Large marine protected areas (MPAs) have emerged since the mid-2000s as a popular state response to overfishing, land run-off, and climate change causing the decline of the world's oceans. As of 2020, there were more than 14,000 MPAs in the world, most of them small, poorly managed, and often amounting to little more than "paper parks" that contribute little to ocean conservation or resource management. However, that is beginning to change. In recent years, governments, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have turned their attention to protecting large swaths of the ocean through MPAs hundreds of thousands of square kilometres in size.
In this book, Justin Alger documents the efforts of activists and states to increase the pace and scale of global ocean protections, leading to a paradigm shift in how states conserve marine biodiversity. Through an analysis of domestic political economies, and based on three original MPA case studies located in the United States, Australia, and Palau, this book explains how states have protected millions of square kilometres of ocean space while remaining highly responsive to the interests of businesses. From the commercial fishing to eco-tourism sectors, business heavily influences conservation policy, occasionally leading to robust protections but more often than not to business-as-usual activity on the water.
Conserving the Oceans examines the reach and the limits of business influence, examining how the domestic political economy of a given ocean space can reshape a global norm to better suit local economic realities. While recognizing important global progress and growing ambition to conserve ocean ecosystems, Alger provides a critical analysis of the processes by which global environmental norms become domestic policy. Ultimately, the book questions if we are still doing too little to prevent the worst impacts of the global environmental crisis despite the paradigm shift in global ocean conservation.
List of Tables
List of Figures
1. A New Era of Ocean Conservation
Part I: The Norm of Large Marine Protected Areas
2. Rethinking Ocean Protection
3. The Political Economy of Conservation
Part II: The Politics of Conservation Campaigns
4. Presidents Bush and Obama in the Pacific Remote Islands
5. A "Paper Park" in Australia's Coral Sea
6. A Dive Tourism Haven in Palau
7. Conclusion: A Solution to Ocean Decline?
Appendix: List of Interviewees
Justin Alger is a global environmental politics scholar at the University of British Columbia. His work examines the political economy of environmental problems and their solutions, with a focus on business influence. He is the co-editor of A Research Agenda for Global Environmental Politics. His research has been published in various journals, including Environmental Communication, Environmental Policy and Governance, Global Governance, and Pacific Affairs. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia.
"Conserving the Oceans addresses a crucial topic that is at the top of mind in both academic and policy circles – namely, how can the international community preserve and save ocean life? This question is often taken up in studies of the global governance of fisheries, but this book looks at a different tool of environmental governance, Marine Protected Areas, specifically the emergence and spread of large (200k+ square km), pelagic MPAs. Alger's research is impressive, ambitious in scope, and expands our understanding of norm dynamics that shape the evolution of MPAs. The book will be of great interest to scholars of global environmental governance and conservation politics, as well as useful to practitioners working on marine and fisheries policy and conservation."
– Matthew J. Hoffmann, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto
"Justin Alger has written a strong academic contribution to not only global environmental politics, but to International Relations. The treatment of Large Marine System conservation is not only extremely timely but is novel and compelling. Students and academics alike will appreciate this provocative and interesting book."
– Peter Jacques, Professor of Political Science, University of Central Florida