Oceans and Fisheries

For centuries, nations plundered our oceans as if they could withstand limitless exploitation. This so-called “freedom of the seas” approach facilitated the exploitation, leading to sharp declines in whales, sea turtles and numerous other animals. It also filled our oceans with oil, heavy metals, solid waste and other pollution. When the inherent problems created by the freedom of the seas approach could no longer be denied, nations came together to create an array of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, regional fisheries management agreements, the Port State Measures Agreement, and the U.N. Driftnet Moratorium, in addition to several treaties that control ocean pollution. Our work under these instruments, and other international treaties that protect marine life, pursues protection of our ocean ecosystems and marine animals. We also pursue the development of new international law.

Relevant Work

The Global Law Alliance is committed to advancing protections for the oceans and marine life based on a deep understanding of current legal issues. For example:

  • Within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the Global Law Alliance has negotiated rules for issuing certificates for trade in CITES-protected species taken on the high seas (“introduction from the sea”) and advised advocates on legal strategies for protecting marine mammals, Atlantic Bluefin tuna, and sharks.
  • In Central America, our efforts led to a sea turtle conservation management plan.
  • We advocated to protect salmon by facilitating transparency and public participation at the Pacific Salmon Commission, a decision-making body for a bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada on salmon fisheries.
  • In Peru, the Global Law Alliance is currently engaged in a collaborative effort to address legal gaps and incoherencies related to wildlife crimes, including crimes involving freshwater and marine animals.
  • Global Law Alliance Director, Erica Lyman, prepared a legal opinion that helped trigger an international investigation to determine whether Japan is illegally trading in the meat of sei whales. Based on the legal opinion and other information, CITES took an important step toward ending Japan’s domestic sale of sei whale meat by agreeing to investigate Japan’s trade in sei whales.