The transformation of the oceans and the future of marine social science

Peter Arbo, Maaike Knol, Sebastian Linke, Kevin St. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The oceans have become a juncture of great visions of blue growth as well as strong environmental concern. This paper discusses the essential role of the social sciences as the oceans increasingly emerge as a contested social arena. The marine social sciences have generated a vast knowledge about the development of fisheries and the implications of fisheries policies on coastal communities. We review this heritage and show that it makes the marine social sciences well qualified to address contemporary challenges raised by the increasing ambitions of exploiting and conserving the world’s oceans. However, with the current transformation of the oceans as sites of comprehensive industrialization, captured in the concept of blue growth, we argue that marine social scientists need to rethink their research objectives. This requires a reflection on the lessons learned from decades of engagement with fisheries and fisheries policy to understand and intervene in processes and practices of modernization, science-based management, and privatization of resources. We suggest how the marine social sciences can provide new knowledge and actively engage in current developments by studying emergent processes in the marine environment, and the institutions, practices, and discourses that shape them. The social sciences have a responsibility to contribute to growth and conservation issues, and are in the capacity to do so, through formulating governance alternatives, anticipating future trends, imagining desirable futures, and facilitating socially just processes and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalMaritime Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Development
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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