NRDC’s Oceans program fights to restore marine vitality by working to end overfishing, protect important marine areas, improve oceans governance, and combat emerging threats like ocean acidification. By focusing on these solutions, we can achieve the greatest benefits for our oceans, which generate half of the planet’s oxygen; support more than an estimated 50 percent to 80 percent of the earth’s life; provide sustenance for billions around the globe; and sustain important jobs and recreation.

For decades, our lawyers, scientists, and policy advocates have been instrumental in the fight to protect our oceans. We’ve strengthened the nation’s fishery law to help rebuild many of our country’s severely depleted ocean fisheries, thereby creating jobs, bringing back local seafood, supporting coastal economies, and repairing damaged marine ecosystems. Through tireless advocacy, we’ve protected countless whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals from the devastating impacts of sonar and explosives used by the U.S. Navy and deafening seismic air guns used to search for oil and gas off America’s shores. We’ve protected fragile deep sea corals in dozens of canyons and more than 38,000 square miles of ocean waters off the Mid-Atlantic from harmful bottom trawling.

We’ve used groundbreaking science to identify coastal communities in the United States under threat from ocean acidification, which stands to wreck the web of life in the sea. We’ve been leaders in establishing marine protected areas in the States, including the first network of marine protected areas off the Lower 48, in California’s coastal waters.

Internationally, we’ve been leaders in promoting the creation of a treaty to preserve biodiversity on the high seas, an area beyond any one nation’s jurisdiction—and akin to the Wild West in terms of effective governance.

We use policies like the Endangered Species Act to preserve important ocean habitat and the animals they contain. We helped craft and now promote implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which coordinates the federal government’s ocean work and is encouraging  states, tribes, and federal partners to work together to ensure healthier oceans and more sustainable use. We fight to protect coastal communities by preventing offshore drilling in the Atlantic, and we work to establish a network of protected areas in the Arctic.


  • Ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted fish populations by promoting conservation-minded approaches to fisheries management, and enforcing and defending laws to stop destructive fishing practices
  • Protecting important marine habitat and securing protections for vulnerable marine species
  • Monitoring and researching areas vulnerable to ocean acidification and identifying strategies to mitigate and adapt to a changing ocean chemistry
  • Preventing offshore oil and gas drilling in sensitive areas and promoting a network of protected areas throughout the Arctic
  • Promoting the adoption of an international treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas
  • Ensuring effective implementation of the network of marine protected areas in California’s coastal waters


NRDC in Action

Brad Sewell is determined to protect our most endangered marine creatures. Even the ugly ones.

Issue Brief

Offshore oil drilling is dirty and dangerous. Yet the oil industry is dead set on drilling in America’s last pristine ocean in the Arctic and along the Atlantic's cherished beaches.


How NRDC helped form an unlikely alliance to help protect 38,000 square miles of unique habitat in the Atlantic.


After years of work by NRDC and its partners, about 5,000 square miles of ocean—with massive canyons, majestic underwater mountains, and more than 1,000 species—have received permanent protection.

Drawing Out the Science

Imagine dynamite going off in your neighborhood every 10 seconds. Now imagine you can’t leave. That’s how marine life experience offshore oil and gas exploration.