Ocean Governance

Coastal habitat in Southern EnglandExploitation of seas and oceans must balance economic productivity and associated human uses with the protection of a range of different habitats and species. Sustainable development draws upon marine science to determine interactions, functions and services. Productive seas are in the interests of all concerned and will benefit future generations.

We have been involved at the strategic level of global ocean governance, working for UN Agencies, Regional Conventions, national governments and on key cross-cutting issues. Good governance and management of marine resources is based upon an informed and agreed vision that draws on a broad range of disciplines. Seascape Consultants currently coordinates the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) and the FP7-funded MIDAS (Managing Impacts of Deep Sea Resource Exploitation) project. In 2016, Seascape will undertake the first periodic review of the International Seabed Authority and the manner in which the international regime for the Area has operated, in line with Article 154 of UNCLOS.


Our expertise

Prof. David Johnson has worked at the cutting edge of ocean policy and facilitated the world’s first network of High Seas marine protected areas. He has an extensive professional network and personal connections working in ocean and coastal governance. David is currently the GOBI Coordinator.

Some of the services we offer include:

  • Scoping and feasibility studies for integrated coastal zone management and national networks of marine protected areas;
  • Evaluation of research projects/proposals and regulatory measures such as Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments;
  • Facilitation and mediation of workshops, meetings and focus groups with stakeholders and decision-makers;
  • Detailed justifications of marine governance tools such as marine spatial plans;
  • Policy briefs based on understanding and experience of new and emerging issues


Recent representations at international meetings

International Maritime Organization Marine Environmental Protection Committee 69, London UK, 18-22 April 2016: At this meeting of MEPC the PSSA proposal for Tubbataha Reefs received formal consideration and David assisted the World Heritage Convention Marine Programme with a Banc d’Arguin side event (see: whc.unesco.org/en/news/1486)

DEHUKAM International Workshop on Legal Status of Submarine Cables, Pipelines and ABNJ, Ankara Turkey, 7-8 April 2016: David contributed a presentation to this workshop organised by the Research Centre of the Sea and Maritime Law at Ankara University.

CBD Workshop to facilitate description of EBSAs in East Asia Seas, Xiamen China, 14-18 December 2015: David provided GOBI contributions to describe EBSAs in this region that includes the Coral Triangle, the epicentre of tropical marine biodiversity. Specifically this involved acting as rapporteur for the Workshop’s offshore and deep-sea working group, co-authoring a regional overview and collating information on scientific gaps and research needs. Many of the deep-sea EBSA descriptions agreed at the Workshop were informed by the work of JAMSTEC and a national EBSA exercise carried out by the Japanese Ministry of Environment. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership informed an EBSA description encompassing a chain of critical intertidal sites.

European Commission Maritime Spatial Planning Stakeholder Conference, Brussels Belgium, 7 December 2015: Jan-Bart and David attended this Conference focused on MSP and the marine environment. Jan-Bart presented on data tools and systems for MSP, explaining the role of EMODnet to dirve blue growth and integrate marine knowledge. An emphasis was placed by the conference on integration of MSP with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as a means to achieve Good Environmental Status. Many participants present were those who have been associated with the development of MSP in Europe for the past decade. The conference was therefore particularly relevant to the ‘Assistance Mechanism for the Implementation of MSP’, a project set to start in 2016 for which Seascape is a partner.

UNFCCC COP21, Oceans Day, Paris France, 4 December 2015: David and Vikki attended this special day at COP21, informed by a series of high-level interventions (including a speech by HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco) and networking opportunities. Oceans Day was organised by the Global Ocean Forum, IOC/UNESCO, UNEP and others to advance the oceans and climate change agenda. Starting in 2016, Seascape is a partner in STEMM-CCS  - a project designed to build confidence in marine CCS monitoring.

Global Ocean Commission High Seas Symposium, Oxford UK, 12-13 November 2015: David provided an invited expert contribution to this meeting that brought together leaders in ocean science, economics and policy and critically examined the GOC report ‘From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean’. In particular GOC wished to discuss the feasibility of its recommendations on High Seas governance. An High Seas “Horizon Scanning” exercise considered institutional design options and scenarios to 2050.

CBD SOI National capacity building workshop, Swakopmund Namibia, 12-16 October 2015: David co-chaired this workshop building on the South-East Atlantic Regional Workshop to facilitate descriptions of EBSAs held in 2013. The focus was the Namibian EEZ and potential conflict between fisheries and sea-bed mining for phosphorites. Four ministries (fisheries, mining, environment and transport) have an interest in this issue. The workshop covered EIA, SEA and MSP. Consideration was given to the development of a national Ocean Policy.

Commonwealth Secretariat Malta Third Country Programme, Sliema Malta, 21 September 2015: David provided expert input to an Ocean Governance & Blue Growth course, the purpose of which was to provide practical instruction to Government officials from throughout the Commonwealth concerning the wise management of ocean space at the national level based on best international practice and evolving concepts. Target beneficiaries were small-island and developing coastal Commonwealth Member countries, many of which exercise jurisdiction over significant ocean areas that far exceed their land area. The course sought to outline and discuss a range of legal, policy, economic and strategic issues associated with the practical management of ocean space at the national level.

Progress in Marine Conservation in Europe Conference, Stralsund Germany, 14-18 September 2015: David made a keynote presentation on the future of EBSAs at this 4th PCME Conference which is a regular international forum for discussions on currently important marine conservation issues in European waters with occasional examples from beyond. Central thematic topics in 2015 included the current status of the implementation of MPA and EBSA networks; current protection status and new research results on threatened or declining marine species and habitats; anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment and their management with a focus on fisheries, including management measures alternative fishing gear, and the effects of offshore windfarms; marine nature conservation in marine policy: the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD); Marine Spatial Planning; the economic value of ecosystem services; and new research and marine monitoring methods like digital aerial survey or sediment and benthic mapping.

