Making decisions that impact our oceans is complex and we must balance the objectives of a range of key sectors, to ensure the future sustainable use of marine resources. Decision–makers must address a range of stakeholder interactions with the marine environment and how these may impact in the long term to support a balanced approach to managing our oceans.
At the UWA Oceans Institute, we are concerned with understanding the way these sectors use our oceans’ resources to provide decision–makers such as government and non–government organisations, regulators and users with tools for managing and protecting our oceans. Our research considers current approaches and issues in marine management and conservation in areas such as marine planning, economics, governance, sovereignty and law to provide targeted, informed responses to management issues.
Our researchers are supporting marine governance and influencing policy by undertaking research across the following areas:
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Marine environmental governance involves laws and policies, as well as the institutions and processes established to facilitate sustainable development of living and non-living marine resources and to manage our activities in and on the oceans. Good governance is essential in ensuring the health of our oceans and minimising the negative impacts of human activities and must be informed by evidence and research that emerges from other disciplines.
The Oceans Institute involves a range of academics from various disciplines working on governance issues. Predominantly, these scholars are social scientists in fields such as law, justice and regulation, public policy, international relations and politics, environmental history, economics, geography, business and psychology.
Specific project areas include law of the sea, international and comparative marine environmental law, Australian and international oil and gas regulation, law and policy relating to decommissioning of offshore infrastructure, legal regimes to conserve migratory species, legal frameworks for marine spatial planning and marine protected areas, fisheries regulation, global governance of sharks, and marine-based tourism regulation.
Legal research and the design of governance frameworks contribute to the support and management of almost all activities in and on the oceans; for example, offshore oil, gas and renewable energy engineering projects, control and management of pollution from shipping and mining, conservation and utilisation of marine species. Other areas where expertise in marine environmental governance is required include the regulation of fisheries and aquaculture for food security, the sustainable development of ocean resources, the protection of marine areas with high conservation and heritage value, spatial planning and management of our oceans, safety and disaster response frameworks, as well as compliance and enforcement.
Marine policy and economics research addresses the interaction of people with the marine environment. Importantly, economic frameworks provide a platform to integrate multidisciplinary data from the physical, biological and social sciences. This brings different elements together in a common and quantitative language.
The Oceans Institute covers a wide range of topics in marine policy and economics, including: optimal management of marine systems, benefit cost analysis, community preferences and values, market analysis, policy evaluation, and productivity and risk analysis.
Current research projects on optimal management include managing recreational fishing at Ningaloo, and strategies to reduce nutrient pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. Cost benefit analyses have been used to compare the value of shark diving tourism and shark fishing in Palau and the Maldives. Evaluations of community preferences have been used to determine how the general public value the marine environment relative to marine scientists, and whether marine biodiversity offsets are socially acceptable.
Economic modeling offers a framework to stitch together the social and scientific aspects of a policy or project or marine system. Its ability to define outcomes in a clear and quantitative manner is especially useful when providing advice about how a project or policy might perform, or how to best manage a marine resource.
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