Webinar Recording – Equity and Justice in the Ocean

If you missed my recent talk on “Equity and Justice in the Ocean” hosted by the Marine Social Science Network, you can watch a recording here.

The oceans are experiencing a rapid acceleration of both conservation and development activities. When poorly implemented or left unchecked, these activities can lead to environmental and social injustices for the coastal communities and populations who inhabit and rely on the ocean for livelihoods, food security, and cultural survival. In this talk, I examine the types of social injustices that are occurring in the ocean, discuss how social equity can be taken into account in efforts to promote ocean sustainability, and explore priority areas for future marine social science research on equity and justice in the oceans. My aim is to encourage greater engagement with equity and justice considerations in all ocean-focused organizations and in all decision-making processes related to ocean governance and management.

This talk will draw from and build on a number of recent papers related to these topics:
• Bennett, N. J. (2018). Navigating a just and inclusive path towards sustainable oceans. Marine Policy, 97, 139–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.06.001
• Bennett, N. J et al. (2019). Just Transformations to Sustainability. Sustainability, 11(14), 3881. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143881
• Bennett, N. J. et al. (2019). Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0404-1
• Bennett, N. J. et al. (2021). Advancing Social Equity in and Through Marine Conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.711538
•Bennett, N. J. et al. (2021). Blue growth and blue justice: Ten risks and solutions for the ocean economy. Marine Policy, 125, 104387. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.104387

New Paper in Nature Sustainability: Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy

A global group of collaborators and I just published a new paper in Nature Sustainability titled “Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy“.

In this paper, we argue that “The global rush to develop the ‘blue economy’ risks harming both the marine environment and human wellbeing. Bold policies and actions are urgently needed. We identify five priorities to chart a course towards an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable blue economy.”

Figure 1 - Economic development in the oceans

Our five recommendations, which are summarized in our press release, include:


  • Establishing a global coordinating body and develop international guidelines;
  • Ensuring national policies and institutions safeguard sustainability;
  • Promoting equitable sharing of benefits and minimization of harms;
  • Employing inclusive governance and decision-making processes; and
  • Engaging with insights from interdisciplinary ocean science.


Read the paper here: rdcu.be/bUfM8

Accompanying press release: Achieving a safe and just future for the ocean economy

Five Steps to Achieve a Safe & Just Future Ocean Economy

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.



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.