Policy Brief: Marine Social Science and Ocean Sustainability

Figure 1 - The coastal margin

Around the world, the marine and coastal environment is occupied, used and relied on by coastal communities, small-scale fishers, and Indigenous peoples.

Background: Marine protected areas, marine spatial planning, fisheries management, climate adaptation and economic development activities are increasing across the world’s oceans. Coastal communities, indigenous peoples, and small-scale fishers also occupy, use and rely on the ocean and coastal environment for livelihoods, for sustenance, and for wellbeing. An understanding of the human dimensions of the peopled seas is required to make informed marine policy and management decisions. A diverse set of social science disciplines, methods, and theories can be applied to rigorously study the human dimensions of ocean and coastal issues and challenges. Insights from the marine social sciences include:

  1. Documenting the social context (eg, uses, benefits, values, rights, knowledge, culture) to inform planning and management;
  2. Characterizing and evaluating the appropriateness and effectiveness of governance processes and management actions;
  3. Assessing the impacts of conservation, management or development activities on coastal economics and human well-being; and,
  4. Identifying the social and institutional factors that influence people’s behaviours, actions or responses to identify effective interventions.

The marine social sciences must be part of the mandate and investments of national and international ocean science, policy and sustainability initiatives. Yet, marine social science often receives limited attention and investments from ocean-focused government agencies, NGOs and funders.

 

Recommendations: Recommended actions include:

  1. Policy-makers, managers and practitioners need to account for the human dimensions in all marine conservation, marine planning, fisheries management and ocean development decisions.
  2. Governments should ensure that ocean-focused laws, policies and planning processes require the consideration of social, cultural, economic and governance considerations.
  3. National and international ocean science and sustainability initiatives, such as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), must include social science in their mandates and investments.
  4. Financial support is needed from ocean-focused government agencies, multi-lateral organizations, NGOs and funders for capacity, programs and infrastructure to enable applied and policy-relevant marine social science research.

 

KEY MESSAGES

The pursuit of sustainable oceans must be informed by insights from the marine social sciences.

Recent years have seen significant growth in conservation, management and development activities in the ocean. Coastal communities, indigenous peoples, and small-scale fishers also occupy and rely on the ocean for livelihoods, for subsistence, and for wellbeing. Thus, an understanding of the human dimensions is required to make evidence-based decisions across marine policy realms. Greater support for marine social science programs and capacity are needed from ocean-focused government agencies, NGOs, and funders.

 

A PDF Version of this Policy Brief is available here: Policy Brief – Marine Social Science and Ocean Sustainability

For more information regarding this topic, see the following paper: N Bennett (2019), Marine Social Science for the Peopled Seas, Coastal Management, 47(2), 244-252. (Link)

 

Contact: Dr. Nathan Bennett (linkis the Chair of the People and the Ocean Specialist Group of the Commission on Ecological, Economic and Social Policy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (link) and the Principal Investigator of The Peopled Seas Initiative.

New Paper – Navigating a just and inclusive path towards sustainable oceans

I just published a new paper in Marine Policy titled “Navigating a just and inclusive path towards sustainable oceans” (link to paper). This agenda setting paper argues that the ocean science, practitioner, governance and funding communities need to pay greater attention to justice and inclusion across key ocean policy realms including marine conservation, fisheries management, marine spatial planning, the blue economy, climate adaptation and global ocean governance.

Reference: N.J. Bennett, Navigating a just and inclusive path towards sustainable oceans, Marine Policy. (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.06.001

Abstract: 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.

What is Environmental Stewardship?: New Open Access Review Paper

Environmental stewardship is a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment. A group of colleagues and I have just published a new open access paper in the journal Environmental Management titled: “Environmental Stewardship: A conceptual review and analytical framework“. In this paper, we define local environmental stewardship as “the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts.” We review the literature to provide a framework to guide analysis of local environmental stewardship initiatives in diverse contexts and situations.

