Two Opinion Pieces Published in Norwegian Newspapers

Two new opinion pieces have been published in Norwegian newspapers by the researchers involved in the Norwegian OCEANS PACT team;  Maaike Knol-Kauffman, Gunnar Sander, Kåre Nolde Nielsen, and Peter Arbo. Both articles were published on the 28th of May, 2024.

In the article, "Blir havet den nye kampsonen?" (Will the Sea become the New Battle Zone?"), published in Fiskeribladet, the authors discuss the increasing industrialization of the world’s oceans and the potential for escalating conflicts over resources, space, and environmental protection. It highlights Norway’s experience with managing such conflicts through comprehensive governance systems and political culture that emphasize public participation, compromise, and sector-specific regulations. The piece also touches on the challenges of balancing competing interests and the need for more integrated and cross-sectoral management of ocean areas.

"Et hav av konflikter?" ("An Ocean of Conflicts?"), published in Nordnorsk debatt discusses the challenges and potential conflicts arising from new marine industries like offshore wind farms and aquaculture are discussed. The authors draw on Norway’s experience with oil and gas conflicts and emphasize the importance of comprehensive management plans to navigate competing interests and meet environmental concerns. The authors argue for a holistic approach to marine spatial planning to effectively manage “blue growth” and avoid exacerbating conflicts.
To read the articles in full, click on the following links:

Knowledge Exchange on Social Sustainability in Marine Spatial Planning

In February 2024, two members of the OCEANS PACT team at Södertörn University visited Havs- och vattenmyndigheten (The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management) in Göteborg, Sweden. There, they participated in a workshop with the theme of ocean conflicts and marine planning. The purpose of the workshop was to exchange experiences and knowledge, and to discuss future possibilities in research and marine planning.

Ralph Tafon and Michael Gilek from Södertörn University, presented some experiences and lessons from recent research in Estonia. Kira Gee, from Helmholtz Zentrum Hereon (Institute of Coastal Systems - Analysis and Modeling) provided a presentation on "how social impacts and justice are reflected in current generation marine spatial plans". Maria Göthberg from SwAM (the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management) presented experiences and lessons from SwAM's current international work related to social justice and equity in marine spatial planning. The workshop participants engaged in discussions concerning gender, poverty, and social sustainability as they relate to marine spatial planning, as well as how certain case studies in Africa can be learned from regarding their approach to socially and ecologically sustainable spatial planning.

As a next step born out of this workshop, some of those who had been involved in this dialogue now plan to send out a survey to marine spatial planners around Europe to learn more about how ocean conflicts appear and are handled at the spatial planning level.


Workshop with the Brazilian team: Evaluating and reflecting on the co-production processes of OCEANS PACT in Brazil

The Brazilian OCEANS PACT team held a two-day workshop the 13th and 14th of November 2023, along with the local dialogue forum. The purpose of the workshop was to gather various actors involved in the Brazilian case, to present the findings of a recent research study, and to reflect and evaluate processes of knowledge co-production.

The first day of the workshop centered around a recent project, which examined conflict transformation related to small-scale fishing communities. The findings were presented, and the participants discussed challenges and barriers met thus far, as well as how they have been resolved or overcome.

The second day of the workshop focused on discussing and evaluating the group’s perspectives and experiences around the knowledge co-production processes used by the Brazilian team during the last 3 years of the OCEANS PACT project. Reflective questions were highlighted to spark discussion in a plenary session and small groups. This discussion provided several interesting and valuable perspectives. For instance, two aspects of co-producing in a meaningful and impactful way, according to the discussion participants, are 1) time, and 2) approaching the research collaboratively from the very beginning (i.e. co-designing the research questions together with the participants, rather than, for example, including participants once the research questions have already been defined). The group also described the communication between participants and researchers as having improved significantly over the course of the project, though language (and especially academic/scientific jargon) still creates barriers, jeopardizing transdisciplinarity.

The group also emphasized during these conversations that the efforts of the Brazilian OCEANS PACT team have helped significantly to transform the conflict over a fishing legislation, and that now, an innovative approach to managing and meeting different demands has been put into action.

This workshop brought together approximately 23 people which included key actors in the Brazilian case study, such as community leader Joyce Cardoso, representatives of the NGO Linha d’gua Institute, Brazilian academics and researchers, and the managers of three marine protected areas (Marine Environmental Protection Areas of the northern, central, and southern regions of São Paulo state).

