Law of the sea

July 22, 2022


By Sue Hofmann

Kristine Dalaker’s career as a lawyer, author, and research fellow is as vast and protean as the oceans she protects. But that wasn’t always the plan.

Dalaker, W’92 and L’97, started on a traditional path, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science and then heading to law school, where she threw herself into the work. “Law review, moot court, you name it,” she said.

She briefly practiced business law in Richmond, but the first wave of professional change soon crashed. “My partner at the time asked me to move to Japan — so I did,” she said with a laugh. She took a role as a legal assistant in Tokyo and then moved to Singapore to work for the international law firm White & Case. Later she lived in China and then Belgium, eventually ending up back in Singapore.

Soon after, she met Robert Beckman, founding director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore, who hired her as associate director. There, she met Satya Nandan, a prominent Fijian diplomat who had overseen the drafting of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. He entrusted her to co-author his book, Reflections on the Making of the Modern Law of the Sea, an exercise she calls “a wonderful gift.”

In 2017, Dalaker entered a doctoral program at the Norwegian Centre for the Law of the Sea in Tromsø, Norway — where she coincidentally has family. In April, she defended her dissertation. In the photo above, taken at the doctoral-defense celebration, she’s wearing a traditional Norwegian dress, called a bunad, as well as a brooch that belonged to her Norwegian great-grandmother.

Currently, she’s working to encourage the U.N. to ratify a treaty on marine biodiversity. She also plans to continue to address issues such as marine pollution, overfishing, the expansion of global maritime trade, deep seabed mining, ocean warming, and ocean acidification, especially in the Arctic region. She points out that the high seas — areas beyond national jurisdiction — cover 64% of the ocean’s surface. “The work we’re doing is incredibly complex and absolutely necessary.”