Does the Emperor Have No Clothes? Enforcement of International Laws Protecting the Marine Environment

72 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2010

See all articles by David S. Ardia

David S. Ardia

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

Date Written: December 31, 1998


Environmental regulations cannot end at state borders. Because ecosystems, individual species, and pollution do not respect political boundaries, there is a growing necessity for international environmental agreements. However, to implement effective environmental agreements, States must confront several problems specific to the international environmental arena. First, international environmental agreements often require extensive monitoring over large geographic areas. Second, international environmental agreements require the political will and legal apparatus to ensure the compliance of disparate actors. Finally, States must be prepared to enforce international commitments beyond their individual territorial borders.

This article examines existing structures and mechanisms for the enforcement of international environmental laws, particularly international laws that must confront violations on the high seas in order to protect marine organisms, including the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Future Multilateral Co-Operation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, and the United Nations Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stock and Highly Migratory Fish Stock.

Part I discusses the need for, and development of, international environmental laws protecting the marine environment. Part II outlines many of the problems inherent in the enforcement of international environmental agreements generally, and the additional problems of extraterritorial enforcement on the high seas. Part III highlights the critical role that monitoring plays as the basis for an effective international environmental regime and discusses the difficulty of monitoring compliance over large spatial scales. Part IV canvasses and critiques current enforcement structures and mechanisms in international environmental agreements protecting the marine environment. Finally, Part V argues that existing compliance mechanisms are insufficient to protect the marine environment and proposes a new apparatus that utilizes non-governmental organizations as an aid in monitoring and compliance under the auspices of an international compliance and monitoring agency.

Keywords: environmental law, international law, law of the sea, international environmental law, ocean law, fisheries

JEL Classification: K32, K42, Q22, Q25

Suggested Citation

Ardia, David S., Does the Emperor Have No Clothes? Enforcement of International Laws Protecting the Marine Environment (December 31, 1998). Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1998, Available at SSRN:

David S. Ardia (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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