New at Leuphana: Prof. Dr. Valentin Schatz - "Postcolonial Resource System"

2022-11-28 Who owns the Sea of Azov? How do we avoid overfishing in the world's oceans through targeted regulation? What happens to maritime borders when sea levels rise? The junior professor of public law and European law researches the role of law in sustainable and constitutional ocean governance and advises coastal states of the Global South in this context, among others. He also conducts research on a maritime law conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

[Translate to Englisch:] Valentin Schatz ©Leuphana/Marie Meyer
"Up to 90 percent of the buoys are not collected by the fishing companies," says Valentin Schatz.

Tens of thousands of buoys and rafts equipped with satellite transmitters float on the world's oceans. So-called Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) attract tuna in particular. From a fishing point of view, FADs are very efficient, because industrial fishing vessels only have to encircle the gathered animals with purse seine nets and lift them out of the sea. For the environment, however, such FADs are a big problem: up to 90 percent of juvenile fish are caught in their vicinity, which endangers the reproduction of the stocks. In addition, there is a lot of unwanted bycatch that is not processed as food. In addition, there is massive pollution of the seas: "Up to 90 percent of the buoys are not collected by the fishing companies, as there is no significant economic incentive for this. The rubbish often ends up on the coasts of developing countries," says Prof. Dr. Valentin Schatz, Assistant Professor of Public Law and European Law. The lawyer and expert on European and international maritime law therefore calls for stricter legal regulation: "NGOs are already exerting pressure. Fishing companies must be held accountable, for example through a quantitative limit on FADs per ship as well as the obligation to collect the FADs again and to use biodegradable materials in the construction," explains the lawyer.

Valentin Schatz advises a number of states in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with NGOs: "I am basically available there for all coastal states of the Global South. Through my legal support, for example in the formulation of draft laws, I can help drive the transformation towards more sustainability and distributive justice." The main cause of the environmental problems caused by FADs in the Indian Ocean is the Spanish fleet, for example. "However, the European Union is ultimately legally responsible, as it has exclusive competence for the Common Fisheries Policy. Unfortunately, however, not enough is happening. Mostly economic interests still count," says Valentin Schatz.

Sea-level rise is another problem for coastal states: "What happens if an island partially or even completely disappears?" says the lawyer. In terms of maritime law, there is one problem above all: territory disappears. Maritime zones are measured along a baseline of the coast. If this line shifts, without an adjustment of current law, this could also have consequences for the claims of coastal states to such zones: in an area of up to 200 nautical miles, coastal states have exclusive claims to the resources of the seabed and the water column. The right to fish, to extract fossil fuels and to produce renewable energy is the exclusive right of the coastal state. "Unclear or constantly shifting maritime boundaries lead to legal uncertainty and instability in this regard," warns Valentin Schatz.

One of Valentin Schatz's most widely read articles deals with the legal situation in the Sea of Azov: in 2018, there was a violent clash between the Russian and Ukrainian navies. The Russian coast guard denied three Ukrainian warships passage through the Kerch Strait. The strait is the only link between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. "This incident was a precursor to the current escalation: after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia had control over the Kerch Strait. Ukrainian ships were discriminated against when passing through, for example through long waiting times or arbitrary controls," says Valentin Schatz. Eastern Ukraine in particular was to be economically weakened by more difficult access to important industrial ports like Mariupol.

Until perestroika, the Sea of Azov belonged to the Soviet Union alone. Under international law, the body of water is a bay and, like a river, can be legally assigned to a country. After Ukraine's independence, however, two states suddenly bordered the Sea of Azov. "The Russians claim that the Sea of Azov is now a joint internal body of water of Russia and Ukraine, i.e. a kind of condominium. The Ukrainians are pushing for the application of general maritime law. Legally, the situation is highly complex," says Valentin Schatz. A court case has been going on for years. A decision is expected in 2023. Since the expansion of the war against Ukraine in February this year, however, the Russians have had to manage this process on their own. "The Western law firms and experts have all bailed out and there are hardly any internationally important Russian lawyers in this field," explains Valentin Schatz.

In 2016, Valentin Schatz completed his law studies at the University of Passau with the 1st state examination. In 2021, he received his doctorate in law from the Faculty of Law at the University of Hamburg with a dissertation on "Access to Fisheries within National Jurisdiction" (summa cum laude). He was a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law from December 2016 to February 2017 and at the University of Adelaide, Australia, from April 2017 to March 2018. In 2022, he completed his legal clerkship at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg with the 2nd State Examination. At the same time, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Law at the University of Hamburg. Since September 2022, Valentin Schatz has been Junior Professor of Public Law and European Law with a focus on sustainability at Leuphana.


  • Prof. Dr. Valentin Schatz