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Genevieve Quirk
Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security

Australia’s 3.2 million km2 national marine protected area network, makes a significant contribution to the collective responsibility for marine protection conferred under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 192. As stewards of a substantial proportion of the area within national jurisdiction, Australia has the opportunity to contribute a significant global marine protection legacy. It remains an outstanding question of law, however, as to what standard of national responsibility to protect and preserve the marine environment is owed to the international community as a whole.

Two new recent developments relate to the interpretation of Article 192:

  1. The South China Sea Award and
  2. the application of the principle of non-regression.

The South China Sea Award interprets the nature of the obligation under Article 192 as a positive legal duty requiring a State to continuously protect, maintain and or improve the condition of the marine environment. In addition, scholars have highlighted the application of a principle of environmental law, the principle of non-regression, to Article 192 of UNCLOS. The principle of non-regression operates to safeguard existing standards of environmental regulation and prohibit their diminution. Following the analysis in the South China Sea Award it would suggest implementation of the principle of non-regression may impose an ongoing requirement on State Parties to safeguard existing standards of conservation and ensure they are not diminished. In Australia, implementing the principle of non-regression would arguably prevent the repeal of existing standards of conservation, safeguarding our global marine protection legacy.

Genevieve Quirk MEL (ANU), DULF (Paris III), Bsc (UQ) is a PhD candidate in Law at the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security and recipient of the Australian Postgraduate Award and the Global Challenges PhD Scholarship. Genevieve examines how the integration of regional oceans governance in Oceania contributes to the evolution of the law of the sea. Professionally, Genevieve has worked internationally in policy advising for oceans governance reform in the South Pacific, European Union (EU), Antarctica and Australia. In her most recent professional role she was based in Brussels coordinating campaigns and advocating for fisheries governance reform to the officials of the EU Commission, Council and Parliament. Genevieve is an Earth System Governance Project Research Fellow and Member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law. a visiting scholar at the East West Center in Hawaii and joined the Australian delegation to the UN Ocean Conference.

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