The Ocean Ecosystem

Weedy sea dragon, in the kelp forest of Tasmania, Australia. (David Doubilet /
Weedy sea dragon, in the kelp forest of Tasmania, Australia. (David Doubilet /
Main Feature Stormy Waters

Earthjustice's ocean litigation is working to broaden the federal government's fragmented approach by taking a more holistic view of the ocean ecosystem, a crucial tactic in buffering the ocean against a changing environment.

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Down to Earth
A podcast about the news, events and personalities that make up Earthjustice. Subscribe on iTunes.
Oceans Program Director Steve Roady. Steve Roady Oceans Program Director

Using environmental law to protect oceans.

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VP for Litigation Patti Goldman. Patti Goldman VP for Litigation

Protecting the orca whales of Puget Sound.

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Attorney Andrea Treece. Andrea Treece Attorney, California

Restoring the ocean food web.

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Attorney Roger Fleming. Roger Fleming Attorney, Northeast

Restoring the nation's oldest fishery.

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Special Features & Multimedia
Forage fish as energy bar.

Forage fish are delicious to just about everything bigger than themselves. But they are being overfished to feed land-based creatures, bringing Earthjustice into the fight to keep the ocean well-stocked for salmon, whales, seals and more.


A number of environmental stressors are battering an ecosystem that was once thought to be unsinkable—the ocean.


Earthjustice attorneys across eleven offices are using the law to protect the deep seas from the Atlantic to the Pacific and everywhere in between.

Cabo Pulmo. (Gustavo Danemann)

Despite its remarkable rebound, the Cabo Pulmo reef in the Gulf of California and other coral reefs worldwide—and the marine food web as a whole—face deep peril.


As carbon pollution increases, oceans absorb the carbon, creating acidic waters that are hostile to species that build shells or skeletons of calcium carbonate.

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Oceans provide invaluable resources by feeding the world, creating happiness and absorbing the world's carbon pollution.

Naval ship.

A whale's keen sense of hearing is vital in every aspect of its life history. Experts agree that exposure to sonar blasts can cause serious injury or death from hemorrhages or other tissue trauma.

Photo Slideshows
Elkhorn Coral Reef. (NOAA)

Coral reefs in the Caribbean survive partly through the habits of parrotfish, which graze on algae that would otherwise stunt the corals' growth. An Earthjustice lawsuit seeks to protect these fish from overfishing.

Blue-lined Butterflyfish.

Earthjustice is representing citizens and conservation groups in litigation to protect Hawaiʻi’s reefs and coastal areas from the unlimited collection of fish and other wildlife for aquariums.

Hawaiian Monk Seal.

The ocean's underwater creatures are swimming against the tide of multiple environmental stressors. Learn about some of the wildlife who are at risk and the threats they face.

David Doubilet.

Acclaimed underwater photographer David Doubilet has spent decades photographing underwater images, witnessing firsthand how ocean stressors have negatively impacted the aquatic environment he loves.

» Down to Earth: Q&A with David Doubilet
Port Clyde lobster trap.

Port Clyde fishermen are modeling a standard that allows them to continue their fishing tradition, while also allowing the fish stocks to rebound.

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False killer whale.

When Hawaiʻi's longline fleets catch yellowfin tuna and other target fish species on its hooks, false killer whales are attracted to this all-you-can-eat buffet and are often wounded or killed by the gear.

Sea turtle.

For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have charted the seven seas. But over just a few short decades, these ancient and resilient creatures have succumbed to human activities, and their numbers are now plunging.

Environmental stressors are battering an ecosystem that was once thought to be unsinkable—the ocean. Earthjustice is working to reverse course on an impending environmental catastrophe.
Fish of Earthjustice
Fish of Earthjustice. (Carl Dennis Buell). Spotlight Delta Smelt to Bluefin Tuna » Read Feature

Driven towards extinction by humankind, these fish are fortunate in one regard: they have Earthjustice on their side. Meet just a few of the fish species Earthjustice litigation has worked to protect.

» Protecting Groundfish in New England » Menhaden: Big Day For Little Fish » Forage Fish: Energy Bars of the Sea » Saving the Menhaden » Victories For East Coast Forage Fish » Trip's Column: Why the Cod is Sacred » Protecting Endangered Caribbean Corals from Overfishing » 'Frankenfish': Genetically Engineered Salmon » Delta Smelt Get Life From Supreme Court » Elwha Dam Removal Brings Hope To Northwest Salmon » Salmon Return to Columbia-Snake » Bluefin Tuna: A Vanishing Act » Chub has Friends in High Places » Dam Falls on Rogue River » Salmon Protection in the Northwest » Industrial Fishing and Herring » Blog Posts: Forage fish » Blog Posts: Salmon » Blog Posts: Delta smelt » Blog Posts: National Marine Fisheries Service
Rio+20 Earth Summit
June 20–22, 2012
Wrap-up Protection Of Oceans A Bright Spot At Rio+20 » Read Blog Post

June 22, 2012 : Acid-saturated seas get international attention.

» June 18: Oceans Protection a Top Priority at Rio+20 » June 16: Acidification Threatens Oceans' Food Web » May 18: Join us in Rio, President Obama » All Rio+20 Blog Posts
Ocean Pollution
Spotlight Going Overboard: The Environmental Baggage of Cruise Ships » Read Feature
» Down to Earth: Gershon Cohen

Cruise ships dump nearly 148 million gallons of wastewater, laced with partially treated sewage, heavy metals and toxic chemicals like fire retardants, into Alaska's pristine waters each year.

» Q&A with Jan Hasselman: Slamming the Brakes on Stormwater Pollution » Navy Ship Sinking Pollutes Sea with Toxic PCBs » EPA Moves to Reduce Ship Pollution » The Dugongs vs. The Department of Defense » Global Shipping and the Cruise Industry » Blog Posts: Oceans