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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 364:227-233 (2008)  -  DOI:

Contribution to the Theme Section ‘Implications of large-scale iron fertilization of the oceans’


Ocean iron fertilization and international law

David Freestone1, Rosemary Rayfuse2,*

1Senior Adviser, Legal Vice Presidency, The World Bank, 1818 H St., NW Washington, DC 20433, USA**
2Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:
**The views expressed here are those of the author only and do not reflect the official position of the World Bank

ABSTRACT: Intentional ocean fertilization and the commercial sale of associated carbon offsets raise a number of issues in international law. On the one hand, states are obliged to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures to prevent dangerous climate change. On the other hand, international law obliges states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to act in a precautionary manner in the face of scientific uncertainty. In this article, we examine the application of the international Law of the Sea to ocean fertilization, with particular reference to the law’s dumping regime, which prohibits the dumping of wastes or other materials from vessels into the ocean. We then examine the application of the international legal regime on climate change to ocean fertilization and assess the international legal basis for the sale of carbon offsets or carbon credits associated with ocean fertilization. We conclude that ocean fertilization is governed by the dumping regime and that its commercialization is inconsistent with international law unless and until independent, internationally peer-reviewed scientific research and assessment demonstrates that it is effective and that its benefits outweigh the risks to the marine environment.

KEY WORDS: International law · Law of the sea · Ocean fertilization · Ocean dumping · London Convention · London Protocol

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Cite this article as: Freestone D, Rayfuse R (2008) Ocean iron fertilization and international law. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 364:227-233.

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