In order to meet the challenges ahead of us, we need oceans that are clean and sustainably managed. The Ocean Governance project looks at how we can rethink international marine policy.
In order to meet the challenges ahead of us, we need oceans that are clean and sustainably managed. The Ocean Governance project looks at how we can rethink international marine policy. istock/Arrangements-Photography

Headline: Ocean Governance

Humans depend on a healthy and productive ocean - it is a vital source of food, regulates the global climate, hosts a wealth of biodiversity and offers cultural inspiration or opportunities for leisure. But the ocean is exposed to immense threats as human uses and pressures such as climate change continue to exceed sustainable limits. With the growing demand for food, energy, and resources along with new technological developments, the challenges facing the ocean - and humanity - are only mounting. Innovative and effective governance approaches are therefore essential to ensure that coastal and marine ecosystems and the resources they offer are sustainably managed and adequately conserved for current and future generations.

The Ocean Governance group at RIFS conducts research at the science-policy-society interface to understand the challenges, advance ocean governance and support the transformation to a healthy and sustainably managed ocean. By engaging in policy processes, facilitating stakeholder dialogue, and investigating existing and potential future ocean governance systems, the research group generates new knowledge to underpin policy making and advance societal responses. Closely collaborating with diverse actors at the national, regional, and international level, the Ocean Governance group employs transdisciplinary research methods to ensure tangible, impactful outcomes and contribute to scholarly, societal, and political discussions.

In particular, the Ocean Governance research group focuses on key policy processes in the context of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, seabed mining, marine pollution, and biodiversity conservation (including the high seas), and at the ocean-climate nexus. The group also explores EU ocean governance, providing new insight for marine policy and the EU Green Deal, including on questions of coherence between multi-layered governance structures and between cross-sectoral governance arrangements.


Ocean Governance

The Ocean Governance project supports knowledge-based transformation processes for the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal systems. It focuses on the most salient challenges for ocean sustainability and related policy processes such as the 2030 Agenda and its ocean goal SDG 14 and the negotiation of a new international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas.

Innovative Ocean Governance to Support the EU's Green Deal

Fragmented marine governance regimes hinder management approaches to successfully address global challenges such as climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of natural capital. PermaGov (Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal) aims to improve the implementation and performance of EU marine policies to reach the goals set out in the EU Green Deal.

Accelerating the Uptake of Ecosystem-Based Management for Europe's Seas

Marine managers must set Europe on a course to reverse marine biodiversity decline. The Marine SABRES project applies a multi-stakeholder approach to co-design, co-develop and co-produce a simple marine social-ecological system framework to improve decision-making and support marine managers to implement interventions and measures for the protection of coastal and marine areas

Source to Seas - Zero Pollution 2030

The project aims to develop a holistic zero pollution strategy that will guide the EU towards achieving zero pollution in European seas by 2030. The project will characterise existing barriers to successful pollution reduction policies and identify best practices for effective measures, engage with key stakeholders to co-identify policy opportunities, as well as co-develop a practical roadmap to guide the transition to clean European seas.

Governance, Policy and International Legal Dimensions of Ocean-based Negative Emission Technologies

Negative emission technologies for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere could offer an opportunity to limit global warming and meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. But many uncertainties about the feasibility and impacts of these technologies remain. The EU-funded OceanNETs project aims to provide critical new insights into ocean-based negative emission technologies. Within OceanNETs, RIFS will contribute to the assessment of governance, policy and legal dimensions.

Completed Projects

Marine Regions Forum in the Western Indian Ocean

The Marine Regions Forum strives to support transformations towards effective ocean action at the regional level. It aims to advance multi-stakeholder dialogue, facilitate exchanges of good-practices, and improve cooperation between marine regions. Following its launch with a first conference held in Berlin in 2019, the Marine Regions Forum is currently focussing on the Western Indian Ocean region.

Environmental Standards for Deep Seabed Mining

Mining for mineral deposits in the deep seabed could harm ecosystems irreversibly. Despite international obligations to protect the ocean, certain states - Germany among them - are working towards the advancement of deep seabed mining to maintain supply security and develop new technologies. In the current research project "Environmental standards for deep seabed mining", a scientifically and legally grounded approach is being developed which will support the ISA in systematically planning the environmental management of the deep sea.

