Ole VarmerOle Varmer

International Section
Office of the General Counsel
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)

Ole Varmer, who retired in September of 2019, worked as a legal adviser to Commerce/NOAA since 1987. Ole joined the International Section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel in 1998 particularly in the area of natural and cultural heritage. As an attorney-advisor he has worked on a variety of international issues and is primarily responsible for providing advice on the subject areas involving the law of the sea, biological diversity, heritage (natural and cultural), jurisdiction, zones and boundaries in the marine environment. He represented NOAA on the U.S. Delegation to UNESCO meetings on Underwater Cultural Heritage and Word Heritage.  In the 1990s he played a leading role in the multi-lateral negotiation of the International Agreement on Titanic, implementing Guidelines, and legislation.  He also was the lead attorney in the development of the Covenant and Conditions for award of the Titanic Collection.  Ole also worked on international issues in his previous position in the Oceans and Coasts Section of NOAA Office of the General Counsel which he joined in 1990.  Ole was also the lead attorney in establishing a number of U.S. Marine Protected Areas, including the Florida Keys, Stellwagen Bank, and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.  He was also the lead NOAA attorney on litigation with treasure salvors in the Florida Keys Sanctuary, souvenir collectors in the Channel Islands and divers in the Monitor Sanctuary. Prior to coming to NOAA, Ole worked for three years in the General Law Division of the Department of Commerce’s Office of the General Counsel, where he worked on a number of issues for NOAA involving environmental compliance in its federal facilities, including compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as well as the purchase of land for towers in the Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) weather program.

Ole graduated from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in 1987, and was the Editor-in-Chief of the International Law Students Association (ILSA) International Law Journal.  He was also a legal assistant at several firms between 1981-1987.  Ole received his J.D. from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and a B.S. in Business Administration with a minor in Science from Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University). Ole has a number of publications and presentations particularly concerning the preservation of our maritime heritage.  

Publications and Presentations

The Case for Using the Law of Salvage to Preserve Underwater Cultural Heritage: The Integrated Marriage of the Law of Salvage and Historic Preservation by Ole Varmer & Caroline M. Blanco. Published in the Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 401–424 (July, 2018)(discusses how U.S. courts have been evolving to incorporate environmental and historic preservation law into their Admiralty court orders under the maritime law of salvage furthering the public interest in preserving UCH for present and future generations). 

Co‐operation between large‐scale MPAs: successful experiences from the Pacific Ocean
, with  Alan M. Friedlander, Daniel Wagner, Carlose F. Gaymer, T‘Aulani Wilhem, Nai‘a Lewis, Samantha Brooke  and Kekuewa Kikilo Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 26 (Suppl. 2): 126–141 (2016).  

The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor
, with James P. Delgado PhD, Terry Kerby, Hans K. Van Tilburg, Stephen Price, Maximilian D. Cremer, and Russell Matthews (Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series)(Texas A&M University Press & the Texas Book Consortium, 2016).  

Craft v. National Park Service: A Landmark Case for the Cooperative Prosecution of Underwater Cultural Heritage
, with Theodore M. Beuttler and Brittany Wright, 64 Cultural Property Law Issue Number 2 (The United States Attorney’s Bulletin published bimonthly by the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, Office of Legal Education, March, 2016).    
, at the Univ. of Wisconsin (October 14-15, 2015).

The Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage
, Presentation and Workshop, University of Ghent (April 23, 2015).

The Public Importance of Shipwrecks:  Why a State Should Care and the Challenges of Protection,
 with Dr. James P. Delgado, presentation at meeting in Bruge, Belgium June 26-27, 2014 published in Underwater cultural heritage from  World War I: proceedings of the Scientific Conference on the Occasion of the Centenary of World War I, (2015, UNESCO). 

Spoils of War: Plunder and Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Pacific Theater of World War II
, Presentation, National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA (October 2, 2014).

Underwater Cultural Heritage Preservation by Art & Cultural Heritage Law Podcast,
 (July, 2014). 

Closing the Gaps in Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage on the Outer Continental Shelf
, 33:2 Stan. Env. L. J. 251 (March 2014).  

Place-based Dynamic Management of Large-Scale Ocean Places: Papahānaumokuākea and the Sargasso Sea
, David Freestone, Ole Varmer, Meredith Bennett, T‘Aulani Wilhelm, Theodore M. Beuttler, Jeff Ardron, Sara Maxwell, and Kate Killerlain Morrison, 33:2 Stan. Envtl. L. J. 19 (March 2014).

Book Review:  Underwater Cultural Heritage and International Law, written by Sarah Dromgoole, The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 29, 187–192 (2014).  

Underwater Cultural Heritage Law Study, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Headquarters, Herndon, VA. OCS Study BOEM 2014-005 (2014).  Study on Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in U.S. Waters and the 2001 UNESCO Convention, with Brian Jordan (ACUA Proceedings, 2014). The Ocean Law Search website and database were developed as part of the study.  The site contains a copy of the final study, summaries of the statutes, and key cases related to UCH Law Study, as well as links to the various bills, reports, and other documents describing the legislative histories of the more relevant statutes.  The site was developed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center. 

U. Miami Maritime Law Society Hosts Ole Varmer, Expert on Titanic and Atocha Shipwrecks, for Lecture on Underwater Cultural Heritage
, October 22, 2013.  

