Expert Report

Increasing Capacity for Stewardship of Oceans and Coasts: A Priority for the 21st Century (2008)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Marine environments support the livelihoods, economies, and quality of life for communities around the world, but growth of coastal populations and increasing demands on marine resources are putting the future of ocean and coastal resources at risk through impacts, such as overfishing, wetland drainage, climate change, and pollution of coastal waters. Given these demands, it is vital to build capacity--the people, the institutions, and the technology and tools--needed to manage ocean resources. Unfortunately, many capacity building efforts focus on specific projects rather than on capacity building as goal unto itself, resulting in activities that are not funded or sustained past the typically short project lifetime. This report finds that the most successful capacity building efforts meet the needs of a specific locale or region based on periodic assessments and include plans to maintain and expand capacity after the project ends. The report recommends ways that governments and organizations can help strengthen marine protection and management capacity, including conducting periodic program assessments, making plans to sustain funding, and developing leadership and political will.

Key Messages

  • All nations share a responsibility to develop the capacity and institutions for more sustainable management of the oceans and coasts that connect nations and continents around the globe.
  • Developing nations face a steeper challenge to develop more sustainable ecosystem-based management practices that can be met in part through capacity-building.
  • Ending the fragmentation of current programs that seek to grow capacity for ocean and coastal management and to improve stewardship will require a new, broadly adopted framework for capacity-building programs that emphasizes cooperation, sustainability, and knowledge transfer within and among communities.
  • The condition and sustainability of the vital resources and services of oceans and coasts that are valued by societies around the world depend on increasing the global capacity for good stewardship.