This paper examines the international and U.S. legal frameworks that apply to ocean alkalinity enhancement and seaweed cultivation.
At the international level, the most directly applicable instruments are the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (“London Convention”), and the Protocol to that Convention (“London Protocol”). Both instruments regulate the dumping of materials into ocean waters and could apply to ocean alkalinity enhancement projects involving the discharge of alkaline rocks. As well as the London Convention and Protocol, various other international and regional instruments could also apply to ocean alkalinity enhancement and seaweed cultivation projects, depending on exactly how and where they occur. Examples include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, the Basel Convention, and European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Potentially applicable U.S. laws include the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Water Act, and state environmental assessment and aquaculture permitting laws. According to the paper, the application of these laws will depend on, among other factors, the offshore location of the project, the materials and technology used, and whether the project makes use of the sea floor. Several of the laws establish permitting requirements, which projects would have to meet. Others require projects to undergo environmental and other reviews. Notably, however, none expressly prohibit ocean alkalinity enhancement or seaweed cultivation.