The ecosystem approach and the search for an objective and content for the concept of holistic ocean governance

Elizabeth A. Kirk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)
    283 Downloads (Pure)


    That the need for a holistic approach to ocean governance has gained widespread acceptance warrants little debate. Though concerns may continue to exist as to the practicality of a holistic approach (for example, that it might make decision-making too slow and cumbersome), there are examples of it being put into practice such as the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive which requires the EU’s member States to consider those parts of the oceans under their jurisdiction as an integral unit. But there is a significant gap in our understanding of holistic ocean governance and that is as to the content of such an approach. While numerous treaties and statutes may be assumed to incorporate the concept, or to be relevant to holistic ocean governance, each may present a slightly different interpretation of how to apply the holistic approach. These variations in content reflect the fact that the objectives of each of these treaties and statutes are also many and varied. There is, therefore, still a need to develop a clear understanding of what is meant by the concept of a holistic approach. A good starting point may be to agree the content and a common objective, or common objectives for the approach. To provide such content and objective(s) for law as a whole would be a daunting and perhaps impossible task. Instead the focus of this paper is on considering the possibility of a principal objective or objectives for holistic ocean governance and possible content for that approach. It is suggested that the ecosystem approach may be used to set objectives for holistic ocean governance and to provide some content to that concept. The degree to which the ecosystem approach is already present in ocean governance instruments is, therefore, assessed to determine the feasibility of relying on this approach to provide the principal objective(s) and content for holistic ocean governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-49
    Number of pages17
    JournalOcean Development and International Law
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'The ecosystem approach and the search for an objective and content for the concept of holistic ocean governance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this