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James Barnes


Jim is a leading global expert on environmental treaties and Antarctic protection. He founded the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) in 1978 to provide a unified voice to the governments that control the Antarctic Treaty and to inform the public about what was happening behind closed doors. He was ASOC’s General Counsel for many years and served as Executive Director from 2006 to 2015. Today he is Board Chair of ASOC. Jim received his BA from Northwestern University in 1966 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan in 1970. As a public-interest lawyer at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) he was on the litigation team opposing construction of the Alaska Pipeline in 1971-72, which resulted in a Supreme Court decision stopping it in 1973. Although that court victory was overturned by the US Senate, the pipeline was much safer as a result of the litigation. Jim worked at CLASP on international environmental issues until 1982, serving as Co-Director in 1981-82.

In the late 1970s he was a member of US State Department delegations at meetings of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties, including negotiation of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Working with IUCN’s Director General Lee Talbot and scientists from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, UK and US he helped develop the ‘ecosystem-as-a-whole’ conservation principle that underpins CCAMLR. In the 1980s he helped lead ASOC and its member organizations Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth campaign against opening the region to minerals development and in favor of a World Park. That campaign was successful, and in 1991 the Protocol on Environmental Protection was agreed, which bans all mining and oil drilling indefinitely while creating the framework for managing activities in Antarctica responsibly. ASOC has been an official Observer at Antarctic meetings for many years representing the global environmental community.

In 1984-85 Jim was Greenpeace International’s UN representative, leading the successful effort to begin holding annual debates in the General Assembly on the ‘Question of Antarctica’. From 1986-1994 he was director of international programs at Friends of the Earth in Washington, DC. From 1994-2004 he helped establish the Central and Eastern European Bankwatch Network (BWN) in Prague, which today is the largest environmental NGO network in that region. Today, Jim serves BWN as a member of its Review Committee.

During the past twenty years ASOC has promoted creation of a network of large Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean. The world’s largest MPA was established in the Ross Sea in 2016 and others are pending for East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and Peninsula. Since CCAMLR was agreed in 1982, ASOC has campaigned to protect krill, the base of the Antarctic marine food web, an ongoing effort given increased fishing by several nations, and for science-based regulation of the fishery for toothfish, which plays the role of shark in the Southern Ocean. ASOC also is an instigator of the Polar Shipping Code being negotiated at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and led the successful effort to ban use of heavy fuel oil in the Antarctic. Through his work Jim provides knowledge and leadership on actions to protect the Global Ocean, with a particular focus on Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.