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Changing Oceans, Lagging Management

Mar 15, 2022

Megan Raymond

Volume 48 (2021) - Issue 2

This is a story of energy and fish, the federal laws that regulate them, and their past and future as resource industries in the United States.
United States federal law has long treated our oceans as an endless bounty of natural resources, ready for human extraction, consumption, and exhaustion. But our oceans have changed and so too must our ocean policy. We face concurrent crises of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. And with these realities comes a responsibility on the part of lawmakers to reevaluate ocean resource policies, especially as they relate to emerging resource industries.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, the offshore oil and gas and the capture fishery industries in the United States boomed. In large part, this was due to corresponding federal laws that encourage rapid development, often at the expense of environmental protection and long-term conservation. In contrast to their traditional counterparts, more recent emerging offshore renewable industries—namely, offshore renewable energy and aquaculture—have thus far failed to take off, due in part to their insufficient regulatory structure.
Grounded in a discussion on similarities and differences between these traditional and emerging ocean resource industries, this Note argues three related points. First, the existing legal structure under which emerging offshore resource industries are regulated is insufficient. Second, in developing legal frameworks, the federal government should resist the temptation to shoehorn regulation of offshore renewable energy and aquaculture into the legal structures under which offshore oil and gas and capture fishing are regulated. Third, these new, comprehensive legal frameworks should be responsive to the realities of our oceans today, lessons learned from the impetuous growth of traditional ocean resource industries, and an increased awareness of the interconnection of ocean resources with one another.