From Marine Policy to Law: A case for coastal zone decision-making with community participation by right

Mrs Lisa Uffman-Kirsch1

1University Of Tasmania-Faculty of Law and Centre For Marine Socioecology, North Royalton, United States


The marine environment is a public resource with shared, common-pool ‘ownership’.  It offers no legal grant of private property ownership rights, and various governing bodies within diverse legal regimes control property use rights on behalf of the public.  Activities affecting the marine environment can spark controversies because of conflicting priorities and perceived threats to important public values. Conflicts often arise between private stakeholders with pecuniary interests in the marine environment or its resources and public stakeholders with conservation, cultural or non-commercial recreational-based interests.

For effective decision-making and governance in this highly-valued environment, especially when faced with competing interests, legislators and administrators could benefit from mechanisms to help them uncover, understand and proactively engage with the public values at play in any given controversy.

Offered is an overview of legal provisions in various jurisdictions that arguably provide basis for a government obligation of meaningful project-affected community participation in licensing consideration for proposed coastal zone activities. The Free, Prior and Informed Consent concept is given consideration as a stakeholder participation framework worthy of marine policy and legislative advancement. It receives focus as a component of best-practice licensing procedures that support creation of value-influenced relationships, like social license. Interactive discussion is included on elements to consider when defining the scope of project-affected communities.


Lisa is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania’s Faculty of Law and holds affiliation with the Centre for Marine Socioecology. Her research focuses on inter-disciplinary consideration of community participation in marine activity approval processes and the relationship to social license. Lisa is an attorney in the United States, and a member of the District of Columbia bar. She earned her juris doctor from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law (USA), and her master of laws in public international law from Utrecht Universiteit (Netherlands). Her prior work has included roles in multi-district litigation discovery, private sector public and investor relations, international boundary water projects through the U.S. Department of State, entrepreneurial experience in human resource assessment and development, community service and citizen organizing in municipal land-use and master planning, and government service as an elected local legislator.