Marine Governance

Jan van Tatenhove, Simon Bush, Kris van Koppen, Machiel Lamers, Judith van Leeuwen, Hilde Toonen and Maria Tysyachnyuk

Covering the largest part of the Earth’s surface, the marine environment holds a rich treasure of natural resources and provides space for a variety of economic developments. The governance of oceans and seas is however not clearly organized. In most marine regions, there is neither a single authority, nor clear arrangements capable of dealing with environmental problems, of mediating (spatial) conflicts between uses or uses and the environment, and of fostering sustainability in economic development. Ambiguity in governance could result in a plurality of uncoordinated and incompatible activities, and in deadlocks which do not contribute to a sustainable and equitable use of oceans and seas.

The ‘marine (governance)’ research theme of the Environmental Policy Group addresses the institutional dynamics of several maritime and coastal activities (including fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas production, offshore wind energy, shipping, and tourism) and the enabling and constraining conditions for their governance. Key questions of our research include: How are public and private marine governance arrangements institutionalised? How can we assess the quality of marine governance structures and processes? How to design effective and equitable (state-based or market-based) governance arrangements to achieve sustainable marine management? How can stakeholders in marine governance processes be meaningfully involved?

Building on the policy arrangement approach, political modernization, institutional theories, informational governance, as well as theories on global value chains and global production networks, our empirical research addresses the development, evaluation and design of public and private marine (sectoral and cross-sectoral/integrated) governance arrangements, and the role of knowledge and information in marine governance (such as labelling and certification schemes and forms of participatory knowledge production)

Our research contributes to the development of innovative and legitimate marine governance arrangements. A more sustainable and equitable future for the largest commons in the world will benefit from a better understanding about the ways decision-making processes in the marine context are (and could be) organized.