(Washington, D.C.): Our oceans act as a crucial life-support system for the planet and its inhabitants—soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, providing a wealth of natural resources, nurturing incredible and mysterious sea creatures, and serving as a playground and place of cultural heritage. Covering 71% of Earth’s surface and providing 99% of its living space, the ocean often seems invincible. Yet, human activity threatens to diminish the myriad services that the ocean provides. Protecting the Ocean will be ELI’s focus for the month of November as we continue to offer special programs throughout the year in celebration of our 50th anniversary.
To address threats to the marine environment, ELI’s Ocean Program focuses on strengthening ocean and coastal law and policy domestically and internationally. ELI supports ocean management systems that are based on local priorities, inclusive and effective processes, and best available information. Areas of focus include supporting improved ocean management through marine planning and collaboration; analyzing legal management framework options for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; facilitating public engagement in Gulf of Mexico restoration and recovery; strengthening Arctic offshore natural resource management; and enhancing management of Marine Protected Areas. In the special Golden Anniversary Issue of The Environmental Forum, former ELI Ocean Program Director Kathryn Mengerink offers insight as to ELI’s experience in these areas.
One issue that has gained a lot of attention in recent months is marine litter, most notably, plastic. It has been widely reported that one garbage truck of 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 via laws governing the production and use of land-based materials that make their way into our oceans, challenges persist including supervising waste disposal into the marine environment and establishing overarching marine litter legislation. How do agencies work together to establish national and international regulations for assessing and removing marine litter? What are the root causes of ocean debris pollution and how do we confront them? How can stakeholders become more involved in marine litter prevention and management? On November 11, ELI and leading experts will engage in these questions and more. Panelists will explore recent U.S. legislation to target marine litter, the economic impacts of marine litter, and examples of successful international marine pollution agreements and regulatory collaborations.
Just last month, ELI Ocean Program Director Xiao Recio-Blanco announced at the Our Ocean 2019 conference in Oslo, Norway, that ELI is developing publicly available, model legal language that governments around the world can use to promote a sustainable fisheries sector. With one-half of all fish catches coming from artisanal and household fishing operations, small-scale fisheries (SSFs) are a crucial component of food security and the global economy. The international community has worked to account for these contributions in legal and regulatory frameworks, but most nations’ laws and regulations either fail to promote sustainable fisheries or are overly ambitious and difficult to implement. ELI’s work in this area will be an important step toward filling this void. Later this month, Xiao will be at the 41st Annual Forum of Parliamentarians for Global Action in Praia, Cape Verde, to discuss ELI’s SSF work.
ELI traces its origins to a national conference on the emerging field of environmental law held at the Airlie House in Virginia in September 1969. Often described as a one-of-a kind environmental law think-and-do tank, ELI continues to effect change through its work as a premier environmental law educator, convener, publisher, and research engine as we enter our 50th year.
Be sure to check out our blogs, podcasts, and other online resources for additional material. And visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary throughout the year for details and updates on ELI’s 50th anniversary programming.