Risk Assessment for Potentially Polluting Wrecks in U.S. Waters
, legal section with Laura Gongaware of NOAA report to USCG (May, 2013). 

The Titanic as Underwater Cultural Heritage: Challenges to its Legal International Protection
Vol 44 Ocean Development &International Law 96-112, with Mariano Aznar (2013). 

Preparing for the Coming Storm: The Legal Framework Governing Cultural Heritage In Natural Disasters Presentation, New Orleans Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, (January 25, 2013).

From the Vrouw Maria to the Titanic What to do with intact wrecks? 
 Presentation and article on the Titanic: 100th Anniversary and the 2001 UNESCO Convention and another on In situ preservation in U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries with Dr. James P. Delgado, Seminar at the Maritime Centre Vellamo, Kotka, Finland, 9th–10th November 2012.

Underwater Cultural Heritage Presentation, with Dr. James P. Delgado, Students Against Looting Valuable Antiquities - Georgetown Law School Endeavor, February 29, 2012. 

The Centenary of Titanic and the Treaty Giving Legal Protection. UNESCO Scientific Colloquium on Factors Impacting the Underwater Cultural Heritage
, with Mariano Aznar (Belgium, Dec. 13-14, 2011) and video of presentation by Ole Varmer on December 13, 2011 at the Scientific Colloquium on the Factors Impacting Underwater Cultural Heritage Proceedings 13–14 December 2011 Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium.

PAPAHÂNAUMOKUÂKEA Inscribed as a World Heritage Site
, with Theodore M. Beuttler, American Bar Association, Marine Resources Committee Newsletter 14(1):3-7 (May, 2011).

WHO OWNS UNDERWATER CULTURAL HERITAGE?  Perspectives on archaeological law and ethics in the Mediterranean:  A workshop and lecture series at the Penn Museum
, Presentation (March 26-27, 2010).

United States: Responses to the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage
, with Jefferson Gray and David Alberg, J. Mari. Arch. 5:129-141 (2010).

Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives in Light of the “Black Swan” Case
, Presentation, Joint AIA/APA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia ( January 10, 2009).

New International Law to Protect Underwater Cultural Heritage
, American Bar Association, Art & Cultural Heritage Law Newsletter I (IV):1, 25-27. (Fall, 2008). 

Chapter 16: United States of America
, Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: National Perspectives in Light of the UNESCO Convention 2001. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (S. Dromgoole, ed.)(2006).

RMS Titanic. Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk.
, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). pp. 14–16 (2006). 

Implementing the International Agreement to Protect RMS Titanic
, with Peter Oppenheimer American Bar Association, International Environmental Law Committee Newsletter 9(1):14-16 (December, 2006).

Preserve America Summit
, (Chaired by Laura Bush), participated as one of the Federal Co-chairs for “Protecting Places That Matter” (October 18-20, 2006).

Perspectives from Across the Atlantic
. Presented in London at Society of Antiquaries Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee on the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage Proceeding of the Burlington House Seminar (October 2005).  

Demystifying the Maritime Zones and Other Marine Boundaries on NOAA’s Nautical Charts
, with Suzanne Bass, and Meredith Westington, Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Coastal Zone Conference, July 17-21, 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana. pp. 1–6 (2005).

Agreement to Protect Titanic Provides Model for High-Seas MPAs
, with MPA News staff, MPA Newsletter ( September 15, 2004).

The Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage Program, Presentation with Caroline Blanco, Report of the Rapporteur for the Section on International Law and Practice, American Bar Association, Washington D.C. (Spring Meeting 2003). 

Tidal Datums and Their Applications
, with Wolfgang Scherer, William M. Stoney, Thomas N. Mero, Michael O’Hargan, William Michael Gibson, James R. Hubbard, Michael I. Weiss, Brenda Via, Daphne M. Frilot, Kristen A. Tronvig, NOAA Special Publ. NOS CO-OPS 1. (2001).  

Heritage Resources Law: Protecting the Archeological and Cultural Environment
, with David Pugh, Sherry Hutt and Caroline Blanco,  article in APT Bulletin 31(4):59  (January 2000).

Chapter 13, United States of America
, with Caroline Blanco, Legal Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives. Kluwer Law International, publisher (S. Dromgoole, ed.)(2000).

Heritage Resources Law: Protecting the Archaeological and Cultural Environment
, with Sherry Hutt and Caroline Blanco, (Wiley & National Trust) (Lead Author of Chapter 5 on Heritage Resources Law in the Marine Environment) (1999).

The Case Against the "Salvage" of the Cultural Heritage,
 Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce 30(2):279-302 (April, 1999).

Should There Be Such A Thing As Treasure Salvage
, 1998 Maritime Law Symposium on Sunken Treasure: Law, Technology & Ethics, Roger Williams University Law School.(August, 1998). 

Closing the Gaps in Domestic and International Law: Achieving Comprehensive Protection of Submerged Cultural Resources
, with Caroline M. Zander (now Blanco) National Park Service, Archeology Program. (Fall/Winter, 1996).

Ocean Management under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act: Sanctuaries, Dumping and Development, Coastal Zone 93 Conference Proceedings, with Amy J. Santin, (July 19-23, 1993).

The Third World’s Search for Equitable Access to the Geostationary Satellite Orbit. ILSA J. Int’l L. 11:175-197 (1987).     

Last updated September 28, 2019