Why the Pirate Flag is the Only One Worth Flying Direct-action and the enforcement of international marine wildlife conservation laws
The subject of international law is fraught with debate over its legitimacy and efficacy. If laws without enforcement are merely good advice, then how can the environment be meaningfully protected by international legal institutions? This thesis will examine the role that non-governmental organisations can play in enforcing international environmental laws. Specifically, the history and efficacy of international marine wildlife conservation laws, and the role of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in enforcing them, will be explored. In order to do so, this thesis discusses the evolution of international conservation law, through which the failures on the part of nation-states and legal institutions to comply with and enforce them will be explored. Exploring the gap between law and enforcement provides a basis for the discussion of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s efficacy as a marine conservation organisation, and legitimacy as an actor in international law. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society upholds important international marine wildlife conservation laws using both non-violent direct-action tactics, and recently, direct-intervention approaches in cooperation with governments. The organisation undertakes such actions in order to fill gaps in enforcement where nation-states lack the means, political will, or jurisdiction to institutionalise conservation. By examining three such instances where the group has effectively enforced international conservation laws, it is shown that while the goal of marine wildlife conservation is not being met by state actors, it can be by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Because nation-states have not proved themselves to be viable environmental actors, there is a necessary place for non-governmental organisations like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the international legal realm. This discussion thereby serves to demonstrate that the actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ensure the protection of marine wildlife, and in doing so, strengthen and confer legitimacy to international law.