Photo: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay
Photo: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

Planner workshop – Bridging the Science-Practice-Society Interface 

On May 19, Michael Gilek, Fred Saunders and Ralph Tafon, Södertörn University, organized a workshop with focus on marine planners’ opportunities and challenges linked to marine sustainability.   

The aim of the workshop was to bridge barriers and locate spaces for building mutual understanding of different needs and ambitions to foster greater collaboration. Representatives from Sweden and other countries around the Baltic Sea participated in the workshop. 

While several national differences were observed in term of, for example, which ministry/authority is tasked with the planning responsibility, several recurring challenges and opportunities were also identified. Notably, most of the planners had experienced challenging conflicts and disagreements between various sectoral and policy interests and objectives (e.g. energy, shipping, defence, nature protection). Balancing local vs. national priorities and interests was also a commonly mentioned difficulty. 

Although there was general agreement that marine conflicts are not always easily solvable, the participants identified collaboration between planners and researchers as a crucial element of further developing marine planning practice and research. 

Photo: "Overcast skies in Virginia Beach" by Randi Deuro is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Photo: "Overcast skies in Virginia Beach" by Randi Deuro is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Meeting between University of Virginia and Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program

The University of Virginia's (UVA) Frank Dukes and Alexandra Cook met with the director of Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, Laura McKay, to begin planning for their work together. The Virginia Ocean Planning process, spearheaded by CZM, is in its initial planning stages and the UVA team will be able to engage in action research as the planning gets underway. A kickoff meeting of diverse stakeholders is planned for October, 2021.

Photo: "Overcast skies in Virginia Beach" by Randi Deuro is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Panel discussion on conflicts at sea

In October 2020, Michael Gilek, OCEANS PACT project coordinator, participated in a panel discussion arranged by Södertörn University. The topic of the panel discussion was conflicts at sea and Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentConserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 

'Globally, questions about how to level this playing field through strengthening the positions of vulnerable groups are extra important', Michael Gilek says*. 

Representatives from The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Environmental Objectives Council also participated in the panel. 

The recorded panel discussion is available at (in Swedish) 

*Quote translated from Swedish. 

Photo: Dimitri Houtteman/Pixabay
Photo: Dimitri Houtteman/Pixabay

First meeting of the Barents Sea Forum

The dialogue forums in the OCEANS PACT project are important arenas for stakeholders and researchers to meet and discuss marine conflicts and possibilities to transform them. The Norwegian team organized its first dialogue meeting at the end of November last year. The Barents Sea Forum consists of representatives of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, the Norwegian Coastal Fishermen’s Association, Seafood Norway, Equinor, Petro Arctic, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, and Friends of the Earth Norway.

In the first part of the meeting, the researchers presented the central themes, objectives and organization of the OCEANS PACT project, including some initial reflections on the concept of conflict. Then the focus was on the Barents Sea. Prior to the meeting, a document had been distributed outlining the marine activities in the Barents Sea area, central aspects of their governance, and a catalogue of various types of marine conflicts. Finally, the forum’s working method and further collaboration were discussed.

The forum participants were highly engaged and had valuable insights and suggestions regarding the research project, the concept of conflict, and the choice of cases. The participants observed that conflicts are complex and unfold on several levels. The interaction between the levels is important to study. The upscaling of conflicts through media attention was another theme that concerned the participants. Several of them also emphasized the importance of acknowledging the existence of conflicts and recognizing that conflicts can be a driving force toward positive change.

The forum discussed various types of conflicts in the Barents Sea context and agreed that the case studies should address their historical basis as well as the ways in which they are currently handled. It was argued that the cases should preferably represent conflicts in different stages, i.e., from mature conflicts to new, emerging conflicts. Based on this, three sets of conflicts were proposed: (1) oil and gas, fisheries and the environment, (2) offshore aquaculture, fisheries and the environment, and (3) offshore wind power, fisheries and the environment.

The participants in the Barents Sea Forum expressed their desire to take part in the project, discuss the research design, and contribute with their own experiences and points of view. They also look forward to learn from the other case studies in OCEANS PACT. However, they mainly wanted to serve as a reference group and advised against a mix of roles that could weaken the integrity and legitimacy of the research. The dialogue forum agreed to meet twice a year. In addition, interviews and discussions will be conducted with the participants individually.


Photo: Bryan Garces/Unsplash
Photo: Bryan Garces/Unsplash

OCEANS PACT has been launched

The OCEANS PACT project has officially begun as of August 2020. Although facing the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, the different research teams have launched their case studies.

OCEANS PACT is an ambitious international project bringing together researchers as well as marine sustainability stakeholders from around the globe to contribute to the field of ocean conflict research. The knowledge gained from the project will be used to develop ocean conflict transformation approaches as a means to contribute to ocean sustainability. 

“We are glad to see the project take off”, says project coordinator Michael Gilek from Södertörn University, Sweden. “Conflicts concerning marine resources are widespread and increasing. However, transformation of ocean conflicts is an under-developed field. OCEANS PACT will contribute by producing much needed knowledge and insights that can help to identify and promote ocean sustainability pathways”.