Avoiding Jellyfish Seas, or, What Do We Mean by ‘Sustainable Oceans,’ Anyway?

30 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2010 Last revised: 1 Aug 2019

Date Written: October 28, 2010


Human use of the oceans is not sustainable, as collapsing fish stocks, bioaccumulation of toxics in marine mammals, and multiplying “dead zones” and ocean “garbage patches” all attest. Moreover, climate change is exacerbating many existing problems while simultaneously subjecting marine ecosystems to new stressors, such as increasing ocean temperatures, changing currents, and ocean acidification.

More than many other areas of ocean, ocean law and policy is in need of an abrupt paradigm shift from a use-based model to a climate change adaptation model based on principled flexibility, ecosystem-based and adaptive management, reduction of stressors, and a goal of increasing resilience. This article outlines the existing abuses of the ocean and the current and expected climate change impacts on marine ecosystems before offering a series of suggestions on how to improve ocean sustainability in our climate change era.

Keywords: sustainable, sustainability, oceans, marine ecosystems, Papahanaumokuakea, climate change, marine spatial planning, marine protected area, ocean acidification

Suggested Citation

Craig, Robin Kundis, Avoiding Jellyfish Seas, or, What Do We Mean by ‘Sustainable Oceans,’ Anyway? (October 28, 2010). Utah Environmental Law Review (formerly Journal of Land, Resources & Environmental Law), Vol. 31, No. 1, p. 17, 2011, FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 462, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1658109

Robin Kundis Craig (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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