The mission of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law is to conduct high quality research, teaching and consultancy work in the fields of marine and environmental law, and to produce publications and outputs of international excellence.

The Institute was founded in 1983 as the Institute of Marine Law, at the time when South Africa signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. During the 1990s environmental law became an increasing component of the Institute’s work, and in 1999 it was re-named the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law to reflect this. It is currently housed within the Department of Public Law (Faculty of Law) at the University of Cape Town. It is the oldest and largest dedicated grouping of marine and environmental law scholars in Africa.

The Institute has three full-time academic staff members. They are Dr Denning Metuge, Associate Professor Melanie Murcott and Professor Alexander Paterson. Mrs Olivia Rumble joined the Institute as an adjunct senior lecturer in July 2020 having lectured part-time in the Institute from 2018-2019. Professor Jan Glazewski and Professor Derry Devine continue to be members of the Institute as Emeritus Professors. The staff of the Institute undertake research and consultancy projects, individually and in partnership, in the fields of international, regional and domestic marine and environmental law. The Institute also collaborates in research and teaching with other faculties and departments at the University of Cape Town that specialise in marine and environmental subjects.

The Institute teaches postgraduate courses for the specialist LLM, MPhil, LLM Professional and Postgraduate Diploma qualifications in marine law and environmental law. It also offers environmental law courses in the undergraduate LLB programme and inter-disciplinary courses in environmental law and marine law for postgraduate students from the science departments.