LAWENVIR 721 - Special Topic: Oceans Governance

Lecturer biography

Karen N Scott is a Professor of Law at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. 

Her research focuses on the areas of the law of the sea, the Polar regions and international environmental law. She has published over 50 journal articles and book chapters in these areas on issues such as ocean management, environmental governance, climate change and geoengineering.

Recent publications include Donald R Rothwell, Alex G Oude Elferink, Karen N Scott and Tim Stephens (eds), The Oxford Handbook of The Law of the Sea (OUP 2015). 

Karen was the General Editor of the New Zealand Yearbook of International Law from 2009 to 2012 and remains a member of the Editorial Board. Karen was Vice-President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law (ANZSIL) from 2011-2016.  Karen has been Head of the School of Law at the University of Canterbury since July 2015.

Course outline

The oceans comprise 70% of our planet and provide significant food, energy, mineral, transport and other resources. Moreover, the oceans play a fundamental role in regulating our climate and underpin the survival of all species. New Zealand exercises jurisdiction over four million square kilometres of ocean (fifteen times the size of terrestrial New Zealand) and it is estimated that over 80 percent of New Zealand’s biodiversity is located in the marine environment. The value of New Zealand’s marine resources is believed to exceed those of its terrestrial resources.

This course will provide an introduction to oceans governance as codified by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The modern law of the sea seeks to manage all aspects of oceans use (and abuse) as well as providing for mechanisms whereby zones and jurisdictional limits are established. Students will begin by examining the various maritime zones (and their appropriate resource management and jurisdictional regimes as well as issues of delimitation) before going onto to focus on issues such as sustainable fishing, marine environmental protection and maritime security. Contemporary challenges to oceans governance will be explored including climate change, ocean acidification and managing genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).


  • Introduction to Concepts and Principles of Ocean Governance
  • Governing Maritime Zones under the Jurisdiction of States (including baselines, internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ))
  • Introduction to the Principles of Maritime Delimitation
  • Governing Maritime Zones beyond the Jurisdiction of States (high seas and the Area and areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ))
  • Actors and Institutions in Oceans Governance
  • Fisheries Management
  • Marine Environmental Protection
  • Maritime Security
  • Dispute Resolution and Oceans Governance
  • The Future of Oceans Governance - Case Studies on Contemporary Issues Including Renewable Energy, Geoengineering, Bioprospecting

Learning outcomes

Students will be expected to gain a solid basic knowledge of the relevant legal frameworks of ocean governance as well as developing their capacity to critically analyse issues and developments in this field. This course will be of interest to students wanting to know more about the law of the sea and its impact on resource management, environmental protection and security, and those with a desire to broaden their knowledge of international law. By the end of this course, students should:

  • Understand, explain and apply the principal features of the UNCLOS and other relevant instruments of application to the law of the sea
  • Understand and explain the relationship between the UNCLOS and selected other instruments and principles of customary international law
  • Relate their knowledge of the above to current matters of international concern
  • Locate primary materials relevant to international law
  • Subject those primary materials to critical analysis and use them to create an argument based on international law
  • Read, understand, interpret and critique treaties and the rules relating to their operation
  • Identify international legal issues in factual scenarios and to construct international legal responses to those issues
  • Carry out independent research
  • Deliver coherent and clear oral contributions that communicate the extent of their knowledge, understanding and critical evaluative skills to others
  • Reflect on their experience and performance and plan further development of their skills


  • 90% Research Essay of 12,500 words
  • 10% class participation


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 500 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It MUST be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, MUST NOT write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted and in that regard each student should read the University’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students will be expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays. Students must also use proper legal citations and include a reading list at the end of their type-written essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted English sentences (note form is unacceptable). The use of sub-headings is encouraged and footnotes rather than Harvard style in-text referencing are to be used. Descriptive essays are not encouraged. Instead students are expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law; developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual analysis of the law.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law, by 12 noon Thursday 16th November 2017.

Extensions will not be granted lightly (only on sickness and compassionate grounds) and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class participation

Each student is expected to make individual contributions to seminar discussions throughout the course. Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions.

Criteria and marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues
  • The clarity of argument
  • The depth and thoroughness of understanding of the seminar material
  • The strength and clarity of the arguments presented
  • The overall lucidity of the contribution
  • The extent to which issues are placed in their wider context
  • The extent to which the student has displayed a grasp of the doctrinal and normative issues
  • The analysis and synthesis of material
  • The ability to draw worthwhile conclusions

Class participation will assessed over the whole five days of the course. Quality rather than quantity will be assessed but clearly if a student is not present for all the classes, it will be impossible to achieve the maximum marks possible even if a student’s contributions are brilliant when he/she does speak. Students are reminded that the full range of marks is available to the lecturer in assessing class participation. Please be assured that the lecturer is very aware that mistakes are part of learning. Accordingly, ‘getting the law right’ is not the key focus of the class participation component of assessment. If students knew all the law from the outset, there would be little point in them enrolling in the course. Rather, class participation is included to extend students and to assess students’ imaginative understanding of, and engagement with, the materials under discussion. It is not meant to be threatening.

Reading materials

Reading materials will be contained in the Casebook/Study Guide. Students may also be asked to access additional materials via the internet or in the library.

Teaching method

The course will be taught over five days commencing on Wednesday 30 August-Tuesday 5 September 2017 (five days). Classes will be interactive and hopefully, very friendly. It will, however, be necessary for students to do the pre-reading for the course so that they get the most out of the materials under discussion.

Course details

Semester: Two
Study mode: Intensive
Dates: 30 August-5 September 2017
Times: 9am-5pm
Value: 30 points
Location: Building 810, Room 340
1-11 Short Street
Assignment due date: 16 November 2017 by 12 noon

Contact details

Law Student Centre
Level 2, 1-11 Short Street


Lecturer contact details

Karen Scott: