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Ocean Program Editorial

Ocean Program Editorial


July 8, 2013

I’ve been working on ocean issues for, not seven, but 20 years. While working on my degree in zoology, I dove into ocean research at a marine field station in Florida, studying molecular evolution in jellyfish. Hooked on the fabulous biodiversity of life at sea, I spent the next several years earning a PhD in marine biology. The knowledge of habitat loss and decline that comes with such marine scientific research led me to obtain a JD and ultimately my career as an ocean lawyer at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI).

As kids we are inspired by tales of sailors’ encounters with sea monsters, pirates, and rogue waves as they sailed the seven seas. Today the seven seas (the meaning of which has changed through time as seas and trade routes have been discovered) still hold many yet undiscovered sea monsters. Modern pirates make their living ransoming vessels large and small, and the oceans’ extreme and often stormy conditions still make travel on the seas a dangerous endeavor.

I have yet to travel the seven seas, but I’m fortunate in the fact that, my work has allowed me to travel several of them.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

When I came to ELI in the fall of 2005, then-ELI President Leslie Carothers gave me the green light to work with my colleagues to develop a program focused on the marine environment. I leapt at the opportunity, and so our journey began. Through discussions and brainstorming sessions we explored potential target topics, from addressing climate change impacts to exploring ecosystem-based management implementation, and even the contentious (and critically important) issue of whether we would be the plural “Oceans Program” or the singular “Ocean Program.” With its name decided, the Environmental Law Institute launched the Ocean Program in the spring of 2006 with me as the first Director.

With a small team of fabulous attorneys and research associates — a team that has grown significantly since the first days, as detailed below — we quickly moved beyond exploration and naming. We initiated research in several key areas, including marine ecosystem-based management and fisheries enforcement and compliance, and kicked off an Ocean Seminar Series.

Advance seven years.

The initiatives begun in 2006 continue in advanced forms and new places. We are now working in Alaska, where we support the role of Alaska Natives in managing marine resources. We are also in the Gulf of Mexico, training communities about the legal framework related to post-Deepwater Horizonrestoration. In the Mid-Atlantic, we help state and federal decision-makers examine and strengthen legal frameworks for renewable energy development and marine spatial planning. And then there are shorter-term (but no less powerful) initiatives that take us to places like Israel, where we recently hosted a study session on ecosystem-based management for the offshore environment, and Barbuda, to support efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries with ocean zoning and other tools. That’s not close to all, and we continue to grow.  And to implement this ever-expanding portfolio of initiatives, our team has morphed from a few staff to a network of full-time and part-time contributors.

This rapid growth would not have been possible without one team member in particular — Jordan Diamond, who joined ELI in 2008 and has been core to the success of the Program ever since. Jordan brings to the Program a decade of experience in ocean and coastal policy and law and a focus on sustainable management of offshore energy development. Today, I am thrilled to announce her new role as Co-Director of the Ocean Program.

As we tackle new projects in the seven seas, Jordan and I are reflecting on the first seven years of the Ocean Program and excited about what the next seven will bring.

—Kathryn Mengerink
Co-Director, Ocean Program