International Seabed Authority COP21, Kingston Jamaica, 15 and 21 July 2015: Seascape were involved in two important side events during the annual meeting of Parties to the ISA. Phil chaired a MIDAS side event at which he, Prof. Pedro Martinez Arbizu (DZMB, Senckenburg https://jpio-miningimpact.geomar.de/) and David made presentations. David co-chaired a CBD side event presenting the relevance of work on both EBSAs and EIA.

Nairobi Convention COP8, Victoria Seychelles, 22-26 June 2015: In the margins of COP8 David attended a Workshop on Regional Governance convened by the Abidjan Convention, UNEP and IASS. In the main meeting Nairobi Convention Contracting Parties adopted a set of Decisions amongst which was Decision CP8/10 §3 which urges “Contracting Parties to cooperate in improving the governance of areas beyond national jurisdiction, building on existing regional institutions including the Nairobi Convention and developing area based management tools such as marine spatial planning to promote the blue economy pathways in the Western Indian Ocean Region”.

GESAMP, London Convention, Lima Peru, 10-12 June 2015: David moderated a session of this Workshop on Deep Sea Tailings Placement. The purpose of the workshop was to exchange information on current projects, state of knowledge and technologies in place for dealing with deep-sea mine tailings. A clear conclusion was that environmental impacts from this activity are similar to those likely from deep-sea mining and consideration should therefore be given to both in any decision by the London Convention to create a Working Group.

Towards a Strategic Environmental Management Plan for the Atlantic, Horta Azores, 1-3 June 2015: Seascape were part of the organising committee for this initial meeting to discuss a SEMP for deep-sea mineral exploitation in the Atlantic. Phil and David helped facilitate discussion and drafted a summary report presented to the ISA.

International Maritime Organization Marine Environmental Protection Committee 68, London UK, 12-14 May 2015: At this regular meeting of MEPC, David worked with the World Heritage Convention Marine Programme to promote Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas in Mauritania and the Philippines. Dossiers for both proposals are under preparation and meetings were held with interested stakeholders and with the Australian government who successfully persuaded MEPC to agree the most recent PSSA in an area of the Coral Sea adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

Celtic Seas Partnership meeting , Paris France, 11 May 2015: David was invited in his capacity as an External Adviser to this project to be a member of an Expert panel providing insights into implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. National experts from England, France and Ireland highlighted current progress and challenges in the process of developing coherent monitoring and indicators for Good Environmental Status.

Arctic Council Ministers, Iqaluit Canada, 22-24 April 2015: David attended this meeting as an official Observer in his capacity of Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea. However, the meeting was of relevance to GOBI, noting the outcomes of the Arctic Region EBSA Workshop and future commitments were made for the US Chairmanship to take forward a network of Arctic MPAs and to consider a ne Regional Convention for the Arctic.

OSPAR EIHA meeting, Santander, Spain, 14-15 April 2015: OSPAR invited Seascape to present an update on deep-sea mining. This was an opportunity to share results and future prospects associated with the MIDAS project. David attended the meeting that also covered other topics of relevance to Seascape projects including marine data, impacts of underwater noise and marine litter.

CBD EBSA in NE Indian Ocean, Colombi Sri Lanka, 23-27 March 2015: This workshop described 10 EBSAs (albeit that one area, the Gulf of Mannar, was an enlargement of an area previously described within the Southern Indian Ocean Workshop). A further area, the section of the ‘Swatch of No Ground’ within the Bangladesh EEZ, significant for cetaceans etc., was highlighted for further consideration as no representative from Bangladesh attended. On behalf of the GOBI Secretariat David provided input to the description of a large Olive Ridley marine turtle migration corridor in ABNJ, linking the huge nesting beaches in Orissa, India with Sri Lankan beaches to the south; supported Maldivian descriptions of atolls significant for supporting life cycle stages of far ranging migratory species including hammerhead sharks, manta rays and whale sharks; and summarized scientific and research gaps to be noted in the Workshop report.

Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome Italy, 18-20 February 2015: David moderated stakeholder Atlantic and Mediterranean discussions within this element of the Global Environment Facility project on ‘Common Oceans’. The relevance and mandate of regional bodies including both Regional Seas Conventions and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations continues to be hotly debated as an integral element of marine governance of the High Seas.

United Nations Ad Hoc Informal BBNJ Working Group, New York USA, 19-23 January 2015: David and Vikki attended negotiations that concluded an agreement to move towards a legally binding Implementing Agreement for biodiversity protection in Areas Beyond national Jurisdiction. This marked a turning point in protracted the discussions but is not an end in itself. For the next two years Parties will contribute to the work of a Preparatory Committee exploring the detail of what such an agreement will contain and where responsibilities should lie.


Examples of previous industry/international projects:

  • International Seabed Authority: Assessment of Contractors’ activities
  • Kaliningrad, Russian Federation: Integrated Coastal Zone Management
  • Antalya, Turkey: Coastal zone management capacity building
  • Wadden Sea, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, PSSA Feasibility Study
  • WWF, UK: Marine Environmental High Risk Areas (shipping impact studies)
  • IUCN, Switzerland: High Seas Task Force
  • Azores, Portugal: Marine spatial planning/marine national parks
  • Praia, Cape Verde: Ecosystem approach assessment
  • UNEP-MAP, Greece: Special Protection Areas of Mediterranean Interest
  • ISA, Jamaica: Clarion Clipperton Zone Environmental Management Plan
  • Hawaii, United States : 5th International Marine Debris Conference (Honolulu Strategy)
  • BE-AWARE, North Sea States: Area-wide risk assessment for mineral oil and HNS

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