The ‘Blue Economy’ is an increasingly popular term in modern marine and ocean governance. The concept seeks to marry ocean-based development opportunities with environmental stewardship and protection. Yet different actors are co-opting this term in competing, and often conflicting ways. Four conceptual interpretations of the Blue Economy are identified, through examination of dominant discourses within international Blue Economy policy documents and key ‘grey’ literature. The way the Blue Economy is enacted is also examined, through an analysis of the Blue Economy ‘in practice’, and the actors involved. Finally, the scope of the Blue Economy is explored, with a particular focus on which particular marine industries are included or excluded from different conceptualizations. This analysis reveals areas of both consensus and conflict. Areas of consensus reflect the growing trend towards commodification and valuation of nature, the designation and delimitation of spatial boundaries in the oceans and increasing securitization of the world's oceans. Areas of conflict exist most notably around a divergence in opinions over the legitimacy of individual sectors as components of the ‘Blue Economy’, in particular, carbon-intensive industries like oil and gas, and the emerging industry of deep seabed mining.
Governance and Legal Frameworks
Governance is one of the most important factors for ensuring effective environmental management and conservation actions. Yet, there is still a relative paucity of comprehensive and practicable guidance that can be used to frame the evaluation, design, and analysis of systems of environmental governance. This conceptual review and synthesis article seeks to addresses this problem through resituating the broad body of governance literature into a practical framework for environmental governance. Our framework builds on a rich history of governance scholarship to propose that environmental governance has four general aims or objectives – to be effective, to be equitable, to be responsive, and to be robust. Each of these four objectives need to be considered simultaneously across the institutional, structural, and procedural elements of environmental governance. Through a review of the literature, we developed a set of attributes for each of these objectives and relate these to the overall capacity, functioning, and performance of environmental governance. Our aim is to provide a practical and adaptable framework that can be applied to the design, evaluation, and analysis of environmental governance in different social and political contexts, to diverse environmental problems and modes of governance, and at a range of scales.
The Southern Ocean is a unique ecosystem with highly coveted marine resources. It includes the largest marine protected area anywhere, with management spread across national jurisdictions and a number of international bodies and cooperative arrangements. The area has local, national and international stakeholders with interests in an array of activities, such as fishing, tourism and scientific research. This article sheds light on the linkages between climate change and governance of Southern Ocean marine territories. It unravels the complexity of governing this marine region, in the process looking at biodiversity conservation, exploitation of resources and military activities. Using socio-historic analysis and ethnographic observation, it examines multiple decision-making areas, institutions, groups and actors. Issues examined in this artice include marine protected areas, fisheries management and environmental impacts of melting Antarctic ice and French subantarctic territories. These issues are viewed through the prisms of knowledge and policy – a knowledge-policy interface. Case studies highlight the interactions between human activities and climate change in Southern Ocean ecosystems. Real-world examples illustrate the governance of marine ecosystems and resources and demonstrate adaptations to environmental changes already affecting sub-Antarctic societies.
Coastal states are increasingly urged to transform their sectoral and fragmented marine governance regimes, and to implement integrated and holistic management approaches. However, to be successful, integrated governance mechanisms, such as marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management, will involve transformative change of institutions, values and practices. Although ‘integration’ is commonly championed as an important normative attribute of marine management by academics, policymakers and environmental groups, it is often done so with little consideration of the complexity of institutional context in which a shift to new management approaches takes place. This paper reviews the most cited academic papers in the field of marine governance, showing that most overlook many of the key institutional challenges to integration, often derived from issues such as incumbency, path dependency, policy layering and other pragmatic strategies. While integrated management approaches have a normative capacity to fundamentally transform marine governance, the failure to understand the institutional dynamics that may impede effective implementation, leaves much of the research in this field naively impotent. There is a need, therefore, to develop a more realistic understanding of the context in which transformative change takes place. It is argued that Transition Management has the potential to both conceptualise and operationalise strategies to address these barriers based on a long term perspective using a participatory process of visioning and experimentation.
Scholars argue that conventional environmental governance approaches have not been effective in reversing or slowing the deterioration of coupled social-ecological systems (SESs). Recent research suggests that resilience thinking offers a useful framework to analyse problems in SESs and could help improve the effectiveness of associated governance systems. Much of the available literature explores this from a theoretical perspective, identifying advantages from resilience thinking to improve governance of SESs. This paper builds on this literature, creating a set of attributes that are used to assess the specific challenges of a particular multi-level Tasmanian coastal governance context, and thus clarify where intervention responses are best directed. In this context, a low level of resilience capacity was apparent across the entire governance system. At the national level, we determined that knowledge management and sharing processes, and the diversity of expertise were the only attributes contributing to resilience capacity, with other attributes insufficiently developed to support any level of resilience. The performance was similarly poor at the Tasmanian state level, with leadership, adaptive planning, organisational flexibility and a supportive legislation framework at critically low capacity. Inter-organisational attributes also required significant improvement. On the other hand, a regional natural resource management body and two coastal local governments demonstrated attributes supportive of resilience capacity, including aspects related to leadership, transparent decision-making, stakeholder engagement, organisational learning, knowledge sharing and flexibility. These findings confirm that resilience thinking can offer practical suggestions for how to improve governance of this, particularly challenging context.
