Since 2006, our Ocean Seminar Series has covered a wide range of important topics. Click on the heading link for each webinar to access expanded descriptions, audio recordings, and written summaries of the events. Or click below to sort by topic.
Strengthening Governance of Small-Scale Fisheries: Small-Scale Fisheries Toolkit
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Over the last couple of decades, ocean stewardship efforts have started focusing more on such ocean governance approaches as the creation and enforcement of marine protected areas (MPAs) and the implementation of sustainable fisheries practices, including small-scale fisheries (SSF) co-management. The implementation of these approaches always requires the enactment of a legal mechanism.
The Environmental Law Institute recently published the Law and Governance Toolkit for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries: Best Regulatory Practices. This Toolkit presents a methodology for assessing the reforms needed to strengthen SSF governance and offers examples of model regulatory language for the core governance elements. The Toolkit particularly focuses on creating and implementing co-management mechanisms, and also addresses related elements, including exclusive fishing rights for SSF communities, creation of exclusive zones for SSF, effective monitoring and enforcement, long-term conservation and sustainable use, and regulatory implementation of area-based management. Bridging legal research and country implementation, the Toolkit was developed in close cooperation with Parliamentarians for Global Action, an international network of democratically elected lawmakers promoting human rights and security.
Our webinar brought together drafters of the Toolkit, representatives from Parliamentarians for Global Action, and other experts to discuss how legal reforms can strengthen small-scale fisheries governance, as well as the role the new SSF Toolkit can play. Presentations were followed by a discussion with the webinar’s participants.
Countries are increasingly turning to marine spatial planning as a comprehensive management tool to better manage and benefit from their ocean environment, while still maintaining ocean health for long-lasting sustainability. A wealth of literature describes the importance of marine spatial planning as a whole, but little attention has been paid to how countries can give their marine spatial planning initiatives the force of law.
This webinar, therefore, is for legal drafters and policy makers who have been asked to “draft a marine spatial planning law.” Guest speakers shared their direct experiences developing marine spatial planning processes and legislation. Presentations were followed by a discussion with the webinar’s participants.
The webinar draws from Designing Marine Spatial Planning Legislation for Implementation: A Guide for Legal Drafters. This Guide contains detailed and comprehensive information about essential components of marine spatial planning legislation. It also provides examples, drawn from existing legislation and real-world experiences, to illustrate how legislative or regulatory language can address each component. This Blue Prosperity Coalition Guide was funded by the Waitt Foundation and developed by the Environmental Law Institute and Animals | Environment PLLC.
Seizing the Seas: Diving into Deep-Seabed Mining
Thursday, June 11, 2020
The deep ocean environment is, in many respects, a mystery. Some accounts state a mere 5% of the world’s seabed has been thoroughly explored, yet heightened concerns over climate change and efforts to decarbonize transportation are driving a new frontier into deep-seabed mining. Proponents of deep-seabed mining claim it is a viable strong potential solution to present and growing shortages in the critical materials need for renewable energy technologies and electric car batteries, amongst others. Meanwhile, opponents to deep-seabed mining emphasize the risks to biodiversity, potential for permanent ecosystem damages, climate implications of mining, and lack of clarity surrounding international governance on the high seas.
Panelists explored both the net benefits and costs of seabed mining decision-making, tackled best practices for seeking a sustainable and commercially-viable industry, envisioned the future of marine environmental protection, and confronted the current regulatory landscape of deep seabed mining.
Global Review of Plastics Pollution: Managing Marine Litter
Monday, November 11, 2019
Marine litter is human-created waste that has been discharged into the marine environment, including glass, metal, plastics, and other debris. According to data compiled by the United Nations, the equivalent of a garbage truck filled with plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute – that’s more than 8 million metric tons per year. While progress is being made to manage marine litter through enacting laws governing the production and use of land-based materials that cause marine litter and cleanups, challenges persist including supervising waste disposal into the marine environment and establishing overarching marine litter legislation.
This webinar explored recent U.S. legislation to target marine litter, the economic impacts of marine litter, and highlighted examples of successful international marine pollution agreements and regulatory collaborations.
Technology and the Seas: Enforcement in Marine Protected Areas
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are marine spaces where human activities are more strictly regulated than the surrounding waters. Established in over 65 countries and territories, MPAs embody a range of habitats including open oceans, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, and estuaries. MPAs enable the provision of fundamental ecosystem services, the protection of marine biodiversity and cultural resources, and provide spaces in which to conduct cutting-edge research and implement innovative policies. Yet, the management of MPAs can face challenges including the lack of adequate tools, rules to secure comprehensive monitoring, the vastness of the ocean, and more.
