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Lisa Speer, Director of the International Oceans Program, New York

Lisa Speer

I direct the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental organization dedicated to protecting natural resources and public health with offices in the United States and China.

My work currently focuses on conservation and management of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, and area known as the “high seas.” Comprising two thirds of the world’s oceans and 45% of the planet’s surface, this global commons faces an increasing array of poorly controlled human activities. I conduct advocacy in a variety of international fora to promote integrated, ecosystem based management of human activities on the high seas, with a particular focus on marine fisheries. I have served on US delegations to many high seas fisheries negotiations, and have testified before Congress and the United Nations on a variety of high seas management topics.

My other major focus is advocating for ecosystem based management in the marine Arctic. I served on Arctic TRANSFORM, an EU-sponsored forum to develop policy options for the marine Arctic from 2008 to 2009. I co-chair the working team responsible for preparing recommendations on marine management and governance for consideration by the Aspen Institute’s international Commission on Climate Change and the Arctic.

I served on the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology from 2001-2007. I have also served on NAS Committees on the Arctic and on marine environmental monitoring. I received her Master’s degree from Yale University and my bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College.

Recent Posts

High Seas

Posted June 15, 2015 by Lisa Speer

As we wind up Oceans Week, I have a new appreciation of all there is to worry about. Dead zones, depleted fish stocks, warming and acidification, plastic waste, and noise, nutrient and chemical pollution all loom large over the world's...continued

Arctic update for Ocean Week

Posted June 9, 2015 by Lisa Speer

As we celebrate our ocean this week, it is hard not to focus on the bad news. Spreading dead zones, tanking fish stocks, rising acidification, and surging tides of plastic waste, noise pollution, sewage, chemicals and oil spills. There is...continued

A Major Step Forward for the High Seas

Posted February 18, 2015 by Lisa Speer

As many oceans folks know, countries assembled at UN Headquarters in New York last month to decide whether to develop a new international instrument for the conservation and management of marine biological diversity in areas of the ocean beyond national...continued

On the Brink of Ocean Extinctions, A UN Agreement Is Needed to Protect High Seas Health

Posted January 16, 2015 by Lisa Speer

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We could be on the verge of a breakthrough for protection of our oceans. Or on the brink of ocean collapse. A front page story in today's New York Times, "Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction," reports on a major study,...continued

A Triple Whammy for the Arctic Ocean

Posted May 6, 2013 by Lisa Speer

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably aware that the Arctic is melting rapidly as the result of CO2 related global warming, and that spells trouble for polar bears, walrus, ice-seals and other ice dependent creatures.  On...continued

Record Melt of Sea Ice Leaves Arctic Vulnerable to Rapid Development

Posted August 29, 2012 by Lisa Speer

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Sea ice in the Arctic thawed to a record low this past weekend, with even further declines expected in coming weeks  As scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center confirmed, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic...continued

James Cameron's Record Dive Exposes Need for Global Protection of the High Seas

Posted March 26, 2012 by Lisa Speer

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Yesterday, filmmaker James Cameron became the first solo explorer to reach the ocean’s deepest point, traveling nearly seven miles down through some of the darkest, most mysterious waters on Earth. Cameron’s successful venture to the bottom of the Mariana Trench...continued

Four Steps to Protect the Arctic, Our Final Ocean Frontier

Posted March 7, 2012 by Lisa Speer

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As summer sea ice disappears, Big Oil, commercial fishing, shipping and other industries have set their sights on the Arctic as a new source for profits.  So far, mismanagement of virtually every other ocean on the planet has led us...continued

Rio+20: oceans and the "zero draft"

Posted January 10, 2012 by Lisa Speer

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I’ve been reviewing  the oceans portion of what is called in UN-speak the “zero draft” of the Rio+20 intergovernmental outcome. This is the document governments will be negotiating over the next several months leading up to the Rio + 20...continued

Common Sense Rethink for the Oceans

Posted July 6, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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“Not only are we already experiencing severe declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (eg mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we now face...continued

The Global Problem of Ocean Acidification

Posted June 7, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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One year from now, nations from around the world will convene to discuss the future of our planet at the Earth Summit 2012.  As NRDC’s President Frances Beinecke says so well, this global meeting must be one of action, and...continued

Arctic Meeting Ends with Mixed Results

Posted May 12, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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The meeting of foreign ministers from eight Arctic nations in Greenland has concluded, and the result is a very mixed bag. On the plus side, the Ministers went a long way toward strengthening the Arctic Council, and establishing it as...continued

Sec. Clinton goes to the Arctic: Must lead international community in protecting melting frontier

Posted May 9, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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Last week Science reported that the observed effects of climate change in the Arctic are much more extensive and rapid than scientists predicted, adding a heightened urgency to a major meeting of Arctic Foreign Ministers, including Secretary of State Hillary...continued

On Thin Ice: Report identifies 13 vulnerable Arctic places as ice melts, industry moves in

Posted April 27, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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Off the shores of St. Lawrence Island in the frigid Bering Sea, Pacific walruses use their sensitive whiskers to find food: shrimp, crabs, soft corals, and mollusks that thrive in Arctic currents. They use their long tusks to “haul out”...continued

New International Treaty Targets Destructive Bottom Trawl Fishing in the Pacific

Posted March 7, 2011 by Lisa Speer

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Bottom trawling is hands-down the worst of all possible fishing practices. Weighted nets up to 200 feet long and 40 feet wide are dragged indiscriminately along the ocean floor, laying waste to everything in its path, regardless of whether it's...continued


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