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Marine Environmental Law Research Guide: Introduction

A comprehensive legal research guide on the international control, regulation and enforcement of pollution on the High Seas, created by Reed Elcott.


Welcome to the Marine Environmental Law Research Guide!

Protection of the marine environment is a global responsibility. We must all be conscious of the pollution threats to our waterways and oceans and the serious effects caused by human industrial activity.

Most nations depend almost exclusively on shipping to move exports and imports, with the world's most influential economies responsible for a majority of ocean traffic. Shipping is perhaps the most international of the world's industries, serving more than 90 per cent of global trade by carrying huge quantities of cargo cost effectively, cleanly and safely.

This research guide provides information on regulations designed to prevent pollution from ships and other industrial sources, the reporting of pollution incidents, pollution response arrangements, as well as the patchwork of national regimes designed to address pollution on the High Seas.


Courtney Crivici

Image Courtesy of Courtney Crivici

This guide is intended to provide legal researchers and practitioners with background information and research strategies on legal issues pertaining to the control, reduction and elimination of marine pollution.

Damage to the Earth's marine ecology has the potential to negatively affect the lives of all living beings.  It has been over 50 years since the international community first attempted to address the increase in marine pollution.  Since then, pollution of the seas by oil, chemicals, nuclear waste and the effluent of urban industrial society has continued to grow.  This has resulted in ever more serious damage to the living resources and ecology of the marine environment and to the shores of coastal states.  The control, reduction and elimination of marine pollution has become one of the major issues in the contemporary law of the sea and it has proved to be a complex task, requiring the creation of a new and growing body of international law. 

The four main sources of marine pollution are:

  • Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities
  • Vessel Pollution
  • Ocean Dumping
  • The Introduction of Invasive Foreign Species