David VanderZwaag

Canada Research Chair in Ocean Law and Governance

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2017-07-01
Dalhousie University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Rethinking ocean law and policy approaches in an era of changing oceans

Research relevance

The research aims to develop law and policy reforms supporting more principled decision making in ocean governance at global, regional and national levels

Recasting ocean law and governance in the face of climate change

Never before have the world’s oceans been subjected to so many stressors. Climate change is associated with increases in coral bleaching, coastal flooding and shifts in the distribution of marine species. Ocean acidification has increased by about 26 per cent compared to pre-industrial levels. Approximately 90% of marine fish stocks are fully fished or overfished. New ocean uses, such as offshore aquaculture and renewable ocean energy, are expanding.

A specialist in the law of the sea, Dr. David VanderZwaag, Canada Research Chair in Ocean Law and Governance, is devoted to reshaping law and policy responses to the numerous challenges facing marine ecosystems and coastal communities. At the global level, he is seeking to influence negotiation of a new international agreement to conserve marine biodiversity in the high seas, and is assessing the “seaworthiness” of the current climate change regime.

At the regional level, he is tracking and helping to envision future directions for Arctic marine cooperation. He is investigating how Canada’s regional fisheries management arrangements in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are adapting to changing marine ecosystems.

VanderZwaag is also devoted to the strengthening of national laws and policy. He is studying how Canada’s Fisheries Act might be modernized in light of international “best practices.”

He is also evaluating the implementation challenges of Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and identifying ways to improve the regulatory net for marine species at risk. He is also seeking to chart a future course for the public trust doctrine in Canada as a legal tool to limit private marine resource uses in the name of the common public good.