How do agencies work together to establish these areas both domestically and internationally? What are the innovative technologies that can aid in the monitoring of MPAs? How are MPAs enforced? Panelists engaged in these questions and more as they explored groundbreaking technologies, innovative MPA frameworks, and examples of successful domestic and international MPAs.
Enforcing Maritime Laws: the Role of Private Citizens
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Whistleblowers play an important part in uncovering violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), one of the most important and effective legal instruments in combating marine pollution today. According to a recent review of 100 APPS cases, whistleblowers have been instrumental in over 75% of successful cases, making the United States the leading enforcer of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
This seminar examined different dimensions of enforcing marine pollution laws and conventions and explore the role that whistleblowers can and do play in the detection of pollution violations. The session gave participants a better idea of how they can engage unconventional actors in ensuring compliance with marine pollution regulations.
Impact of Recent Ocean Management Decisions of the Trump Administration
Monday, July 23, 2018
The Federal Government has issued a number of ocean management decisions that constitute a significant policy shift from previous administrations. Most notably, these include the development of the 2019 – 2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which plans to open new marine spaces under U.S. jurisdiction to oil and gas exploitation, and the enactment of the “Executive Order Regarding the Ocean Policy to Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States,” which sets the Trump Administration’s ocean management priorities. The latter effectively revokes President Obama’s Executive Order 13547 “Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes,” which had initiated the development of a Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning process in the United States.
Panelists discussed these recent decisions from a variety of legal and governance perspectives.
Current Developments on U.S Fishing Policies
Thursday, January 25, 2018
The Trump Administration’s approach to fisheries management seems to constitute a significant policymaking shift. Recent decisions such as extending the Gulf of Mexico season for red snapper or overturning a decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would have cut New Jersey’s recreational quota for summer flounder seem to go against NOAA’s traditional approach of situating scientific information at the center of fisheries decision-making.
This webinar (open to ELI members only) discussed these and other recent developments and assessed the direction U.S. fisheries policymaking may take in the future.
Energy Transition and the Future of Hydrokinetic Energy in the United States
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
While off to a slow start in the United States, ocean energy technologies (wave, tidal, and current hydrokinetic energy) are already at an advanced phase of development in other parts of the world. The European Union is the current leader in ocean energy technology development, hosting more than 50% of tidal energy and about 45% of wave energy developers globally. In the U.S. however, development of hydrokinetic projects has been less successful. Wave and tidal energy developers claim that federal subsidies and tax cuts are insufficient to promote research and development, and some of the most successful ocean energy companies have moved overseas.
Should more resources and subsidies be put into hydrokinetic energy research? What environmental impacts do these technologies pose compared to other renewable energy sources? What regulatory barriers need to be addressed to support the development of the hydrokinetic technology sector in the U.S.?
Ocean Policy & the Trump Administration
Friday, December 9, 2016
Each presidential election brings the possibility of large-scale changes in environmental policy. President-Elect Donald Trump has not explicitly laid out environmental policies for the new administration, but he has provided some clues. No matter where those clues lead, the ocean policies of the Trump administration will be important for the ecological and economic health of the United States and the world.
This webinar convened a panel of experts to discuss some key issues that the Trump administration will face regarding ocean policy. The goal was to spark dialogue about the importance of smart policies that support a healthy ocean.
The Law and Policy of Sea Level Rise Adaptation
Friday, October 14, 2016
Imagine a map of sea-level rise in the year 2100. You know the ones—they show many of the world’s major coastal cities inundated by blue shading. With the sea predicted to rise one to two meters over that time, those maps are showing the consequences. Billions of people and trillions of dollars will be flooded out.
However, those maps only tell part of the story. Most of the world will not passively await the blue shading to come over them. Instead, local and national governments will adapt to sea-level rise. Through a suite of adaptation strategies, they will try to reduce impacts when possible and manage retreat when required.
This webinar brought together experts in policy, law, and planning in California to talk about some of the key issues with sea level rise adaptation in the state. The lessons learned could provide useful information on success stories and legal risks associated with adaptation strategies.
RESTORE Council Comprehensive Plan: Questions and Answers
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
On August 23, 2016, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released an update to its Comprehensive Plan. The plan will have far-reaching implications for how billions of dollars are spent on Gulf restoration. The public can comment on the draft plan through October 7.
The webinar convened RESTORE Council staff (including Executive Director Justin Ehrenwerth) to provide background on the plan and answer questions from the audience. The goal was to provide information that will inform the public and enhance the public’s ability to provide meaningful comments.
