Marine Lawyer


Marine law is a body of laws and policies that govern ocean and coastal resources and their use. This may include environmental and marine resource conservation, shipping, marine fisheries, navigation, salvage, and other maritime activities. Marine lawyers may work with private law firms, government organizations, the military, non-profit organizations, universities, and/or aquariums. Their work may involve providing guidance to decision- and policy-makers as well as designing and/or directing ocean and coastal legal research projects.

Education Requirements

Estimated Salary

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Juris Doctorate (J.D)
  • Masters in Marine Affairs (M.M.A) (not required but respected)

For salary information, please visit the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tasks and Duties

  • Provides guidance on the national and/or international management of the ocean and coastal resources and their use. Issues addressed may include:
    • Coastal zone management
    • Marine protected areas
    • Coastal hazards
    • Fisheries management
    • Alternative energy
    • Offshore drilling
  • Piracy, and/or international trade
  • In addition to practicing ocean and costal law, one might conduct research or teach

Knowledge and Skills

Basic skills might include

  • Writing (scientific and persuasive)
  • Strong library research and critical thinking skills
  • Public speaking
    • Public interactions and public speaking (ability to explain things to diverse audiences)
  • Interpersonal skills; an ability to work along side others as well as independently

May need knowledge in

  • Core ocean policies including
    • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
    • Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)
    • Endangered Species Act (ESA)
    • Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
    • The Clean Water Act.
    • At the global level, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Basic skills may also include:

  • Research and analytical skills
    • Experimental design and application
    • Data organization, processing, and analytics
    • Willingness to work long hours
  • Written and oral communication skills
    • Preparation of technical reports and presentations
    • Authoring research articles
    • Drafting grant proposals

Connections to Underwater Acoustics

The scientific community and the public have become increasingly aware of, and concerned about, underwater sound. There is a need to increase understanding the degree to which anthropogenic activities may be changing the underwater soundscapehow these changes may potentially impact marine animals , and what action can be taken to mitigate these potential impacts. In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), marine mammals cannot be hunted, harassed, captured, or killed. Individuals must apply for a permit in order to conduct research and/or other activities that may impact marine mammals. Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) or Letters of Authorization (LOA) may be issued to groups incidentally “taking” small numbers of marine mammals and/or casing a “neglible impact”. Most IHAs and LOAs have involved the incidental harassment of marine mammals by noise (airguns , ships and aircraft, high energy sonars, and explosive detonations ). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is developing science-based acoustic guidelines for assessing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals. This will help guide the permit process. Draft guidelines are also being considered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce underwater noise from commercial ships, giving special consideration to propulsion, hull design, onboard machinery, and operational modifications.

Related Careers

  • Maritime Lawyer
  • Marine Policy Advisor
  • Marine Resource Manager


Animals and Sound
Effects of Sound > What are the potential effects of sound on marine mammals?
Effects of Sound > What are the potential effects of sound on marine fishes?
Effects of Sound > How can we moderate or eliminate the effects of human activities?

People and Sound
Investigate Marine Animals > How is sound used to protect marine mammals?

Audio Gallery
Anthropogenic Sounds > Sonars
Anthropogenic Sounds > Airguns
Anthropogenic Sounds > Ships

Technology Gallery
Observing the Sea Floor > Airguns
Locating Objects Using Sonar > Sonar