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Broadening the perspective on ocean privatizations: an interdisciplinary social science enquiry

Achim Schlüter, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen, Germany; Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany
Maarten Bavinck, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam; UiT Arctic University of Norway
Maria Hadjimichael, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus
Stefan Partelow, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen, Germany
Alicia Said, AMURE- IFREMER - Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer (IUEM), Brest, France
Irmak Ertör, The Ataturk Institute for Modern Turkish History, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey


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Privatization of the ocean, in the sense of defining more exclusive property rights, is taking place in increasingly diverse ways. Because of more intensive and diversified use patterns and increasing sustainability challenges, it is likely that this process will continue into the future. We argue that the nature of privatization varies from one oceanic domain to another. We differentiate four ideal-typical domains: (1) resources, (2) space, (3) governance control, and (4) knowledge, and nine criteria for the assessment of privatization. We apply those criteria to a selection of examples from the realm of marine life (from micro-organisms to fish) to highlight similarities and differences and establish foundations for broader analysis. We aim hereby to develop the groundwork for a balanced, interdisciplinary perspective on ocean privatization. Our analysis demonstrates that privatization has multiple dimensions and cannot be condemned or embraced in its entirety. Instead it requires more nuanced assessment and deliberation.

Key words

ocean; privatization; property rights; sustainability

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087