Climate change and increasing human activities challenge the health of our oceans and seas, with negative impacts also on our economies, societies and, ultimately, health. The failure of fragmented, single-sector management of the marine environment and related maritime activities led to the development of scientific approaches and management practices, based on the appreciation of the complexity of marine systems and the need to support them through effective cross-sector and cross-border management. The present work reviewed the entire global and EU legal frameworks for the protection of the marine environment and the regulation of maritime activities, and evaluated them against these new scientific requirements.
Results show that significant efforts have been made along this road, with international agreements and EU legislation introducing the principles of complexity into marine management. However, major improvements are still needed, especially on fostering coordination among countries sharing the same ocean or sea, and across sectors and levels of governance.