Environmental stewardship

Abstract: There has been increasing attention to and investment in local environmental stewardship in conservation and environmental management policies and programs globally. Yet environmental stewardship has not received adequate conceptual attention. Establishing a clear definition and comprehensive analytical framework could strengthen our ability to understand the factors that lead to the success or failure of environmental stewardship in different contexts and how to most effectively support and enable local efforts. Here we propose such a definition and framework. First, we define local environmental stewardship as the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts. Next, drawing from a review of the environmental stewardship, management and governance literatures, we unpack the elements of this definition to develop an analytical framework that can facilitate research on local environmental stewardship. Finally, we discuss potential interventions and leverage points for promoting or supporting local stewardship and future applications of the framework to guide descriptive, evaluative, prescriptive or systematic analysis of environmental stewardship. Further application of this framework in diverse environmental and social contexts is recommended to refine the elements and develop insights that will guide and improve the outcomes of environmental stewardship initiatives and investments. Ultimately, our aim is to raise the profile of environmental stewardship as a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment.

Reference: Bennett, N. J., Whitty, T. S., Finkbeiner, E., Pittman, J., Bassett, H., Gelcich, S., & Allison, E. H. (2018). Environmental Stewardship: A Conceptual Review and Analytical Framework. Environmental Management. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0993-2 (OPEN ACCESS)

Maintaining coastal and Indigenous community access to marine resources and the ocean in Canada

Access to marine resources and the ocean is central to coastal community well-being - Bennett et al, Marine Policy, 2017A group representing academics, Indigenous peoples, fishers, and NGOs recently published a review and policy perspective paper in Marine Policy urging that access for coastal and Indigenous communities should be a priority consideration in all policies and decision-making processes related to fisheries and the ocean in Canada. The ability to use and benefit from marine resources (including fisheries) and areas of the ocean or coast is central to the sustainability of coastal communities. In Canada, however, access to marine resources and spaces is a significant and growing issue for many coastal and Indigenous communities due to an increasingly busy ocean: ocean-related development, competition over fisheries and marine resources, and marine planning and conservation activities that confine activities to certain areas. Loss of access has implications for the well-being, including economic, social, cultural, health, and political considerations, and persistence of coastal and Indigenous communities across the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic coasts of Canada. The vibrancy and continuity of these communities is important to Canadian society for many reasons, including identity, autonomy, sovereignty, culture, healthy rural-urban dynamics, and environmental sustainability. Greater attention is needed to the various factors that support or undermine the ability of coastal and Indigenous communities to access and benefit from the ocean and how to reverse the current trend to ensure that coastal and Indigenous communities thrive in the future.

Factors that can support or undermine access to marine resources and the ocean - Bennett et al, Marine Policy 2017

KEY MESSAGES

Access to marine resources and the ocean is important for the well-being of coastal populations. In Canada, the ability of many coastal and Indigenous communities to access and benefit from the ocean is a growing issue. Access for coastal and Indigenous communities should be a priority consideration in all policies and decision-making processes related to fisheries and the ocean in Canada. Taking action now could reverse the current trend and ensure that coastal and Indigenous communities thrive in the future.

Recommended actions include:

  1. Ensuring access is proactively and transparently considered in all fisheries and ocean-related decisions.
  2. Supporting policy-relevant research on access issues to fill knowledge gaps and enable effective policy and management responses.
  3. Making data publicly available and accessible and including communities in decision-making processes that grant or restrict access to adjacent marine resources and spaces.
  4. Ensuring updated laws, policies and planning processes explicitly incorporate access considerations.
  5. Identifying and taking priority actions now to maintain and increase access, when appropriate and sustainable, for coastal and Indigenous communities.

 

**For more information, refer to the following publication and policy brief:

Bennett NJ et al. 2018. Coastal and Indigenous community access to marine resources and the ocean: A policy imperative for Canada. Marine Policy 87:186–193. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X17306413 

Policy Brief: Maintaining coastal and Indigenous community access to marine resources and the ocean in Canada

This work was supported by the OceanCanada Partnership through a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada. For more information, please email myself (nathan.bennett@ubc.ca) or Megan Bailey (megan.bailey@dal.ca).