitat: the maritime zones.

While acknowledging the profusion of laws that exist for the protection of the marine environment, it was necessary, at times, to conclude that the system has failed due to the poor or non existent application of laws, and of the absence of adequate equipment and means. On the other hand, in spite of numerous ministries and governmental organisations having authority over different parts of the marine environment and an array of diverse duties under diverse laws, the new legal attributions of the Ministry of the Environment in the field of the management of coastal and marine zones in accordance with section VII of the Environment Protection Act of 1991 seem to constitute an evolution heading towards the elaboration of a systemic law of the environment.

This evolution is bound to make way due to the ratification by Mauritius of international conventions concerning the protection of the marine environment and the setting up of legal measures according to the obligations that arise form the said conventions.

However, it is not yet clear whether the anthropocentric approach adopted in Mauritius concerning the protection of the environment will be abandoned for the sake of a new approach whereby the protection of the environment is an end in itself. Indeed, although the original laws, such as the Fisheries Act of 1948 and 1980, were adopted, to a large degree, with the intention of managing rationally the resources from an economic point of view, it cannot be taken for granted that new laws such as the Fisheries And Marine Resource Bill, still in preparation, will depart significantly from the above mentioned approach to the benefit of the notion that the protection of the environment is an end in itself.

However, the concept of sustainable development which pervades nowadays much of the laws of the environment should ensure adequate protection to the marine environment although a holistic approach whereby the latter would be an end in itself would be most beneficial.

Last Update: Thursday, January 22, 1998