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.

Related Research Guides

Research guides are useful for identifying key print and online sources.

Gallagher guides on U.S. Admiralty & Maritime Law and  Law of the Sea

University of Oregon Law Library, Research Guides -- Ocean and Coast Law Center Collection

GlobaLex Researching International Marine Environmental Law



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).
KF5627.K35 2007

Coastal and Ocean Management Law in a Nutshell (3d ed. 2007).

Coastal Law (2011). A casebook. Table of contents
KF5627.E24 2011

Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy (American Bar Association, 2008). Publisher description and table of contents
KF5627.O24 2008

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


Articles & Reports

Congressional Research Service, Ocean & Coastal Resources: A Briefing Book and other reports on marine, water, and wetlands issues

University of Maine, Ocean and Coastal Law Journal, current issue and back issues (1994- )

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.

U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services provides information about major laws, treaties and agreements.

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).

International Maritime Organization contains information on international conventions


U.S. Laws

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.

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.


U.S. Federal Agencies

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.

U.S. Department of Commerce

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

National Ocean Service, provides a Data Explorer Geoportal

National Marine Sanctuaries

Ocean and Coastal Resource Management: Coastal Zone Management information and Coastal Programs

National Ocean Service

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.

U.S. Department of Defense

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


U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Coast Guard

U.S. Department of the Interior

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.

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

U.S. Department of State

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental & Scientific Affairs provides information on international policy issues including marine conservation and ocean affairs.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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


Washington State Agencies

Department of Ecology

Department of Natural Resources

Department of Fish & Wildlife

Department of Fish and Wildlife deals with commercial and recreational fishing programs


Alaska State Agencies

Department of Natural Resources

Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Spill Prevention & Response


Oregon State Agencies

Department of Land Conservation and Development

Oregon Coastal Management Program

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.

The Coastal States Organization

Constitutional Accountability Center, The Takings Project: Using Federal Courts to Attack Community and Environmental Protections

Environmental Law Institute, Ocean Program

Joint Ocean Commission Initiative

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium Archived Links

University of Mississippi, National Sea Grant Law Center

Natural Resources Defense Council Publications on Oceans & Water

Oregon Sea Grant, Coastal Learning & Decision Making and Coastal Hazards & Climate Change


Current Awareness Sources

The following sources and sites offer regularly updated news and material.

The Environmental Law Professor Blog

North Carolina Coastal Resources Law Planning & Policy Center, Legal Tides

Environmental Law Institute, National Wetlands Newsletter

Coastal Society Bulletin

BloombergLawLogo.png Create news alert for fisheries, coastal management, or oceans searches

Westlaw Topics--Environmental Law

Lexis Browse Sources and then search Environmental Law, Coastal Law or Fisheries


Connect with us:

© Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved University of Washington School of Law

4293 Memorial Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98195