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Steering the Global Partnership for Oceans


  • Joshua Abbott
  • James L. Anderson
  • Liam Campling
  • Rögnvaldur Hannesson
  • Elizabeth Havice
  • M. Susan Lozier
  • Martin D. Smith
  • Michael J. Wilberg


The Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO) is an alliance of governments, private firms, international organizations, and civil society groups that aims to promote ocean health while contributing to human well-being. A Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) was commissioned to develop guiding principles for GPO investments. Here we offer commentary on the BRP report from scholars in multiple disciplines that study the oceans: environmental economics, environmental politics, fisheries science, physical oceanography, and political economy. The BRP is a prominent, unique group of individuals representing diverse interests of GPO partners. We applaud the call for knowledge creation, but identify diverse issues that the BRP omitted: the need for effective governance to address data-poor stocks so that gaps do not dictate solutions; the deployment of projects that facilitate learning about governance effectiveness through program evaluation; and the importance of large-scale coordination of data collection in furthering the BRP's call for capacity building. Commenters' opinions are mixed on the likely impact of the report's recommendations on ocean health, governance, and economic development, but they highlight several key features of the report. A centerpiece of the report that distinguishes it from most previous high-level reports on the oceans is the prominence given to human well-being. The report emphasizes the commons problem as a critical institutional failure that must be addressed and focuses heavily on market-based mechanisms to improve governance. The report successfully acknowledges tradeoffs--across different stakeholders as well as across human well-being and ocean health--but there is little specific guidance on how to make these tradeoffs. Historical tensions among GPO partners run deep, and resolving them will require more than high-level principles. For instance, it is unclear how to resolve the potential conflict between proprietary data and the report's stated desire for transparency and open access to information. Some differences may ultimately be irreconcilable. The report appropriately advocates flexibility for the GPO to adapt solutions to particulars of a problem, avoiding the trap of one size fits all. However, flexibility is also a weakness because the BRP does not provide guidance on how best to approach problems that span multiple scales. Some scales may be beyond the scope of the GPO; for example, the GPO cannot meaningfully contribute to global climate change mitigation. Nevertheless, the GPO could play an important role in climate adaptation by facilitating the development of governance regimes that are resilient to climate-induced species migrations.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Abbott & James L. Anderson & Liam Campling & Rögnvaldur Hannesson & Elizabeth Havice & M. Susan Lozier & Martin D. Smith & Michael J. Wilberg, 2014. "Steering the Global Partnership for Oceans," Marine Resource Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-16.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:mresec:doi:10.1086/676290
    DOI: 10.1086/676290

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elizabeth Havice & Liam Campling, 2013. "Articulating Upgrading: Island Developing States and Canned Tuna Production," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 45(11), pages 2610-2627, November.
    2. World Bank, 2009. "Global Economic Prospects 2009 : Commodities at the Crossroads," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2581, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Hallwood, 2016. "International Public Law and the Failure to Efficiently Manage Ocean Living Resources," Marine Resource Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 131-139.
    2. Song, Andrew M., 2015. "Human dignity: A fundamental guiding value for a human rights approach to fisheries?," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 164-170.

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