Because aquatic animals are often excluded from the legal and regulatory frameworks that provide some protection for other non-human animals, the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, part of the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), launched its Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI) in 2017. As a way to help to protect and promote the interests of aquatic animals, they have set April 3 as the first-annual World Aquatic Animal Day.

“At the Center for Animal Law Studies, we are educating attorneys to advance protection for all animals,” says Pamela Hart, executive director of CALS. “Many of our law students are passionate about helping aquatic animals. World Aquatic Animal Day gives students an opportunity to raise awareness about the global threats aquatic animals face, along with ways in which each of us can make a meaningful difference.”

The day will both celebrate and help the public understand more about these often-forgotten non-human animals who live in or near water—in other words, not only such animals as fishes, octopuses, corals, whales, and dolphins, but also polar bears, penguins, amphibians, and sea birds. “Sometimes these animals are not even categorized as animals,” says Kathy Hessler, clinical professor of law at Lewis & Clark. “That’s part of the work of AALI—to let people know where these gaps are.”

“The idea is to educate people,” says AALI Fellow Amy Wilson. “Who do we mean when we say ‘aquatic animals’—who’s included in this category? What are the threats that they face? What does the law say? What are different ways that people can protect them?” Adds Professor Hessler: “We want people to take a beat—take a minute—to think about these animals and then maybe choose whatever advocacy is comfortable for them.”

Among the actions you can take:

Educate: Help others understand the threats aquatic animals face. (Click here for more information.)

Recycle, Reduce, and Clean-up: Collect and recycle plastics. Reduce your use of plastics or products containing microbeads.

Get Active: Sign or start a petition supporting a ban on single-use plastics (such as this one or this one) or other practices that threaten aquatic animals.

Get the Word Out: Write a blog post or letter to the editor of your local paper about issues facing aquatic animals.

Use the Law: Identify issues in your jurisdiction that negatively impact aquatic animals; work to effect positive change through legislative initiatives, lawsuits, and agency guidelines.

For the complete list of AALI suggestions, and more information about World Aquatic Animal Day, click here. (Note: These suggestions were compiled before the coronavirus crisis hit the United States. Please stay safe in your activism and observe social distancing guidelines.)