The National Sea Grant Law Center

Our Work

Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Healthy coastal ecosystems are the foundation for life along the coast. However, increasingly rapid coastal development, global overfishing, and other human activities are leading to water quality degradation, decline of fisheries, wetlands loss, proliferation of invasive species, and a host of other challenges that need to be understood in order to restore and maintain these ecosystems. Ecosystem functioning does not respect traditional political boundaries, and responsible management of ecosystems requires new kinds of thinking and actions. Sea Grant is a leader in regional approaches to understanding and maintaining healthy ecosystems, with planning efforts underway across the country to identify information gaps, set research priorities, and coordinate information and technology transfer to those who need it. The National Sea Grant Law Center supports Sea Grant’s efforts by providing legal research, outreach, and education on ecosystem management, water quality, wetlands, and invasive species issues.

Priority Issue: Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic invasive species pose a significant environmental and economic threat to the ecosystems around the country. The National Sea Grant Law Center supports federal and state efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by providing technical assistance and conducting legal research and outreach to inform policy discussions.

Access to Land: In general, state agencies and their agents must obtain landowner consent before undertaking eradication or control efforts for aquatic invasive species on private land or waters. In the vast majority of cases, landowners are supportive of control effort and willing to grant consent. However, agencies sometimes need to gain access to private land without consent. The legal authorities available for state agencies to gain access to private land for AIS eradication and control without landowner consent vary by state and level of procedure required. In 2014, the National Sea Grant Law Center, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the Environmental Law Institute received funding from the Mid-Atlantic Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species to (1) improve regional understanding of the strategies available to access private land for eradication and control of aquatic nuisance species; and (2) lay the foundation for the collaborative development of guidance for implementation. The Final Project Technical Report, which contains an inventory and analysis of relevant state laws, can be downloaded here: [link to Accessing Private Land Report].

Trailered Watercraft: One of the primary pathways for the spread of aquatic invasive species is the movement of trailered watercraft. Legal barriers and inconsistencies in approaches across jurisdictions, however, limit enforcement of existing state and federal laws. Since 2012, the National Sea Grant Law Center has been an active participant in the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species’ “Building Consensus” initiative, providing legal research support and leading efforts to develop model legislation and regulations for state watercraft inspection and decontamination programs. For more information about this work, please visit our project page at:

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