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Rosemary Rayfuse

Visiting Professor of International Law from University of New South Wales, Australia

Healthy oceans are critical to humankind’s continued existence - blue is beautiful, let’s keep it that way

Professional biography
Research interests
Influence beyond the academy
Inspiring passions and concerns
Most significant publications
Hopes for the Visiting Professor Programme

Professional Biography
Rosemary Rayfuse is a Professor of International Law in the Faculty of Law, UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales). She holds the degrees of LLB from Queen's University, LLM from the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded the Clive Parry Prize for International Law, PhD from the University of Utrecht, and a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Lund University.

Since 2010 she has held an appointment as Conjoint Professor in the Faculty of Law at Lund University, Sweden and she is also an Associated Senior Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Oslo, and an Associated Researcher in the Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law at the University of Utrecht. Prior to joining UNSW she was a Research Fellow at the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law and taught international law at the University of Cambridge. She practiced law in Vancouver, Canada and worked as a law clerk (judges associate) at the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Formerly of the Bar of British Columbia, she is currently on the rolls of the Law Society of England and Wales.

Research interests 
Within the broad area of public international law my main research interests are situated at the confluence of the law of the sea and international environmental law. In particular, my research focuses on: oceans governance, including emerging issues relating to polar oceans and deep seabed mining; high seas fisheries and the role of regional fisheries management organisations in their conservation and management; protection of the marine environment with a particular emphasis on the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction; and climate change and the oceans, focusing on the legal aspects of sea level rise, ocean acidification and marine geoengineering.

Influence beyond the academy
Beyond the academy I am a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, Co-Chair of its Sub-Working Group on High Seas Governance and a member of its Arctic Task Force. I am the Chair’s nominee on the International Law Association’s Committee on Sea Level Rise and International Law and am on the editorial or advisory boards of a number of international law journals. I regularly advise governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations and have held visiting appointments at research and academic institutions around the world.

A former recipient of the UNSW Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, throughout my career I have made significant contributions to teaching and learning, developing and delivering innovative programs and courses in the international and environmental law areas that aim to inspire intellectual interest and ethical commitment to some of the important issues of our times. Since joining UNSW Law in 1994 I have developed the model of the specialist streams within in the LLM program, introduced and developed the international law and environmental law streams and the courses within those streams, created the interdisciplinary Masters of International Law and International Relations, and started the International Law Competitive Moot Program and the Public Interest Internship Program. My commitment to these programs was vividly demonstrated in 2006 when I became the first Australian woman to attempt to ski from the North Pole to Canada, using my North Pole Challenge 2006 to raise money for the Law School's Mooting and Internship programs.

I have held the positions of Director of International Law Programs, Director of the International Law Competitive Moot Program, Co-Director of the International Law and Policy Group and Co-Director of the Climate Change Law and Policy Initiative. I am currently Chair of the Environmental Law Group and Director of Environmental Law Programs. I continue to teach across a range of public international law courses at both the undergraduate and the postgraduate level, including law of the sea and international environmental law, focusing on providing high quality student-centered, context-based and experiential learning. My aim is to develop in students their own vision of how the world is and how they would like it to be, and to provide them with the tools to pursue their vision.

Inspiring passions and concerns 
The oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. They are primary avenues for communication and transport, sources of food and other resources, and providers of critical ecosystem services on which all of humanity depends. However, despite legal advances of the 20th century, including the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the ‘constitution of the oceans’, the oceans are still subject to contestation over who ‘owns’ what and to increasing threats from both traditional and emerging human activities and uses such as shipping, fishing, oil and gas exploration, construction of artificial islands and pipelines, seabed mining, bioprospecting, CO2 sequestration, and marine scientific research that perturbs the marine environment. Developing and implementing equitable, effective, and enforceable international frameworks for the use of the oceans and the conservation and sustainable use of its resources is of importance to both international peace and security and to the continued existence of humans on the Earth. Save the oceans and we save ourselves. What more inspiration could one need?

Most significant publications

My work has been described by others as being ‘at the cutting edge of issues in the law of the sea’ and ‘innovative and forward thinking’. In a traditional sense, my most important work is probably my monograph, Non-Flag State Enforcement in High Seas Fisheries, (Martinus Nijhoff, 2004) which served as a catalyst for developments within international fisheries law aimed at ensuring that flag states take responsibility for the activities of their fishing vessels. In a similar vein my co-edited book International Law in the Era of Climate Change (Edward Elgar 2012, with Shirley Scott) laid bare the implications, now being addressed within the various substantive legal areas, for the entire body of international law of the physical fact of climate change. My edited Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law (Edward Elgar October 2015) sets the agenda for marine environmental law research across it many domains – from shipping to seabed mining – for the foreseeable future. However, in a stunning illustration of the power of the internet, perhaps my most significant and influential publication has been a ‘thought piece’ published online dealing with the legal effects of sea level rise on small island states. My piece, ‘W(h)ither Tuvalu? International Law and Disappearing States’, published in 2009 on the SSRN, sparked global interest in the issue of ‘deterritorialised states’ which continues to be studied by scholars, states and international organisations and has now been taken up by the International Law Association’s Committee on Sea Level Rise and International Law.

Hopes for the Visiting Professor Programme
I look forward to engaging with colleagues, students and the wider community to explore, in both general and fine grained detail, issues relating to the protection and preservation of the marine environment and broader oceans governance. I hope to learn more about the ‘private’ side of ‘maritime law’ to develop a broader, more holistic view of ocean issues, and to inspire research and other efforts towards ensuring the environmentally sustainable use of the oceans. I also hope to improve my Swedish. 


Would you like to meet Rosemary and/or have an idea for future cooperation?

Send an email to her contactperson at the School: Lars-Göran Malmberg

Or visit her home university website!

Focus areas:

  • Public international law
  • Global oceans governance
  • International fisheries law
  • Protection of the marine environment
  • Climate change & the oceans

The VPP Brochure

Page Manager: Karin Jansson|Last update: 2/26/2016

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