Martin Tsamenyi 2021


Born in Ghana, internationally respected academic lawyer and expert, Professor Martin Tsamenyi holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ghana (1979), a Master of International Law from the Australian National University, (1980) and a PhD from the same university (1983)

At the core of his life’s work is the relationship between humankind and the sea, focussing on the need for carefully balancing environmental protection, economic prosperity, maritime security and healthy lives and food security, sustained by fisheries resources.

He was the founding Director of the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) - the largest ocean law and policy research institute in the world - and is currently an Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

His global career began as a lecturer in Papua New Guinea, whereafter he moved to the University of Tasmania serving as Dean of Law before becoming Professor of Law at the University of Wollongong in Australia in 1993. Not only has he taught and supervised countless graduate students over the years, but his research and expert advice have had an impact across Asia and the South Pacific. As the key legal adviser to both the Forum Fisheries Agency of the South Pacific and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Prof Tsamenyi is the most sought-after legal expert on fisheries matters in that region of the world.

His reputation also expands beyond the Asia-Pacific, having been elected to Chair the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas as it seeks to adopt a more sustainable course. In addition, he chaired several   expert consultations for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and was invited to the Advisory Group of Experts to draft the UN Secretary General’s “Oceans Compact” for the Rio+20 Conference (the United Nations’ Conference on Sustainable Development) in 2012

Professor Tsamenyi’s transition into retirement in 2014 coincided with the long-overdue awakening of maritime awareness on the African continent. This created an opportunity for him to give back to his home country and continent, acting as an adviser and Counsel to the Republic of Ghana on maritime boundary matters in its dispute with the Republic of Argentina and the Ivory Coast in their disputes before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.  

Professor Tsamenyi is also very active in the marine industry. In 2019 he was appointed a Board member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), based in Washington DC, USA. 

Subsequently, Professor Tsamenyi has continued his involvement on the continent, recently visiting the newly established World Bank-funded Africa Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. His mandate is to assist in outlining critically important strategies to successfully implement this project and guide its work on a path of sustainability, devise strategies to attract more financial and technical resources, expand its operations, acquire and improve upon research and assist to develop competent human resource capacity.

He has an impressive publication record which includes seven books as well as many book chapters, over 100 refereed journal articles, conference papers and presentations. He has also enjoyed tremendous success with the Australian Research Council and numerous other research grant schemes within Australia and overseas.

For his intellectual contribution to marine affairs, research and education, the University of Wollongong, Australia, bestowed on Professor Tsamenyi an Emeritus Professor title in 2017.

Prof Tsamenyi’s relationship with Nelson Mandela University spans almost a decade. He has made a major contribution to the success of the Africa-wide initiatives of the SARChI Chair in the Law of the Sea and Development in Africa. He has also co-edited the Journal of Ocean Governance in Africa since 2015, was a co-editor of The Law of the Sea – The African Union and its Members States along with our own Professor Patrick Vrancken and he is the editor of one of the six volumes of Prof Vrancken’s: “The Law of the Sea: Contemporary Norms and Practice in Africa”.

Prof Tsamenyi was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012, specifically “for service to maritime and fisheries law in the Asia-Pacific region… and to legal education.” His influence on marine policy and affairs will be an enduring legacy, not only through his own contributions but through the work of those he has taught, mentored, and inspired.

For his advocacy of human rights – particularly environmental rights protection linked to human dignity and life through access to food security and sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela University to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Martin Tsamenyi.