The science-policy nexus has long puzzled scholars and managers working across diverse public policy areas, including environment. The rise of science-based management, especially in an era of big data, assumes science can improve environmental policy. At the same time, increasing attention to stakeholder engagement provides avenues for non-scientists to participate in collaborative environmental management, which might displace science in decision-making processes. Prior research points to a variety of factors thought to affect the degree to which science is used in collaborative partnerships. Drawing on such research, we examine the use of science across 9 collaborative partnerships structured and resourced from the top-down by a state government agency. All of these partnerships are working in the U.S.’s second largest estuary, the Puget Sound in Washington State. Data from partnership meeting minutes indicates that science is scarcely discussed in executive committee meetings, but is more commonly discussed in technical committee meetings. We thus might expect that the ecosystem management plans produced by these technical committees would be closely informed by science. Results indicate these plans include few citations to peer-reviewed scientific studies, but they do draw consistently on scientific information from grey literature including scientific and technical reports from federal and state agencies. These results raise important questions about government efforts to foster the use of science in collaborative partnerships, including the benefits and drawbacks of using grey literature rather than scientific articles directly, the interaction of science with other forms of knowledge, and local actors’ capacity to understand and access science.
The ocean is the next frontier for many conservation and development activities. Growth in marine protected areas, fisheries management, the blue economy, and marine spatial planning initiatives are occurring both within and beyond national jurisdictions. This mounting activity has coincided with increasing concerns about sustainability and international attention to ocean governance. Yet, despite growing concerns about exclusionary decision-making processes and social injustices, there remains inadequate attention to issues of social justice and inclusion in ocean science, management, governance and funding. In a rapidly changing and progressively busier ocean, we need to learn from past mistakes and identify ways to navigate a just and inclusive path towards sustainability. Proactive attention to inclusive decision-making and social justice is needed across key ocean policy realms including marine conservation, fisheries management, marine spatial planning, the blue economy, climate adaptation and global ocean governance for both ethical and instrumental reasons. This discussion paper aims to stimulate greater engagement with these critical topics. It is a call to action for ocean-focused researchers, policy-makers, managers, practitioners, and funders.
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted 20 targets, known as the Aichi Targets, to benchmark progress towards protecting biodiversity. These targets include Target 11 relating to Marine Protected Area coverage and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the accepted international database for tracking national commitments to this target. However, measuring national progress towards conservation targets relies on sound data. This paper highlights the large-scale misrepresentation, by up to two orders of magnitude, of national marine protected area coverage from two Pacific Island nations in multiple online databases and subsequent reports, including conclusions regarding achievements of Aichi 11 commitments. It recommends that for the target driven approach to have value, users of the WDPA data should carefully consider its caveats before using their raw data and that countries should strive for a greater degree of accountability. Lastly it also concludes that protected area coverage may not be the best approach to environmental sustainability and that the remaining 19 targets should be considered to a greater extent.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is an approach to marine governance and the management of marine space requiring extensive stakeholder participation and interagency and inter-organizational cooperation. While a rich literature and set of practitioner guidance on MSP has developed, few studies include empirical research or identify lessons learned based on practitioner experience. The authors conducted three case studies of MSP in Washington, San Francisco Bay, and Rhode Island, U.S., including 50 practitioner and stakeholder interviews, to identify practitioners’ lessons learned regarding stakeholder participation and inter-organizational cooperation. Findings were then shared with 43 practitioners at an MSP workshop to ensure lessons resonated with a broader practitioner community. The authors found that practitioners had learned the importance of using both formal and informal stakeholder participation methods; leveraging pre-existing relationships as a foundation for MSP; and setting and managing the expectations of both stakeholders and agency partners. Results point to the effectiveness of using pre-existing stakeholder forums to build informal authentic dialogue between participants, rather than establishing new advisory bodies to support MSP. Further, pre-existing groups and other pre-existing relationships and communication networks are an important source of social capital for MSP. Last, clear communication and transparency are important in setting and managing stakeholders’ and agency partners’ expectations for MSP. This paper concludes with recommendations for further empirical research into practitioners’ MSP experience, particularly in the U.S., and for a new generation of practitioner guidance based on research and including practical strategies to help practitioners work within the real-world constraints of politics and budgets.
This viewpoint emphasizes gendered perspectives and reflects on gender roles for sustainability-focused governance. It argues that when considering gender in this context, not only equity, or power-plays between genders are at stake; in addition, for effective ocean governance, an irreducible contribution of female voices is necessary. Some key contributions of women in the field of ocean governance-related research are described as examples. If women, for instance, are not included in fisheries management, we miss the complete picture of social-ecological linkages of marine ecosystems. Overall, women are often regarded as major actors driving sustainable development because of their inclusiveness and collaborative roles. Similarly, women have advocated for the common good in marine conservation, raising important (and often neglected) concerns. In maritime industries, women enlarge the talent pool for innovation and smart growth. Besides the manifold possibilities for promoting the involvement of women in ocean governance and policy-making, this viewpoint highlights how gendered biases still influence our interactions with the ocean. It is necessary to reduce the structural, and systemically-embedded hurdles that continue to lead to gendered decision-taking with regard to the ocean.