Coastal communities, indigenous peoples, and small-scale fishers rely on the ocean for livelihoods, for subsistence, for wellbeing and for cultural continuity. Thus, understanding the human dimensions of the world’s peopled seas and coasts is fundamental to evidence-based decision-making across marine policy realms, including marine conservation, marine spatial planning, fisheries management, the blue economy and climate adaptation. This perspective article contends that the marine social sciences must inform the pursuit of sustainable oceans. To this end, the article introduces this burgeoning field and briefly reviews the insights that social science can offer to guide ocean and coastal policy and management. The upcoming United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) provides a tremendous opportunity to build on the current interest, need for and momentum in the marine social sciences. We will be missing the boat if the marine social sciences do not form an integral and substantial part of the mandate and investments of this global ocean science for sustainability initiative.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
Coastal communities experience a wide array of environmental and social changes to which they must constantly adapt. Further, a community's perception of change and risk has significant implications for a community's willingness and ability to adapt to both current and future changes. As part of a larger study focusing on the adaptive capacity of communities on the Andaman Coast of Thailand, we used Photovoice to open a dialogue with communities about changes in the marine environment and in coastal communities. This article presents the results of two exploratory Photovoice processes and discusses prospects for using the Photovoice method for exploring social and environmental change. Changes examined included a number of broader environmental and social trends as well as ecological specifics and social particularities in each site. Participants also explored the social implications of environmental changes, the impacts of macro-scale processes on local outcomes, and emotive and active responses of individuals and communities to change. Photovoice is deemed a powerful method for: examining social, environmental, and socio-ecological change, triangulating to confirm the results of other scientific methods, revealing novel ecological interactions, and providing input into community processes focusing on natural resource management, community development, and climate change adaptation.
Livelihoods are a crucial factor in sustainable integrated coastal management and can bring big payoffs for people and coral reef resources but their role in encouraging collective engagement in management is not well understood. Dive tourism is often cited for its capacity to provide livelihoods to reduce reliance on coral reef resources, however, there is little evidence of its ability to achieve this goal. We use key stakeholder interviews with artisanal fishers, their community, local government and politicians and the sustainable livelihoods framework to study Oslob Whale Sharks, the most financially successful and controversial community based dive tourism site in the world. Oslob Whale Sharks has generated income from ticket sales of approximately US$18.4 m over five years. We found that Oslob Whale Sharks has created alternate livelihoods for 177 fishers, and diversified livelihoods throughout the community, reducing fishing effort and changing livelihood strategies away from reliance on coral reef resources. Livelihoods from Oslob Whale Sharks increase food security for fishers and their families and improve the wellbeing of their community. Livelihoods have galvanised fishers and their community to change behaviour and collectively engage in management. Our findings indicate connection between livelihoods and the provision of finance to protect whale sharks and manage five marine reserves, indicating that fishers and local government are protecting the whale sharks and coral ref resources their livelihoods depend on.
Taking changes, uncertainty and diversification of ecosystems and societies as prerequisites, the effective way to implement stable fisheries management involves engaging the stakeholders (e.g., fishers, authorities and researchers) in discussions of issues. Such dialogues allow the participants to select and implement initiatives for measures that suit the location in question. This process also can accommodate revisions to compensate for changes in nature and society as the results and significance of the initiatives are continually appraised via the varied knowledge possessed by the stakeholders. And, to support this kind of deliberation and decision-making, in cooperation with fishers, we have developed and are sharing a fisheries management tool-box. As a result, we are now able to compare various sites using a common framework, which enables us to search out general theories for fisheries management in the future. Moreover, by using the tool-box in recurring discussions among the diverse range of knowledge holders at the site in question, the diverse perspectives of stakeholders (including researchers) change. In turn, that change can be fed back to the tool-box, with the hope that it will contribute to “co-evolution” of knowledge related to fisheries management.
In tropical and subtropical zones, the majority of people live along the coastline, relying on coastal fishery resources to make their livings. Yet, over fishing is deteriorating these resources, and coral and mangrove ecosystems that underpin the resources are threatened. Recently, though, attention is turning to marine protected areas (MPAs) as a method to effectively preserve ecosystems and manage fishery resources. In this chapter, we introduce two cases concerning Okinawa and Fiji, to show how community-based MPA approaches were activated by bilateral knowledge translators, as well as how specific processes were used to develop a broader framework. In the five types of Okinawan MPAs established with fishery cooperative associations (FCAs) at their core, prefectural fisheries extension officers and researchers are proving helpful as bilateral translators in effective management of resources. In Fiji, activities are incorporated into an international framework, with an MPA network system spreading rapidly. And, in Fiji as well, various bilateral translators are active in managing coastal resources.
