• What is "ECOCIDE"
  • Definition of Ecocide Law
  • The Challenge
  • The benefits of an Ecocide Law
  • Nature’s Rights & Ecocide Law for the Ocean

What is "ECOCIDE"

“ECOCIDE” is a word to describe what is happening to our planet; the mass damage and destruction of the natural living world.  It literally means “killing one’s home”.

And right now, in most of the world, no-one is held responsible.

It’s time to change the rules.        It’s time to protect our home.

We are working, together with a growing global network of lawyers, diplomats, and across all sectors of civil society, towards making ecocide an international crime.

The ocean is our Mother.

We evolved from her.


  • She provides 50% of the air we breathe and currently is absorbing the energy of human induced heat equivalent to 7 Hiroshima atom bombs per second!

  • At the same time, we discharge 80% of the world’s untreated sewage into the ocean; dump our plastic and chemicals, we pollute, we overfish, we mine.

  • Without the ocean, our global surface temperatures would hit 50 degrees celsius; right now its service is maintaining global surface temperatures at 15 degrees centigrade.

  • We are treating Mother Ocean extraordinarily badly! This is not only affecting us but the future of our children and grandchildren. We are currently bad ancestors.

  • This is not a fringe concept! It is the next common-sense (and overdue) step towards protecting the natural world in which we rely on for our survival as a species.

Definition of Ecocide Law

STOP Ecocide exists to amend the Rome Statute of the International Criminal   (ICC) to include Ecocide, alongside genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as the 5th International Crime. Its wording is:

“Ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.

~ Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide, June 2021

This is why dozens of nations and indigenous leaders have already come out in support of it. And leaders such as Sylvia Earle, Pope Francis, António Guterres and Vanessa Natake have also publicly endorsed it.

The Challenge

Current legal ocean protections are so complicated and convoluted they tend to trip themselves up making it harder to protect marine wildlife and ecosystems than it is to abuse it. That is why we need more protection for the ecosystem itself and those that live in them.

The concept of an Ecocide law, which aims to criminalise acts that cause significant harm to ecosystems and the environment is gaining traction on land.   It has great potential to protect the ocean- which is why we are keen to build an Ocean Network for Ecocide Law

Vanuatu and Pacific Nations, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium Council of Europe and even the Pope have endorsed it.    We are inviting people to endorse the open letter  and bring Ecocide into their conversations about the ocean.  Please join us today.



1.    Sign and share the open letter

2.    Reach out to policy makers you know or people who can influence greater discussion

3.    Ensure you talk about ecocide in all ocean discussions

4.    Send a photo of yourself with a short sentence why having ecocide law as a crime would be beneficial to our ocean.

5.    If you work in policy and are keen to advance this cause within your sphere of influence, reach out to have a private briefing info@gallifrey.foundation

We need an ocean of voices to protect our ocean. Please join the many who have already signed in protecting our ocean

The benefits of an Ecocide Law

Five reasons we need an Ecocide Law for the Ocean.

It can:

  1. HELP CURB the irreversible damage to marine ecosystems caused by harmful human activities, such as over-extraction, pollution, and ocean warming.
  2. IMPOSE PENALTIES on those who cause this damage by providing legal recognition to the harm being inflicted on the ocean and its biodiversity.
  3. ENABLE GOVERNMENTS to send a clear signal to corporations and individuals they must take action to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the ocean.
  4. ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT of long-term sustainable practices and technologies to benefit both the ocean and human society. Since many activities that harm the ocean, such as overfishing and pollution, are driven by a desire for short-term economic gain.
  5. RECOGNISE the fundamental right of marine life to live in a healthy and balanced environment free from harm.

Nature’s Rights & Ecocide Law for the Ocean

Nature’s Rights & Ecocide Law – What are they and what can they do for the ocean?

By Deborah Rowan Wright

Across the world, thousands of people are working to protect the ocean and marine life. They are fishers, scientists, supporters and staff of conservation organisations, lawyers, policy-advisors, and treaty negotiators. They are film-makers, teachers, divers, sailors, patrol boat crews, mangrove re- foresters, beach cleaners, and more. The accumulated impact of their achievements is incalculable. And yet, despite so much effort and enterprise, the evidence shows that the health of the ocean continues to decline.

We have to conclude that as invaluable as they are, current protection strategies aren’t enough to keep the ocean safe from further harm, or enable it to recover from decades of damage and over- exploitation.

The question is, what more can be done?

The answer may be found by taking apart the problem we want to solve and separating the cause from the effect. The ocean’s decline is manifest in polluted and overfished waters, demolished undersea and coastal habitats, large-scale loss of wildlife, and warming and more acidic seas – caused by over-extractive and irresponsible industries, policymakers who ignore scientific advice, and governments which fail to enforce marine protection laws.

But the real driving force behind this global catastrophe is a political and economic culture that consistently prioritises money-making over nature.

The challenge is to change society’s relationship with the natural world – from one of harmful over-exploitation, to one of respect, responsibility, and care. And although that may seem unattainable, change is already on the way. It’s evident in wider public awareness and concern, and in more ambitious conservation programmes at local, national, and international levels. The problem is the change we urgently need is happening too slowly.

To speed things up, a growing number of people are calling for serious destruction of nature to be an international crime – the crime of ecocide.

Crimes against Nature – otherwise known as Ecocide

Four core international crimes were identified under the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). They are crimes of aggression, war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity (which include murder, slavery, torture, and rape). International criminal law enables those who commit the most serious offenses against the global community to be brought to justice and stopped.

For ocean protection, Ecocide law can play a crucial role, because destructive industries are not self-operating entities – they have managers, boards of directors and CEOs who are making the decisions which lead to polluted waters, overfished seas, and trashed habitats. Consequently, recognising ecocide as a crime will mean culpable individuals can be prosecuted and sentenced if found guilty. That will be a powerful deterrent to damaging industries and a pressing incentive to adopt nature-friendly practices instead.

Rights of Nature

Closely linked to the campaign for Ecocide law, the Rights of Nature movement is also pushing for a cultural shift in favour of the natural world. It holds that nature has intrinsic rights to exist and thrive, free from human-caused over-exploitation and ruin. They are granted to protect rivers, forests, wetlands, lakes, and mountains, while obliging citizens to have greater respect for wild places and their wildlife. Rights of Nature are officially recognised in several countries, including Ecuador, Uganda, Mexico, Spain, India, Colombia, Panama, and New Zealand, as they become incorporated into laws and constitutions.

Spreading from mountains and down rivers, the movement has now reached the sea. The campaign to establish a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights is led by a collective of organisations, including The Ocean Race, Ocean Vision Legal, Earth Law Center, and the government of Cabo Verde.

In September 2023, the group presented a document to the UN General Assembly in New York encouraging member States to start a dialogue on Ocean Rights.

“This initiative aims to empower the ocean with a voice in decisions that affect her, laying an ethical foundation for a sustainable future.” Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva.

Formalising ocean rights will give the ocean a metaphorical voice, bolstering its position at the negotiation table and highlighting the importance of having a healthy and vibrant ocean. And, in the same way human rights form the moral foundation for laws to prevent crimes like murder and genocide, a Declaration of Ocean Rights (UDOR) can provide the foundation on which to build Ecocide law to protect the ocean.

Ready to take action? Join the thousands who have already signed our Open Letter and be part of the global movement to secure the legislation we need for the ocean protection we want.

Click here


Deborah Rowan Wright specializes in ocean conservation law and is the author of Future Sea: How to Rescue and Protect the World’s Oceans‘