Defining Issues in International Environmental Law
Chapter 9: Sanctuaries
1 SANCTUARIES IN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW By definition, sanctuaries are ‘holy places or places of refuge.’ This definition is commonly applied to animals as well as to humans. As such, they may represent ‘a place where birds, wild animals, etc. are bred and protected’.1 The practice of sanctuaries and/or the commonly associated ‘protected areas’ reaches a long way back into the Western (and probably human) psyche. From the biblical Garden of Eden to the era of Classical Greece2 the sanctity of certain areas and what they contain has been well recognized. The importance of sanctity is uppermost. As such, no disturbing activities should take place in the enclosed area. For example, with the Japanese Wildlife Protection and Hunting Laws, no hunting is allowed in a sanctuary.3 Despite this very long history, and cross-cultural recognition of sanctuaries, areas of space protected from human interference are remarkably few and small as a percentage of the global total. With regard to marine environments, the existing number of marine protected areas (1,324) are estimated to cover less than 1 per cent of the planet’s marine areas. Almost of all of these have been nominated by national authorities in sovereign waters. A recent break in this trend was in 1993 when France, Italy and Monaco established a 70,000 square kilometre sanctuary for marine mammals in the Western Mediterranean, including areas of the high seas.4 The other exception in this area has been the IWC’s attempts to establish significant marine sanctuaries. With regard to...
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