Global change processes induce a multitude of hazards and challenges for the oceans and entire regions such as the Arctic. Overfishing, pollution, climate change, or the destruction of natural habitats have severely harmed nearly half of the world's oceans. If we are to prevent the collapse of marine environments, this decline in ocean health must come to an end or, even better, be reversed. Ensuring that oceans, coastlines and sensitive regions are managed sustainably requires effective mechanisms to govern and regulate human activities that impact on ecosystems and resources.
The existing frameworks for ocean governance are inadequate in many respects:
Measures adopted by individual states to foster sustainable practices have a limited impact due to the transboundary nature of marine ecosystems, fisheries, energy development and pollution. This situation is compounded by a frequent lack of coordination in activities and policy objectives across different sectors. Efforts to protect the high seas, for example, have been hampered by gaps in the relevant legal and institutional frameworks. Regional governance frameworks can complement existing global instruments and help to overcome sectoral and institutional fragmentation.
Global warming and advances in technology pose new challenges to the governance of the oceans and entire regions. As natural resources located in previously remote regions are becoming increasingly accessible, the pressure increases to open these areas to development and resource extraction activities.
In an effort to promote the sustainable use of marine and energy resources and the protection of oceans and coasts, the IASS evaluates existing governance approaches for the oceans and regions such as the Western Indian Ocean or the Arctic. The IASS supports ongoing transformation processes with a focus on ocean and regional governance, and in cooperation with partners from science, policy-making, and civil society, develops solutions for critical sustainability challenges. Our research efforts in this field address a range of questions relating to policy-development processes involving political institutions and legal frameworks located at national, regional, and global levels: What models of regional and cross-sectoral ocean governance have the capacity to deliver sustainable outcomes? What ecological safeguards should be implemented around deep seabed mining or Arctic energy and transport development? How can ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction be protected? Which stakeholders and interest groups should be involved these processes? Can insights and lessons learned be translated across regions? The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal for the Oceans (SDG 14) is a particular focus of research activities in this area at the IASS.