PUBLICATION Journal article

Sharing the seas: A review and analysis of ocean sector interactions

Ocean activities are rapidly expanding as Blue Economy discussions gain traction, creating new potential synergies and conflicts between sectors. To better manage ocean sectors and their development, we need to understand how they interact and the respective outcomes of these interactions. To provide a first comprehensive picture of the situation, we review 3187 articles to map and analyze interactions between economically important ocean sectors and find 93 unique direct and 61 indirect interactions, often mediated via the ocean ecosystem. Analysis of interaction outcomes reveals that some sectors coexist synergistically (e.g. renewable energy, tourism), but many interactions are antagonistic, and negative effects on other sectors are often incurred via degradation of marine ecosystems. The analysis also shows that ocean ecosystems are fundamental for supporting many ocean sectors, yet 13 out of 14 ocean sectors have interactions resulting in unidirectional negative ecosystem impact. Fishing, drilling, and shipping are hubs in the network of ocean sector interactions, and are involved in many of the antagonistic interactions. Antagonistic interactions signal trade-offs between sectors. Qualitative analysis of the literature shows that these tradeoffs relate to the cumulative nature of many ecosystem impacts incurred by some sectors, and the differential power of ocean sectors to exert their rights or demands in the development of the ocean domain. There are also often time lags in how impacts manifest. The ocean governance landscape is not currently well-equipped to deal with the full range of trade-offs, and opportunities, likely to arise in the pursuit of a Blue Economy in a rapidly changing ocean context. Based on our analysis, we therefore propose a set principles that can begin to guide strategic decision-making, by identifying both tradeoffs and opportunities for sustainable and equitable development of ocean sectors.

Crona, B., E. Wassénius, K. Lillepold, R. Watson, E. Selig, C. Hicks, H. Österblom, C. Folke, J.B. Jouffray and R. Blasiak. 2021. Sharing the seas: A review and analysis of ocean sector interactions. Environmental Research Letters 16 063005.