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Ocean Governance for the 21st Century: Making Marine Zoning Climate Change Adaptable

By Robin Kundis Craig

The variety of anthropogenic stressors to the marine environment — including, increasingly, climate change — and their complex and synergistic impacts on ocean ecosystems testifies to the failure of existing governance regimes to protect these ecosystems and the services that they provide. Marine spatial planning has been widely hailed as a means of improving ocean governance through holistic ecosystem- based planning. However, that concept arose without reference to climate change, and hence it does not automatically account for the dynamic alterations in marine ecosystems that climate change is bringing.

This Article attempts to adapt marine spatial planning to climate change adaptation. In so doing, it explores three main topics. First, it examines how established marine protected areas can aid climate change adaptation. Second, it looks at how nations have incorporated climate change considerations into marine spatial planning to increase marine ecosystem resilience, focusing on the international leader in marine spatial planning: Australia. Finally, the Article explores how marine spatial planning could become flexible enough to adapt to the changes that climate change will bring to the world’s oceans, focusing on anticipatory zoning. Governments, of course, can establish marine zoning governance regimes in anticipation of climate change impacts, as has already occurred in the Arctic. However, drawing on work by Josh Eagle, Barton H. Thompson, and James Sanchirico, this Article argues that governments could also combine anticipatory zoning and comprehensively regulated marine use rights bidding regimes to encourage potential future private users to make informed bets about the future productivity value of different parts of the ocean, potentially improving both our ability to anticipate climate change impacts on particular marine environments and the ocean governance regimes for climate-sensitive areas.

Cite as: Robin Kundis Craig, Ocean Governance for the 21st Century: Making Marine Zoning Climate Change Adaptable, 36 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 305 (2012).

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