Some societies have sustainably managed their local marine resources for centuries using traditional methods, but we are only beginning to learn how to do it at larger scales, including globally. A broad, deep and constantly growing body of ocean knowledge has developed, adding many new concepts, perspectives, management models and analytical tools into the knowledge base in a relatively short period. Such rapid growth has created a potentially confusing mash-up of ideas, acronyms, techniques, tools and regulations, demonstrated by recent titles such as, ‘Marine planning: tragedy of the acronyms’ (Ardron 2010), ‘Integrated marine science and management: wading through the morass’ (Elliott 2014), ‘Beyond rhetoric: navigating the conceptual tangle towards effective implementation of the ecosystem approach to oceans management ‘ (Engler 2015) and ‘Marine legislation – the ultimate ‘horrendogram’’ (Boyes and Elliott 2014, undated and 2016).
The purpose of this paper is to assist policy makers, marine managers and those considering careers in this area by providing a short history of ocean management, its conceptual foundation, frameworks for modern management and examples of its application at different scales. Extensive literature exists to supplement the summarized information we present.
We highlight the following terms as navigational markers through the ‘seascape’1 of marine management rhetoric: sustainability, ecosystem approach, ecosystem-based management, natural capital, ecosystem services, integrated ecosystem assessment, the causal framework DPSIR (Drivers, Pressures, States, Impacts, Responses) and its variants, indicators and reference points, marine area planning, marine spatial management (including decision support tools), adaptive ocean management and dynamic ocean management. We also point out the important roles of marine initiatives such as Blue Economy, the Ocean Health Index, Large Marine Ecosystems, Seascapes, Protected Areas and others. Understanding the similarities, differences, relationships and synergies among these activities increases the likelihood of achieving successful management processes or solutions.
Further knowledge and additional methods are still needed to safeguard the human-ocean system and the benefits it provides to people particularly with continued global population growth, but better awareness of what we already know will speed collective progress toward healthier oceans and coastlines. Working toward that goal can also be a uniting force in an increasingly divisive world, because it must necessarily breach political, geographic, economic and other differences.