August 23, 2017


Guest Post by the Earth Law Center

Earth Law Center (ELC) is honored to be joining the Mission Blue team as a partner. We are inspired to complement and support Mission Blue’s commitment to expand ocean protection by transforming the law to recognize and protect the rights of nature by catalyzing the growing Earth Law movement. Earth Law recognizes the interconnectedness between humans and nature, and asserts that if humans have inherent rights due to their existence, so too do ecosystems and fellow species. 

Fundamental legal rights have played a critical role in the ongoing evolution of society, as previously legal “things” became legal persons. Just as human rights drew a line in the sand to curtail our abuse of other humans, the securing of fundamental legal rights for nature will support and enhance ongoing efforts to ensure nature exists, thrives and evolves. 

Achieving a system of Earth Law (including rights for nature) will require a “paradigm shift” – from a human-centered system to one that is Earth-centered. Earth Law holds that nature and its many species have intrinsic rights and value, and do not exist only to benefit humans. Fortunately, momentum is building. Ecuador, Bolivia, New Zealand, India, Colombia, Mexico City and more than three dozen municipalities in the US have legally adopted rights of nature to effectively protect communities, species and ecosystems.

What is Ocean Rights-based Governance?

ELC partners with local communities and indigenous groups to advance ocean stewardship by promoting governance centered on the Ocean’s well-being and guided by principles of sustainability, ecosystem, precaution and interconnectedness.

This initiative hit the ground running at the UN Ocean Conference June 5th-9th where ELC delivered a statement at the Final Plenary meeting requesting that UN members, civil society and stakeholders promote and adopt a holistic and rights-based approach to ocean governance. (video of statement: and initiative with sign-ons The initiative garnered the support of over 60 organizations from 32 countries, including Missions Blue.

We now have an opportunity to move beyond current protections to include a systems approach with the recognition that humans and nature are connected, and that the ocean is a web of complex relationships that vary in time and space. Legal rights for the ocean would mean:

  • Humans create a sustainable relationship with the ecosystems and species within
  • Protection and restoration is a legal responsibility
  • Management boards, or ‘guardians’, ensure that activities do not violate the ocean’s rights to exist, thrive and evolve

As an effective and sought-after tool for marine conservation, marine protected areas, serve as an avenue in which to insert legal rights for nature into our governance systems. Establishing legal rights for marine ecosystems and species provides an opportunity to not only stop the decline in ocean health, but reverse the tide and restore the ocean’s integrity.

First Part of the Ocean to gain Legal Rights?

To launch the Mission Blue Alliance partnership, ELC has created a campaign to add legal rights to the establishment of a network of marine protected areas for the Patagonian Sea. Mission Blue has also designated this incredibly bio-diverse area a Hope Spot – so input and collaboration is most welcome.

To achieve this objective, ELC is building a coalition of local non-profits, community and indigenous representatives, research institutes and scientists, government officials, and MPA practitioners and managers to work together to not only create the network of protection but to ensure effective protection by securing legal rights for the Patagonian Sea.

ELC has now completed months of extensive research and analysis to create a new framework for legal protection of marine protected areas. The drive to secure legal rights for the Patagonian Sea will be guided by a ‘Call for Inputs’ from a wide array of experts and stakeholders to gain a consensus on effective policy measures and support for an ocean-centered approach to ocean protection.

Want to join the movement?

The framework will be available online by the Fourth International Marine Protected Area Conference (IMPAC) in Chile September 4th-8th. The Patagonian Sea could be the first marine ecosystem granted legal rights, and serve as the catalyst in achieving the shared vision of a healthy ocean. (

Join us and share your expertise and align on the strategy for promoting a new paradigm for ocean governance.

About Mission Blue™

Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots. Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team implements communications campaigns that elevates Hope Spots to the world stage through documentaries, social media, traditional media and innovative tools like Google Earth. Mission Blue also embarks on regular oceanic expeditions that shed light on these vital ecosystems and build support for their protection. Currently, the Mission Blue alliance includes more than 180 respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations, from large multinational companies to individual scientific teams doing important research. Additionally, Mission Blue supports the work of conservation NGOs around the world that share the mission of building public support for ocean protection. With the concerted effort and passion of people and organizations around the world, Hope Spots can become a reality and form a global network of marine protected areas large enough to restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.

About Earth Law Center

Founded in 2008, Earth Law Center is a legal advocacy group that partners with local community groups to secure rights for nature. Having worked for many years for California waterway rights as well as drafted and passed a biodiversity ordinance for Santa Monica, ELC is building on this to focus on rights recognition for Marine Protected Areas as well as rivers and coastal regions. Working closely with the Harmony with Nature initiative at the United Nations, and the GJIE at the IUCN, ELC has also created a law/ graduate school level Earth Law Course and a secondary school Bottle Biosphere curriculum, free for any school to adopt – as part of the drive to expand the conversation about Earth Law.


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