Aquatic Animal Law Project

Project Leadership

Kathy Hessler

About the Project


Aquatic animals (including amphibians, finfish, marine mammals, crustaceans, reptiles, molluscs, aquatic birds, aquatic insects, and even animals such as starfish and corals) are too often left out of the legal and regulatory frameworks that provide some protection for other non-human animals. Too little is understood about the welfare, environment, and health of aquatic animals, as well as safety issues associated with aquatic animal use and production. Likewise, too little of the evolving scientific data related to aquatic animals is available to the public and policymakers. When making decisions affecting their lives, it is important to consider the critical role of aquatic animals within ecosystems, as well as their individual capacities and biological needs.

Given the widespread use of aquatic animals for human goals, it is also important to consider questions raised by that usage: housing, feeding, medical care, transportation, slaughter, processing, breeding, testing, and exhibition. Until recently, there has been no entity dedicated to the legal analysis of these issues. In 2016, Kathy Hessler created the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI) at Lewis & Clark in her Animal Law Clinic to consider the legal, as well as scientific and economic, contours of issues resulting from the use of aquatic animals. It was the first entity to broadly look at the legal issues facing all aquatic animals.

In 2022, Kathy Hessler moved to the George Washington University Law School and brought her aquatic work with her, now under the title - Aquatic Animal Law Project. This work is part of ALEI at GW Law.

The Aquatic Animal Law Project works to protect and promote the interests of aquatic animals by:

  • Advocating on their behalf through the legal system;
  • Promoting their value to the public by providing education about their cognitive, emotional, and physiological capacities; and
  • Harmonizing human, animal, and environmental interests.

Aquatic Animals: Law, Science, and Policy

A textbook co-authored by Dean Hessler, Amy P. Wilson, Kelly Levenda, Becky Jenkins, and Sonia Waisman. Publication forthcoming 2025. Please stay tuned!

World Aquatic Animal Day (WAAD)

Amy P. Wilson

Amy P. Wilson


Amy P. Wilson is an LLD Candidate, Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa (UJ). Amy is a licensed attorney with over 12 years of professional legal experience and holds an LLM in Animal Law (Hons) from Lewis & Clark Law School, and BCom Law and LLB Degrees from University of Johannesburg. Amy is the founder, director and former executive director of the first dedicated animal law non-profit in her country, Animal Law Reform South Africa. She is a Senior Adjunct Lecturer with the University of the Western Cape and has held academic positions in the USA at Lewis & Clark Law School as the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative Fellow and at UCLA School of Law as the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy Fellow. Amy is currently co-editing and contributing to the first Animal Law book in South Africa and co-authoring a book on Aquatic Animal Law, Policy and Science. Amy has written several articles and book chapters on animal law and the intersection of rights of humans, animals and nature and her research explores creative approaches to the attainment of an inclusive system of justice. Amy is an independent expert with the United Nations in Harmony with Nature Programme and founding Steering Committee Member of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature African Hub and she has leadership roles with several African based animal NGOs.

About WAAD

World Aquatic Animal Day was Amy P. Wilson's idea and was co-created by Amy P. Wilson and Kathy Hessler in 2019 as a part of their work for the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative at Lewis & Clark Law School. World Aquatic Animal Day is a day of international recognition led by programming designed to help people understand who these animals are, how they are used, what their capacities are, how they suffer, and how the law fails to protect them.

The first World Aquatic Animal Day (also known as WAAD) was launched in 2020. For information and resources from WAAD visit past event webpages from 2020, 2021, and 2022.

For information on World Aquatic Animal Day 2023, visit the GW calendar event page.

WAAD 2024

This year’s Word Aquatic Animal Day is co-sponsored by Farm Sanctuary with its work being managed by Miranda Eisen and by the GW Law SALDF chapter.

Miranda Eisen

Miranda Eisen

As Farm Sanctuary’s Outreach & State Policy Specialist, Miranda Eisen advocates for compassionate, sustainable, and just food system transformation that benefits animals, people, and the planet. Before joining Farm Sanctuary, Miranda graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School and became a member of the Oregon State Bar. She also served the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Animal Law Studies, Animal Equality, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Rise for Animals, and Mercy for Animals in a variety of advocacy-based roles.

For more information, contact Assistant Dean Kathy Hessler.

Past Events

For a playlist of our past events, check out our YouTube Channel!

Aquatic Animal Law Project | GW Law Animal Law Program