Staff/Senior Attorney - Oceans

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is the nation's most effective environmental action organization. We use law, science and the support of 3.1 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. NRDC was founded in 1970 and our staff helped write some of America's bedrock environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, and many of the implementing regulations; our water enforcement cases played a major role shaping current water policy throughout the country. Today, our staff of more than 500 lawyers, scientists, economists, policy and communications experts, and others, work out of offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bozeman, Montana, and Beijing.

Position Summary:

NRDC is seeking an experienced, full-time attorney to advance the work of its Pacific Ocean Initiative, part of the Oceans Division of the Nature Program. This Attorney will focus primarily on promoting sustainable fisheries, opposing destructive fishing practices, both on the West Coast and nationally. There may also be opportunities for work on other oceans issues, such as promoting seafood traceability and fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, through the U.S. or international policy. The Attorney will represent NRDC before agencies and management bodies, in court, and in federal and state legislatures. While the Attorney may have opportunities to litigate in pursuit of Oceans Division goals, this position is primarily a program attorney position, with a focus on advocacy and policy work. The position will be based in NRDC’s San Francisco, CA office and reports to the Director of the Pacific Ocean Initiative. As appropriate, the Attorney may have the opportunity to work on other ocean conservation issues in the Pacific.


  • Play a central role in evaluating, developing, and implementing work as part of NRDC’s Pacific Ocean Initiative, working in close collaboration with Pacific Ocean Initiative Director and NRDC’s Oceans team. This work will likely have a focus on legal and policy strategies to improve fisheries management, but it may also include other issues that are crucial to ocean health and conservation in the Pacific and that advance NRDC’s strategic plan.
  • Advocate with federal and state agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and federal fisheries management councils, for significant opportunities to advance NRDC’s oceans priorities, such as precautionary fisheries management, effective monitoring and accountability in West Coast fisheries, and protection of marine habitat and species.
  • Play a leadership role in developing NRDC’s Pacific fisheries strategy and identifying opportunities for engagement. Advocate for sustainable fishing practices and other priority issues in the U.S. Pacific Ocean in a variety of fora, including state agencies and federal bodies (such as federal fisheries management councils). Lead NRDC’s engagement in California state fisheries management, including identifying significant issues for advocacy and developing and implementing policy and legal strategies.
  • Engage with nationwide federal rulemakings and executive branch actions to oppose harmful rollbacks and press for improved U.S. fisheries management and ocean conservation. As needed, collaborate with NRDC colleagues and other NGOs to defend and improve the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its subsidiary regulations, and provide legal and technical analysis of proposed regulatory and legislative changes, as needed.
  • As relevant, develop and pursue strategic litigation to advance NRDC’s Oceans goals, including improving U.S. fisheries management and seafood markets, with a focus on strategic locations and precedent-setting legal claims.
  • Track legal, policy, scientific, and economic analyses relevant to priority ocean policy issues, and synthesize that information for use in advocacy.
  • Provide legal, policy, and/or fisheries science expertise to the Oceans Program.
  • Develop relationships with agency staff, state officials, conservation groups, scientists, fishermen, and legislative offices to advance NRDC’s Oceans goals on the West Coast and use these relationships to advocate for conservation outcomes on priority issues. Network with managers, conservation advocates, scientists, fishermen, industry, and decision-makers to build support for ocean conservation.
  • Identify and evaluate opportunities for NRDC to advance its Oceans priorities internationally, including areas such as improving fisheries management, advancing ocean conservation and resilience in response to climate change, addressing illegal fishing and improving traceability in seafood markets, and/or combating plastic pollution. Collaborate with Pacific Ocean Initiative Director and Oceans team colleagues to develop and implement these strategies, as relevant.


  • Must have 5 to 10 years of experience in environmental/administrative law, including litigation, preferably in the oceans field.
  • J.D. required.
  • Strong advocacy skills, including negotiation, agency advocacy, and legislative lobbying.
  • Proven ability to develop and implement policy, advocacy and/or legal strategies to advance conservation objectives.
  • Effective communication skills, including excellent public speaking and writing skills.
  • Ability to conduct in-depth and efficient legal and/or policy research and analysis.
  • A high comfort level and facility with science.
  • Some knowledge of U.S. fisheries management and ocean policy preferred. Working knowledge of other major environmental laws and policies a plus.
  • Ability to work well with colleagues and with diverse stakeholders in many different modes (from collaborative to advocacy situations).
  • Must be able to work independently, as well as collaboratively in teams.

NRDC is committed to workplace diversity and inclusion. We are equal opportunity employers and do not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity and expression, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. We offer competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a pleasant working environment. Salary is based on a nonprofit scale and commensurate with experience.

Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, for positions based in San Francisco, CA we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records.

To apply, please visit and upload your resume and cover letter through our online portal.  We would like you to upload any additional papers or project work that you think would showcase your abilities. Please no phone calls, emails, faxes or in-person resume drop-offs. Please reference where you saw this posting. NRDC is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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