Research Guide for U.S. Ocean & Coastal Law
Updated April 15, 2014.
Prepared by Cheryl Nyberg; updated by Amanda Runyon, Sabrina Sondhi & Wendy Lamar (2013).
Originally prepared for Law B565/SMA 515, Prof. Marc Hershman.
This research guide provides an overview of ocean and coastal law materials. It focuses on the U.S. legal framework for controlling allocation and use of coastal and marine resources.
Note: Nexis Uni is a commercial service to which the UW Libraries subscribe. Access is restricted to University of Washington faculty, students,and staff and other users who are visiting a UW library [UW Restricted]. Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw are restricted to individuals for personal IDs or passwords. [Access to Westlaw, Bloomberg Law & Lexis] All other websites listed in this guide are freely available.
Research guides are useful for identifying key print and online sources.
University of Oregon Law Library, Research Guides -- Ocean and Coast Law Center Collection
The following books are located in the Classified Stacks of the Gallagher Law Library unless otherwise indicated.
Coastal and Ocean Law: Cases and Materials (3d ed. 2007) (American Casebook Series).
Coastal and Ocean Management Law in a Nutshell (3d ed. 2007).
Coastal Law (2011). A casebook. Table of contents
Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy (American Bar Association, 2008). Publisher description and table of contents
To find additional books, search the library catalog with the following subject headings:
- Coastal zone management--Law and legislation
- Fishery--Law and legislation
- Marine pollution--Law and legislation
- Marine resources conservation--Law and legislation
University of Oregon, Ocean and Coastal Law Center, Ocean and Coastal Law Memos
Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University, Pacific Ocean Library, Bibliographic Database
To search for articles, consult one or more of the following all databases (under Selected Databases from the Law Library homepage):
- Law students: Use Westlaw, Lexis, or HeinOnline's Law Journal Library
- Others: Use HeinOnline's Law Journal Library or Nexis Uni
Treaties are agreements between two or more countries. See the Gallagher guide on Treaties & Other International Agreements for more information.
UN Oceans & Law of the Sea provides treaties, reports and news on the Law of the Sea and ocean issues.
Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL) provides primary documents on international law conventions concerning oceans and law of the sea.
Environmental Treaties and Resources Indicators: compiles dozens of international and multilateral treaties, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (commonly called CITES).
Major laws are administered by the National Marine Fisheries Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and several other federal agencies. See the section below for information about these agencies.
This list links to the current text of the laws at Cornell's Legal Information Institute.
- Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.
- Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.
- Estuary Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 1221 et seq.
- Estuary Restoration Act, 33 U.S.C. 2901 et seq.
- Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.
- Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.
- Submerged Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1301 et seq.
To find cases interpreting provisions of these laws and/or regulations implementing these laws, use an annotated code like the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service.
The following federal government agencies have major responsibilities relating to ocean and coastal law. Look for links to publications, Freedom of Information Reading Rooms, and other sections of useful information.
National Ocean Service, provides a Data Explorer Geoportal
National Fisheries Service
National Marine Fisheries Service and its West Coast Region. The Office of Protected Resources deals with protected marine mammals and endangered species, including reports to Congress and species-specific publications.
Army Corps of Engineers, Directorate of Civil Works. Among their duties: plan, design, build, operate, and maintain projects that provide river and harbor navigation, flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power, environmental restoration, wildlife protection and recreation
- Institute for Water Resources Reports
- Planning and Policy Guidance Letters
- Environmental Regulations
- Policy Pocket Reference: a succinct summary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorities and policies that address its water resources missions (deals with navigation; flood damage reduction; emergency streambank and shore protection; coastal storm damage reduction; and emergency preparedness, response and recovery).
- Official Publications provide guidance documents including engineer circulars, manuals, pamphlets, and regulations; model agreements; policy guidance letters; environmental advisory bulletins; and other publications.
- 13th District, Pacific Northwest
- Memoranda of Understanding
- National Pollution Funds Center Publications contains operation guides forms, reports to Congress, annual reports and reference guide
- National Response Center, provides a searchable database of Incident Summaries
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manages mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement conserves offshore resources and protects the environment.
- Non-Energy Minerals Management includes information on marine minerals and projects
- Electronic Library of Interior Policies includes Secretary's orders, departmental manuals, bulletins, and memoranda.
- Office of Natural Resources Revenue: collects, accounts for and distributes revenues associated with mineral production from leased federal and Indian lands
Fish & Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Homepage provides comprehensive information on protected species and related programs, including an introduction to the Endangered Species Act and a page with Endangered Species Laws, Regulations, and Policies.
Geological Survey Oil Spill Response provides a variety of information including links to other federal agencies, reports, news, and congressional testimonies
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental & Scientific Affairs provides information on international policy issues including marine conservation and ocean affairs.
Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds website links to a page of Laws & Regulations (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health, Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization, Endangered Species Act, etc.). See also the Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches page.
Region 10 (which includes Washington State) and Puget Sound information
- Shorelands & Environmental Assistance
- Shoreline Master Program Guidelines Rule
- Coastal Zone Management Program
- Spills Program
- Puget Sound Shorelines environmental information and links from the State of Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife deals with commercial and recreational fishing programs
Alaska State Agencies
- Division of Mining, Land & Water handles minerals exploration, permits, royalties, prospecting, and water rights.
- Division of Oil and Gas manages oil and gas leasing and offers publications, maps, photographs, and statistics.
Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Spill Prevention & Response
Oregon Dep't of Geology & Mineral Resources contains information on oil and gas
Oregon Dep't of State Lands: One section of the website deals with public ownership of submerged and submersible land
Below are a few of the organizations with an interest in aspects of ocean and coastal law.
Constitutional Accountability Center, The Takings Project: Using Federal Courts to Attack Community and Environmental Protections
Environmental Law Institute, Ocean Program
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium Archived Links
University of Mississippi, National Sea Grant Law Center
The following sources and sites offer regularly updated news and material.
North Carolina Coastal Resources Law Planning & Policy Center, Legal Tides
Environmental Law Institute, National Wetlands Newsletter
Create news alert for fisheries, coastal management, or oceans searches