The International Section was established in 1992 as an official sub-office of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel. From its inception through 2005, the office was led by Senior Counselor for International Law ,  Karen Davidson. Karen served with great distinction until her retirement. Lindy S. Johnson joined the office shortly after its establishment as the office’s first attorney-advisor. Her passion for protecting the oceans and her dedication to NOAA’s mission was the cornerstone of her remarkable 18-year career. She retired in September 2010 and passed away shortly thereafter. Patricia Kraniotis joined the office in 1994 and also served with great distinction until her retirement in 2007.  Stephanie Altman joined the International Section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel in 2011 and served with great distinction.  Stephanie became the Chief of the Oceans and Coasts Section in 2016.


Stephanie AltmanStephanie Altman

Stephanie Altman joined the International Section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel in 2011. As an attorney advisor, Stephanie focuses on a variety of international issues, including the international regulation of shipping, climate change and mitigation, environment and trade, and legal capacity building to enhance environmental and natural resources governance.    She became the Chief of the Oceans and Coasts Section in 2016.  She is now Chief of the Oceans and Coasts Section that focusses on the implementation of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act and other laws and issues arising in the work of the National Ocean Service. 




Karen Davidson

Karen Davidson worked for 28 years as an attorney at NOAA in various legal offices. She began her NOAA career in 1978 in the Office of General Counsel for Fisheries. In 1980, she moved to the Office of General Counsel for Oceans and Atmospheric Research to work on issues involving the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and National Contingencies Plans. In 1982 she moved to the Office of General Counsel for Ocean Services to work on international law issues including deep seabed mining, ocean thermal energy conversion, marine pollution and the Law of the Sea. In 1992, she was asked to be the head of a new Office of General Counsel for International Law where she continued to work on deep seabed mining, marine pollution (land-based and vessel source), Law of the Sea, as well as international law issues involving the Arctic and Antarctica. Her publications include "Effect of the Territorial Sea Proclamation on the Coastal Zone Management Act" in 1 Terr. Sea J. 169 (1990-1991) and "Resolution and Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: A General Assessment," 55/2 Heidelberg Journal of International Law (1995). Prior to joining NOAA, Karen worked in the Office of the Erie County Attorney in Buffalo, New York, for the Prisoners’ Rights Litigation Project of the New York Legal Aid Society, in the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, and for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Ms. Davidson received her J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1969 and her B.A. degree with distinction in Philosophy and German from Mount Holyoke College in 1966.


Lindy JohnsonLindy S. Johnson

Lindy S. Johnson’s 18-year tenure as an attorney-advisor with the office was marked by numerous achievements that reflected her passion for making a difference. The issues on which she worked included land– and sea–based sources of marine pollution, environmentally sound and safe navigation, marine protected areas, ship strikes of right whales, underwater noise and marine mammals as well as protection of coral reefs. Lindy participated as a member of, and legal advisor to, numerous U.S. delegations to the International Maritime Organization and other international organizations, and chaired several interagency and international working groups on marine environmental and navigation interests. In 2004, her book on commercial shipping and environmental issues, "Coastal State Regulation of International Shipping," was published by Oceana. Prior to joining NOAA, Lindy worked as an associate in the New York law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and clerked for Federal District Court Judge Judith N. Keep in the Southern District of California. Lindy received her J.D. from Tulane Law School, her M.A. in Sea-Use Law, Economics & Policy Planning from the London School of Economics, and her B.A. in international policy and political theory from Michigan State University. Lindy was a well-known and highly-respected voice on Law of the Sea and related marine environmental issues at NOAA as well as an exceptionally successful advocate in protecting our oceans from damage caused by international shipping. Lindy retired from NOAA on September 1, 2010, and passed away on October 23, 2010, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She loved life and her work. While she is greatly missed at NOAA, her legacy continues to inspire us.

For more information about some of her more significant accomplishments see Summary of Lindy's Positive Impact on the Ocean. The 2010 International Maritime Prize was awarded to Lindy posthumously at a ceremony on July 11, 2011. "The Prize, the presentation of which has been an annual event for the last 30 years, is the highest honour awarded to persons, who have long been associated with IMO and who, through such an association, have shown a solid and consistent commitment and dedication to the ideals and objectives of the Organization, coupled with hard work and success in their pursued endeavours to enhance safety and environmental protection. "

A plaque dedication and conference room naming ceremony to honor the contributions of Lindy S. Johnson to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was held on June 12, 2012.


Patricia KraniotisPatricia Kraniotis

Patricia ("Pat") Kraniotis worked for over 30 years as an attorney at NOAA in various legal offices. She began her career in 1975 in the Office of General Counsel’s Northwest Regional Office working on a number of issues including enforcement, marine mammals and endangered species. In 1978 she moved to the Office of General Counsel for Fisheries to work on fishery management plans, regulations and proposed legislation. Much of her work addressed salmon fisheries in the Pacific Ocean and tribal fishing rights. In 1981, Pat moved to the Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation. Much of her work there involved the development of national enforcement policy for NOAA, administrative hearings and litigation in federal courts. She served as the Acting Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation in 1982-1983, 1990 and 1992. In 1994, Pat joined the office where she worked on issues involving the Law of the Sea, deep seabed mining, marine scientific research, international enforcement, jurisdiction and liability, and international agreements including the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. Her publications include "Fishery Enforcement Agreement between the United States and Canada," Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Fisheries Enforcement Issue (1994) and "International Law: Implications for Exploitation of Deep-Sea Benthic Biodiversity," 9 Oceanography 100 (1996).
Prior to joining NOAA, Pat was an Assistant Attorney General in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Division. Pat received her J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 1969 and her B.A. from the University of Washington in 1966.







Alma LyonsAlma Lyons

Alma Lyons, who retired on April 2, 2012, worked for over 38 years as an administrative assistant for the Federal government. She began her career in March 1974 with the U.S. Department of Justice. Later that year, she transferred to a position with the U.S Department of the Navy where she spent five years. On September 23, 1979, she joined NOAA. During the next 33 years, she worked directly for the NOAA General Counsel as well as in three different sections of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel, including ten years in the International Section. An exceptional work ethic, unswerving loyalty, and the highest dedication to those she supported were hallmarks of her career






Alma LyonsOle Varmer

Ole Varmer, who retired in September of 2019, worked a legal adviser to NOAA since 1987. Ole joined the International Section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel in 1998. 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. 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. 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 is a graduate of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (J.D. 1987). He is also a graduate of Columbia Union College (B.S. Business Administration; minor in chemistry, 1980) and earned a Legal Assistant Certificate from George Washin gton University (1981). Prior to law school, he worked as a legal assistant at Howery & Simon, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis and Hamel & Park.


Last updated September 2019