Billions of dollars have been obligated to several different restoration and recovery processes in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Given the focus of these processes, there is the potential for overlap – not only among the various processes, but also with many existing plans and programs. This overlap makes coordination essential, from development of plans, programs, and projects through funding and implementation.
This webinar brought together representatives from federal, state, and local government to discuss how coordination and leveraging are playing a role in Gulf restoration. The goal of this webinar was to understand what opportunities are available, and what more can be done, to make Gulf restoration greater than the sum of its parts.
The Other Gold Rush: Impacts and Governance of Coastal Sand Mining
November 18, 2015
What connects beaches, roads, and skyscrapers? All three–along with many electronics–rely on sand mining. Globally, 40 billion tons of sand are consumed per year, far more than any other mineral. Sand mines are proliferating in rivers and along coasts all around the world for everything from land reclamation on the U.S. east coast to concrete construction projects in Dubai. With increased need for sand comes increased environmental risks from the mining process. Simultaneously, there is a growing need for sand mining governance that adequately balances the realities of industrial societies alongside potentially catastrophic ecological impacts from mining activities.
The webinar convened experts on sand mining to discuss what it is, where it is being carried out, and how it is being governed. The goal was to spark discussion about the best way to move forward with this other type of Gold Rush.
BP Proposed Consent Decree Released: Details of the Deal and Gulf Restoration Planning
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
On October 5, 2015, the BP Consent Decree was released and opened to the public for comment. The Consent Decree settles most claims against BP arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including Clean Water Act civil penalties (to flow through the RESTORE Act) and Natural Resource Damages (“NRD”). Along with separate agreements with local government entities, these settlements total $20.8 billion.
Also on October 5, the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (referred to as the “Draft PDARP”) was released, providing a comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf of Mexico region using NRD monies. With the Consent Decree and the Draft PDARP, we now have new information that will shape Gulf restoration for decades to come.
The webinar convened experts to discuss the Consent Decree and NRD. The goal of the webinar was to spark discussion, provide answers to questions, and facilitate productive public participation in this important milestone in Gulf restoration.
Offshore Aquaculture and the Army Corps of Engineers: Regulations and Recommendations
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Most offshore aquaculture facilities require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act—and in some cases, this permit will be the only one required under federal law. ELI’s white paper, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulation of Offshore Aquaculture, provides a detailed legal and practical overview of Corps regulation of offshore aquaculture, illustrated through case studies of three offshore aquaculture projects that have recently received Section 10 permits. In addition, it provides recommendations for steps to increase the consistency and timeliness of Section 10 permitting of offshore aquaculture while ensuring that all environmental impacts are effectively addressed.
This webinar featured presentations on the content and recommendations of the white paper, along with presentations and reactions by experts from the Army Corps of Engineers and Salem State University’s Northeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center.
International Deep Seabed Mining
April 22, 2015
This webinar brought together some of the foremost experts on deep seabed mining to discuss this pressing issue. Of particular relevance are the ISA’s Exploitation Regulations, released in draft form on March 13 and open for public comment until May 15. In light of these important legal developments and leaps forward in scientific understanding, now is the time to pause to consider the special nature of the deep ocean and how to best manage it.
This webinar brought together a panel of experts to discuss the complex intersection of climate change, community resilience and Gulf of Mexico restoration, focusing on the challenges of and opportunities for creating restoration projects that both incorporate climate change considerations and are responsive to the needs of coastal communities.
The webinar brought together leading experts on the oil spill litigation to discuss the first two phases of the trial, including the court’s ruling that the oil spill was the result of BP’s gross negligence and willful misconduct, and previewed some of the major issues that were be addressed in Phase III.
Marine Debris: Cleaning up the Sea
December 15, 2014
This webinar brought together some of the foremost experts on marine debris to discuss what can be done by different levels of government, NGOs, private companies, and the public. The goal was to discuss policy and inform action to clear the sea of marine debris.
The Next Frontier: Offshore Hydraulic Fracturing
October 8, 2014
Emerging awareness of offshore hydraulic fracturing has spurred questions about the nature of the practice, how it has been employed, and the framework for managing it. This webinar convened representatives from various sectors to address these and other questions surrounding the science, law, and policy of offshore hydraulic fracturing. The goal of the webinar was to provide perspective on the growing, yet rarely discussed, practice of using hydraulic fracturing in the ocean setting.