Special issue in Maritime Studies: Marine Conflicts and pathways to sustainability in an era of blue growth and climate change

A collection of ten unique articles has been published as a special issue in Maritime Studies, titled Marine Conflicts and pathways to sustainability in an era of blue growth and climate change. This special issue was born out of a session that took place at the 2021 MARE People and the Sea Conference, Blue conflicts and pathways to sustainability, in association with Belmont Forum’s collaborative research action on ocean sustainability. There, eleven paper presentations including audience participation and related discussions which explored topics related to sustainable transformations of oceans conflicts, including contributions from the research projects OCEANS PACT, MULTI-FRAME, and NO CRISES.  

Four of the current ten papers in this collection are part of the OCEANS PACT research project. These are: 

Strategies for addressing conflicts arising from blue growth initiatives: insights from three case studies in South Africa. 

Multispecies blue justice and energy transition conflict: examining challenges and possibilities for synergy between low-carbon energy and justice for humans and nonhuman nature.  

Sustainability conflicts in the blue economy: planning for offshore aquaculture and offshore wind energy development in Norway

Ocean conflicts for whom and why? Participatory conflict assessment in the southeast coast of Brazil. 

The final paper to be released, and which completed the Special Issue collection, was the introductory commentary, published the 6th of January 2024. This paper was written by Fred Saunders, Ralph Tafon, Maaike Knol-Kauffman and Samiya Selim. Maaike Knol-Kauffman wrote in an email that with this paper, they introduce each article in the collection and “argue that conflicts, while problematic, can also lead to positive societal change by unveiling and transforming unsustainable practices.” Knol-Kauffman also wrote that the final introductory commentary provides two different approaches for researchers who are facing marine conflicts. One which is a “social-ecological systems approach emphasizing collaborative governance for conflict resolution”, and another which is a “political-ecology approach addressing power dynamics and resource distribution”. Finally, the paper provides insights into what is referred to as “sustainability transformation pathways”, with emphasis on the significance of finding common ground amongst and between parties within a conflict, and of re-evaluating and restructuring existing power dynamics. 

The introductory commentary, entitled Introductory commentary: Marine conflicts and pathways to sustainability in an era of Blue Growth and climate change, can be found here: 

 Introductory commentary: Marine conficts and pathways to sustainability in an era of Blue Growth and climate change


The entire Special Issue collection can be found here:

Marine Conflicts and pathways to sustainability in an era of blue growth and climate change 



Source: GRID-Arendal
Source: GRID-Arendal

Deep-sea mining

The transition towards renewable energy production creates a huge demand for minerals that are needed to produce batteries, solar cells, and many other products. There are high expectations that these resources can be extracted from the seabed, and deep-sea mining has in recent years been highlighted as an industry with great commercial potential. At the same time, it is an industry that raises environmental concerns, and which now seems to amplify the controversy over what blue growth and sustainable development involves.

In May 2022, Ida Seljevoll Skancke successfully defended her master’s thesis at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway as part of the OCEANS PACT project. The title of her thesis is “Seabed minerals in Norway: An analysis of conflicts and sustainability issues”, and it is based on public consultation documents, White Papers, UN reports, peer-reviewed literature, and interviews with key stakeholders.

The thesis analyzes the drivers for deep-sea mining, the international governance regime, developments in Norway toward exploitation of seabed minerals on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, and the controversies associated with this emerging industry. Ida reviewed the various positions and arguments for and against commercial utilization of seabed minerals, and discussed questions of sustainability, the precautionary principle, risk, and decision-making under uncertainty.

The thesis shows that the utilization of seabed minerals entails important dilemmas. On the one hand, minerals are essential for developing renewable technologies and achieving the goal of net zero emissions, and the focus is moving offshore due to mounting challenges in connection with today’s mining on land. On the other hand, there are high risks associated with new industrial activity in remote marine ecosystems and habitats that we still know little about. Ultimately, decisions will be made based on a mix of scientific advice, political and economic interests, social values, and technological opportunities.

Ida presented her thesis during a session on ocean conflicts at the annual Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, which generated a lot of discussion and positive feedback about her work. It illustrates the timeliness of this topic and the need to discuss the different aspects of deep-sea mining. The thesis is available here.

Image source: GRID-Arendal. 

Photo: Private