LLB (Queen's); LLM (Cambridge); PhD (Utrecht); LLD (h.c.) (Lund); FASSA

Law and Legal Studies

The oceans cover seventy percent of the earth’s surface and serve as a major highway for international communications as well as a major source of living and non-living resources and the ecosystem services essential to human survival. But the oceans are under threat from an ever-increasing range of human activities including over-fishing and destructive fishing practices, ship-source and land-based pollution, noise pollution, and seabed activities such as oil and gas exploration and seabed mining. The effects of climate change and associated ocean acidification further complicate the picture. The design and implementation of effective regulatory regimes for the management of human activities that perturb the marine environment has become a pressing necessity. In the international context, this requires the continued normative development of public international law and its enforceability, particularly in relation to the law of the sea, oceans governance, the protection of the marine environment and their interface with international environmental law.

One significant difficulty, particularly in the fisheries context, has always been the rule by which only the flag state of a vessel can take enforcement action against it. While this was modified in the 1980s for waters under national jurisdiction where the coastal state has enforcement rights, in the global commons of the high seas its application has given rise to a virtual free-for-all in the high seas fishing context. My pioneering analyses of emerging exceptions to flag state jurisdiction in situations where a flag state is either unwilling or unable to enforce internationally agreed conservation and management measures served as a catalyst for a number of legal developments at the international level which now provide avenues for non-flag state enforcement.

In the climate change context, my work on the international legal aspects of sea level rise has spawned an entirely new global research agenda on the legal implications of disappearing and ‘deterritorialised’ states the results of which will be critically important to low-lying and small island states. Increasing access to polar areas has opened new areas of need for regulation of fishing, shipping and other activities. Emerging proposals for ocean-based climate change mitigation activities aimed at increasing the oceans’ capacity as a carbon sink, including ocean fertilisation, have similarly signalled the need for increased international regulatory attention in order to ensure the protection and the preservation of the marine environment in the interests of humankind as a whole. My work on regimes for the conservation and management of fish and the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, particularly in polar areas, and my work on climate change and the oceans, particularly in relation to the regulation of marine geoengineering, has been influential in the international arena, being relied on by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations participating in major international negotiations. My current research on the impact of climate change on international fisheries examines the extent to which climate change considerations are (re)shaping the needs of international fisheries management and will provide guidance for the future reshaping of international fisheries regimes.

  • Scientia Professor of International Law, Faculty of Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney (The University of New South Wales), Sydney, Australia (1994-2020)
  • Swedish Research Council’s Kerstin Hesselgren Visiting Professor, Lund University (2017-18)
  • Visiting Professor, University of Gothenburg (2014-2017)
  • Conjoint Professor, Lund University (2010-2019)
  • Associated Senior Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, University of Oslo (2014-2018)
  • Associated Researcher, Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, University of Utrecht (2014-)

Swedish Research Council Kerstin Hesselgren Visiting Professorship (2017-8),

UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1997),

Cambridge University, Clive Parry Prize for International Law (1991)


International Law Association and its Committee on Sea Level Rise and International Law

Australia New Zealand Society for International Law

European Society of International Law

  1. Rayfuse, R, ‘Climate Change and Antarctic Fisheries: Ecosystem Management in CCAMLR’ (2018) 45 Ecology Law Quarterly 53
  2. Bogojevic, S and Rayfuse R (eds), (2018) Environmental Rights in Europe and Beyond (Hart Publishing)
  3. Rayfuse, R, ‘Regulating Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean: Much ado about nothing?’, in N Vestergaard, B Kaiser, L Fernandez and JN Larsen (eds) Arctic Resource Governance and Development 35-51 (Springer, 2018)
  4. Rayfuse, R (ed) Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law (Edward Elgar 2015)
  5. Rayfuse, ‘Precaution and Climate Change: What Role for the Precautionary Principle in Addressing Global Warming’ in A Proelss (ed) Protecting the Environment for Future Generations 61-78 (Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2017)