Understanding the complexity of social-ecological systems is fundamental for achieving sustainability. Historically, humans have benefited from the ecosystem services offered by nature at the same time that natural systems have increasingly changed because of anthropogenic activities. The lack of methods to unveil and understand such associations might hinder the integrated management of coastal marine areas. In our study, we applied a methodological framework used in terrestrial systems to identify and spatially locate the coastal marine social-ecological systems (CMSESs) on the southern Mediterranean Spanish coast. These CMSESs represent areas with similar human-nature associations that result from sharing similar socioeconomic and marine environmental characteristics. We applied several multivariate analyses to identify and characterize these CMSESs. We found the presence of twelve CMSESs that suggest a co-evolution of the social-ecological associations in these areas. Our results highlight the need for integrated coastal planning and management that consider the specific characteristics and conservation challenges of each CMSES. Our study provides evidence that a successful methodological framework to identify and characterize social-ecological systems can be applied in coastal areas and contribute to integrated management for the sustainability of these fragile systems.
The right to life is a basic and fundamental core human right. Despite the idea that the lives of all human beings are equal under the protection of the law, the special characteristics of the seafarers’ profession suggests that they should be granted additional attention and protection. In recent years, issues related to seafarers’ welfare have moved to the forefront of concern, however, discussion on seafarers’ right to life has drawn little attention. This paper is intended to contribute to knowledge in this aspect by drawing together themes from theoretical policy and governance studies and uses case studies that apply lessons from these disciplines to the practical context of the worldwide shipping industry. Specifically, the discussion clarifies the concept and dimension of the human right to life as well as seafarers’ right to life as a special group of industrial workers, notes the hazardous feature of seafaring as an occupation, identifies the sources of seafarers rights in the related maritime policies and international regulations and illustrates the obligation of the state from the perspective of the ‘flag’ and the ‘port’. The paper finally provides conclusions to the ongoing major issues and suggests a mechanism that should be established to ensure seafarers’ right to life is to be respected.
Resilience has become a key concept for addressing the vulnerability of small-scale fishing households in developing countries. While effort has gone into defining the concept of resilience in relation to fishing households; very little application of the concept exists in practice. An economic resiliency strategy was developed that builds resilience through improved household assets to reduce risks and vulnerabilities. A foundational conclusion of the strategy is the importance of linking household livelihood interventions to sustainable fishing behaviors. The conservation enterprise approach facilitated a mutually beneficial relationship between biodiversity conservation and livelihoods.
Coral restoration is increasingly used globally as a management tool to minimize accelerating coral reef degradation resulting from climate change. Yet, the science of coral restoration is still very focused on ecological and technical considerations, impeding the understanding of how coral restoration can be used to improve reef resilience in the context of socio-ecological systems. Here, we visited four well-established coral restoration projects in different regions of the world (Thailand, Maldives, Florida Keys, and US Virgin Islands), and conducted key-informant interviews to characterize local stakeholder's perceptions of the key benefits and limitations associated with restoration efforts. Our results reveal that perceptions around coral reef restoration encompass far more than ecological considerations, and include all four dimensions of sustainability: ecological, social, economic, and governance, suggesting that effective coral restoration should be guided by the principles of sustainability science. Socio-cultural benefits were the most frequently mentioned (72.4% of all respondents), while technical problems were the most common theme for limitations of coral restoration efforts (58.3% of the respondents). Participants also revealed some key points likely to improve the outcomes of coral restoration efforts such as the need to better embrace socio-cultural dimensions in goal setting, evaluate ecological outcomes more broadly, secure long-term funding and improve management and logistics of day to day practices. While we identify several important limitations of coral reef restoration, particularly around amateur workforces and limited involvement of local communities, our results suggest that coral restoration can be used as a powerful conservation education tool to provide hope, enhance agency, promote stewardship and strengthen coral reef conservation strategies.
Oceanic islands have usually a unique set of organisms that gives them their distinctive character and make them laboratories for biological studies, places of employment for residents, interesting destinations for tourist, and critical importance for conservationists. The management of these natural resources generates conflicts over the use and the access to these resources. In this chapter, I look at the way in which economic and social change resulting from activities such as fisheries and tourism has developed in the Galapagos. Using these activities we explore the interaction between processes of self-organization and emergence to use the existing resources of the Galapagos and the process of regulation and control that is being generated by the government.