Ocean Governance

Healthy oceans form the basis of human life. They provide a vital source of sustenance, regulate the global climate, and host a wealth of biodiversity. Humans use the world’s oceans in many different ways, but a lack of adequate frameworks to manage the exploitation of marine resources by diverse interest groups is putting them under severe pressure. The “Ocean Governance” project conducts research to support the development of standards and regulatory frameworks necessary to facilitate the sustainable management of oceans and marine resources.

Developing frameworks for transboundary governance

Our researchers are studying existing frameworks and processes governing transboundary and transsectoral regulation and management in an effort to answer three key questions: How can marine biodiversity be protected in areas beyond national jurisdiction? What regulatory frameworks do we need to manage the mining of deep seabed mineral resources that belong to the common heritage of mankind? And how can the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals be translated into policy processes and legally binding measures?

Identifying solutions to sustainability challenges

This research will improve our understanding of innovative approaches to ocean governance and will engage relevant stakeholders and actors in dialogue to build upon these insights. These activities will contribute to analyses of existing and emerging challenges in the field of ocean governance and highlight opportunities to improve the protection and sustainable management of the world’s oceans, coasts and marine resources.

Ocean sustainability research at the IASS

The “Ocean Governance” project is the umbrella for a range of research activities in the field of ocean sustainability at the IASS. This project is flanked by a number of other initiatives, including the COST-Action “Ocean Governance for Sustainability”, which aims to establish a European-wide research network. Other activities in this area include the development of a partnership for regional ocean governance in cooperation with UNEP, IDDRI and TMG-Think Tank for Sustainability, and third-party funded research on the development of ecological safeguards for deep seabed mining (funded by the Federal Environment Agency) and around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Oceans and Coasts (funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented in cooperation with the German Agency for International Development).


01/2017 to 12/2020

Project partners (selected):


Ocean governance, marine resources, fragmentation, transboundary, sustainability, partnership, regional ocean governance, regional cooperation


Scientific Project Leader: Sebastian Unger

Research Associates: Barbara Neumann, Carole Durussel

Project Coordinator - Deep Seabed Mining: Sabine Christiansen

Research Associates: Kate Houghton, 

Senior Fellow: Janna Shackeroff

Research Assistant: Stefanie Hansen

Alumni: Jeff Ardron, Christoph Humrich, Thomas Greiber, Nichola Clark, Stefanie Schmidt, Yvonne Waweru

Supervising Directors: Prof. Patrizia Nanz, Prof. Mark Lawrence