The Treasury Department, tasked with overseeing implementation of the RESTORE Act, released several important rules and guidance documents relevant to the administration, distribution of funds, and proposal of projects and programs. This webinar featured a panel of experts to provide an overview of these complex and interrelated documents, with special focus on the Treasury Department’s interim final rule for administering the Restoration Trust Fund.
Tracing Seafood from Vessel to Plate
December 12, 2013
The second part of a two-part webinar series on seafood safety and traceability, this webinar brought together governmental, nongovernmental, and industry experts to discuss the need for and challenge of deploying effective traceability systems
Ensuring Seafood Safety After a Disaster
November 15, 2013
The first of a two-part webinar series on seafood safety and traceability, this seminar brought together government, non-governmental, and industry experts to discuss the impacts of recent natural disasters on finfish and shellfish, as well as the framework for responding to and assessing potential contamination from these disasters.
Deepwater Horizon Litigation: Overview and Update
November 13, 2013
Coming on the heels of Phase II of the BP civil trial, this webinar provided an overview of the litigation landscape related to the disaster, and then considered the status and implications of the BP civil trial that is ongoing in New Orleans.
Offshore Aquaculture and the Magnuson-Stevens Act
June 28, 2013
This webinar brought together experts from NOAA, nongovernmental organizations, and the aquaculture industry to explore questions related to the application of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to offshore aquaculture.
This panel convened government, nongovernmental, and fishing industry experts to discuss the implications of the March 2013 CITES decision on trade in shark products, the current status of domestic and international shark protection efforts, and potential approaches to ensuring a long-term future for sharks.
This webinar brought together experts from the Environmental Law Institute, EPA, and academia to explore questions related to the application of the Clean Water Act to offshore aquaculture.
This panel convened experts to discuss existing challenges, opportunities, and successes in enforcing water quality standards in the marine environment.
The panel featured expert speakers whose experiences with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Greenpeace provided the foundation for discussion of key challenges, success stories, and potential opportunities to strengthen marine protected species enforcement.
This seminar brought together experts to discuss the key considerations and opportunities ahead in implementing the RESTORE Act, including what the RESTORE Act could mean for the environment, economies, fishing communities, and citizens of the Gulf Coast states.
Fisheries Law Enforcement: Status and Challenges
April 27, 2012
In this café style session, panelists discussed the key challenges facing fisheries law enforcement agencies and the regulated industry, ongoing reform efforts, and what additional actions and solutions may be necessary to ensure that the system maximizes fisheries compliance.
Offshore Oil & Gas in the Arctic: The Next Five Years
January 26, 2012
In this seminar, panelists discussed the draft leasing program and aspects such as science needs and availability, expected activity impacts, and how the program may align with other ongoing ocean management processes, such as coastal and marine spatial planning.
Harnessing NEPA to Manage Cumulative Impacts in the Ocean
November 30, 2011
This seminar brought together experts to discuss methods for improving cumulative environmental impacts analysis and utilizing NEPA to enhance ecosystem-based, adaptive management of human activities in the ocean.
In this seminar, expert panelists discussed how the Endangered Species Act programs can be best implemented in order to provide long-term protection and recovery of endangered and threatened species in a time of rapid and profound change.
Early Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico: When, Why, and How
September 20, 2011
This seminar brought together experts to discuss what early restoration is, how it fits within the broader Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, and the framework agreement and process.
In this seminar, international ocean management experts explored the rationale for acceding, focusing specifically on the relevance of UNCLOS to national security and economic well-being.
Designing Effective and Enforceable Catch Share Systems
March 17, 2011
In this session, experts discussed some of the key issues and possible solutions surrounding the design and implementation of effective, equitable, and enforceable catch share systems.
In this seminar, panelists discussed the international rationale and underlying legal framework for establishing MPAs on the high seas, and considered strategies for setting aside protected areas and the implications of different methods and approaches.
In this panel discussion, experts discussed the current state of bluefin tuna and domestic and international efforts to conserve the species. The panelists identified the key challenges associated with managing this high-value, highly migratory species and potential approaches to overcome them.
In this seminar, panelists representing the scientific, nongovernmental, federal, and regulated communities addressed the litigation, legislation, and research being undertaken and developed to address the changing ocean conditions resulting from acidification.
The Oil Spill Liability Framework
May 24, 2010
This panel discussed the primary oil spill liability provisions in effect at the time of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and aspects such as the types of damages covered, past experiences, and the factors that influence the extent of liability in different circumstances.
Arctic Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning and the Role of the Arctic People
March 11, 2010 (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
This seminar centered on the rights, traditions, and experiences of the Arctic people; existing co-management practices; competing management imperatives; and how to build from the existing system toward an Arctic marine spatial planning framework.