Marine Conservation in the Arctic

The melting of sea ice in the Arctic leads to new opportunities for economic exploitation, but also poses risks to the fragile marine environment. In the research project, the project partners are examining, among other things, the use of Arctic marine resources and the introduction of conservation measures. The project is a cooperation of the research groups "Arctic Governance" and "Ocean Governance".

Strengthening Regional Ocean Governance for the High Seas (STRONG High Seas)

The high seas span a vast area and make up nearly two thirds of the world's oceans. Existing governance frameworks do not adequately provide for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity in these areas. This project supports regional and national institutions in the Southeast Atlantic and Southeast Pacific regions with the task of developing integrated governance approaches.

Marine Regions Forum

The state of the ocean urgently requires that protection and sustainable use of marine systems are aligned, suitable measures put in place and all relevant actors engaged. The Marine Regions Forum provides an informal, transdisciplinary, and participatory space at the science-policy interface to enhance ocean action. It facilitates inclusive collaborations within and between regions that could trigger transformative change to address current ocean sustainability challenges such as biodiversity loss, the impacts of the global climate crisis, or marine pollution.

International Ocean Governance Forum

With IASS support, the European Commission is in the process of developing a new platform for discussion and exchange on international ocean governance: the International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum). Ocean actors and stakeholders are invited to participate in the Forum's online webinars and thematic workshops, targeted online consultations and conferences to develop joint proposals to advance the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean. In this way the IOG Forum is contributing to the further development of European Union policy on international ocean governance.

Support of the BMU in Negotiations for a Global Ocean Biodiversity Treaty

With Germany holding the Presidency of the EU in July to December 2020, IASS researchers are supporting the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the ongoing negotiations for the development of a new and internationally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Blue Carbon: Coastal and Marine Ecosystems for Climate Mitigation

Marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes are able to store carbon in their biomass and sediments. Their conservation and restoration can thus make an important contribution to global climate targets and, beyond that, a healthy ocean. IASS researchers have presented recommendations for action concerning how Germany can better exploit the potential of these blue carbon ecosystems for national and global climate goals.

Deep Seabed Mining - Test Mining and Fair Benefit Sharing

The project analyses the governance framework for potential mining activities in the Area beyond national jurisdiction. In dialogue with stakeholders from the science and policy communities and civil society, IASS researchers are generating independent reports and other input to support the international negotiation process under the umbrella of the International Seabed Authority.

The role of regional governance in addressing marine plastic pollution

Plastic pollution has become a widespread issue in the ocean. In this project, the IASS analysed the role of regional actors in tackling marine plastic litter, the challenges they face and how a new global agreement could strengthen action at the regional level and benefit ocean governance.

Towards a Contemporary Vision for the Global Seafloor - Implementing the Common Heritage of Mankind

Interest in the exploitation of deep sea mineral resources located in areas beyond national jurisdiction has grown significantly in recent years. The international debate around deep seabed mining has focused on its technical feasibility, profitability, and potential environmental impacts - rather than the question of whether deep seabed mining should take place at all and which development pathways could otherwise be explored. These questions are the subject of a new study commissioned by the Heinrich Böll Foundation: "Towards a Contemporary Vision for the Global Seafloor - Implementing the Common Heritage of Mankind".

Ecological Safeguards for Deep Seabed Mining

The deep seabed is the least understood ecosystem on Earth and is known to contain mineral resources in some areas. Their extraction presents significant technical challenges and is not as yet financially viable. Environmental reviews have shown that deep seabed mining could result in irreversible harms on a large scale. Efforts continue to promote the development of deep seabed mining despite low commodity prices and the resulting uncertainty around its economic benefits. At present, the extraction of mineral resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction is not the subject of a comprehensive legal framework. The project Ecological Guardrails for Deep Seabed Mining evaluates potential environmental impacts and advises the German Federal Environment Agency on the development of environmental standards to safeguard the sustainability of deep seabed mining under the supervision of the International Seabed Authority.