A National Framework for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
January 26, 2010 (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
This seminar brought together a panel of CMSP experts from federal government, the environmental NGO community, and the private sector to discuss the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force’s Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning.
Stemming the Flow of Marine Debris
December 8, 2009
This seminar brought together experts to discuss the challenge of managing and preventing marine debris, including options for taking legal action to address the problem.
New Visions for the National Marine Sanctuaries Act
November 4, 2009
In this seminar, representatives from national sanctuaries, the scientific community, the environmental NGO community, and the recreational fishing sector discussed the purpose of the sanctuaries program, the need for reauthorization, and what reauthorization might include in light of current efforts to develop a national ocean policy and framework for marine spatial planning.
Representatives of federal and state agencies, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations discussed the role of the CZMA in our nation’s ocean policy moving forward and how the CZMA serves as a tool to address challenges facing coastal communities, coastal ecosystems and the nation.
Marine Spatial Planning: Why, How, and When?
July 28, 2009
This seminar explored the rationale for marine spatial planning (MSP) and science, law, and policy efforts underway to develop MSP; panelists discussed efforts to map biological, physical, jurisdictional, and human use data in order to inform management decisions.
This seminar explored the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project, the potential extent and recoverability of Extended Continental Shelf mineral resources, and the implications of commercial recovery for the ocean environment.
The Future of Sustainable Seafood
March 8, 2009 (Blue Vision Summit)
This three-part session included an exploration of the sustainability of wild fishing and aquaculture and a discussion of how national ocean policy can guide the future of sustainable seafood.
Oil and Gas Development in the Outer Continental Shelf
November 21, 2008
In this seminar, panelists discussed terms under which oil and gas leasing should proceed and how environmental concerns will be considered going forward. Panelists also discussed the likelihood of Congress revisiting a moratorium or considering other legislative proposals that will affect OCS leasing, development, and royalty issues.
Panelists offered their insights into the legal and scientific arguments presented in this environmental case, and on how the Justices may come down in a dispute where the two sides present very different views of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.
Ocean Energy: Offshore Wind
September 15, 2008
In this seminar, panelists discussed the legal and regulatory framework for offshore wind development, and also considered whether the existing legal framework goes far enough to provide regulatory certainty for the offshore wind industry and ensure appropriate environmental protection.
Ocean Energy: Tide, Current, and Wave Energy
July 29, 2008
In this seminar, the panel discussed tide, current, and wave energy development in the U.S. and specifically considered the recent programmatic environmental impact statement for the new alternative energy program at Minerals Management Service.
Noisy Oceans: Beyond Navy Sonar
May 20, 2008
In this seminar, panelists led a discussion of the legal and policy landscape of two particular issues—noise from oil and gas exploration and from commercial shipping—as a way to understand what legal and policy measures exist and may be needed as we expand ocean uses to include alternative energy development, increased shipping, and expanding oil and gas exploration.
Ports, Shipping, and Air Emissions
April 30, 2008
Panelists discussed existing legal and policy obstacles to and opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas and other air emissions from the marine shipping industry.
In this seminar, panelists tackled the challenges of decision-making, development, and conservation in the marine environment in the face of scientific and regulatory uncertainty.
Marine Aquaculture: A Growing Business
February 6, 2007
In this seminar, panelists discussed the current environmental challenges facing aquaculture, laws and policies that regulate existing aquaculture practices, and expanding and emerging sectors such as offshore aquaculture.
Catch the Next Wave of Ocean Energy Development
January 10, 2007 (The DC Bar)
This series of three panel discussions focused on Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) alternative energy activities, the latest developments involving OCS oil and gas and liquid natural gas, and the roles of the states, the environmental community and other regulatory agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which are impacted by OCS energy development initiatives.
Sustainable International Fisheries: Pipedream or Reality?
November 1, 2006
In this seminar, panelists covered topics included overfishing, overcapacity, bycatch and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and discussed the existing management regime as well as additional potential opportunities and options to achieve sustainable fisheries.
Ocean Shipping and the Environment
July 25, 2006
In this seminar, panelists explored some of the major legal and policy issues related to shipping and the environment, including whale strikes, ship noise, and invasive species introduction.
Ocean Law & Policy: An Update
April 18, 2006
In this seminar, panelists shared their expertise on a variety of topics including: the activities that have resulted from the recent release of reports from the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy; the adequacy of current governance structures to meet ocean environmental and regulatory needs; current legal risks for marine environments and industries; and likely changes in federal ocean law and policy.