CfP POLLEN22: Advancing Blue Justice? Political ecologies of equity and justice in oceans governance

Session Organizers: Emilie Wiehe and Noella Gray, University of Guelph


The importance of equity and justice in marine conservation specifically and the blue economy more broadly has gained significant traction among scholars and practitioners alike in recent years (Bavinck & Verrips, 2020; Bennett et al., 2019). This momentum responds in part to the longstanding conflicts and displacements resulting from conservation interventions as well as the growing popularity of the blue economy as a model for development and the need to ensure its social sustainability. Academic discussions surrounding equity and justice in marine conservation have found their grounding in the literature on social justice and environmental justice, with a focus on three dimensions of justice: representation, procedure and recognition (Bennett et al., 2021; Gustavsson, Lindström, Jiddawi, & de la Torre-Castro, 2014).

Given the largely different contexts in which marine conservation interventions take place, debates have been ongoing regarding the relative importance of each dimension of justice, and the role of value systems in underpinning understandings of fairness and equity. Recent research has also examined who may be the recipients or “subjects” of justice or the major stakeholders concerned and differences in perceptions of fairness among different stakeholder groups, within and across sites (Gurney, Mangubhai, Fox, Kiatkoski Kim, & Agrawal, 2021; Kahmann, Stumpf, & Baumgärtner, 2015; Lau, Gurney, & Cinner, 2021). In addition, while the development of indicators around equity in protected area management has proven useful for comparability across sites (Bennett et al., 2020; Zafra-Calvo et al., 2017) several authors have shown the plurality of notions of justice and fairness even within specific sites (Gurney et al., 2021; Lau et al., 2021).

In contrast to the more applied scholarship on equity in marine conservation interventions, equity and social justice in the blue economy have been advocated in broad governance terms and in a sectoral approach given the constellation of activities and sectors that it entails (Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2019; Satizábal, Dressler, Fabinyi, & Pido, 2020). The notion of blue justice with a focus on small-scale fishers, in particular, has grown in popularity (Cohen et al., 2019). While this approach offers promise in terms of ensuring a fair and equitable blue economy, it also threatens resistance movements as the term becomes diluted and co-opted by various groups.

Recognizing “the potential for cross-fertilization” between political ecology and radical environmental justice  (Svarstad & Benjaminsen, 2020), we welcome papers that consider:

  • How equity, fairness and justice are conceptualized and/or operationalized in marine conservation and blue economy initiatives at various scales;
  • The impacts of specific oceans governance policies and projects on the three dimensions of justice;
  • The potential for novel oceans governance approaches to address or exacerbate longstanding injustices;
  • Examples of efforts to reform existing oceans governance practices in order to be more equitable; and/or
  • How analyses of equity and justice in coastal and ocean environments may differ from terrestrial approaches and may in turn inform broader debates on the topic.

If you would like to participate in this session, please submit a title, an abstract of no more than 250 words, and 3 keywords by 8th December 2021 to and

We also welcome information regarding your positionality if you would like to provide it, so that we may be attentive to the diversity of voices in the session.


Bavinck, M., & Verrips, J. (2020). Manifesto for the marine social sciences. Maritime Studies19(2), 121–123.

Bennett, N. J., Calò, A., Di Franco, A., Niccolini, F., Marzo, D., Domina, I., … Guidetti, P. (2020). Social equity and marine protected areas: Perceptions of small-scale fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea. Biological Conservation244(April), 108531.

Bennett, N. J., Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M., Blythe, J., Silver, J. J., Singh, G., Andrews, N., … Sumaila, U. R. (2019). Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy. Nature Sustainability2(11), 991–993.

Bennett, N. J., Katz, L., Yadao-Evans, W., Ahmadia, G. N., Atkinson, S., Ban, N. C., … Wilhelm, A. (2021). Advancing Social Equity in and Through Marine Conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science8(July), 1–13.

Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M., Moreno-Báez, M., Voyer, M., Allison, E. H., Cheung, W. W. L., Hessing-Lewis, M., … Ota, Y. (2019). Social equity and benefits as the nexus of a transformative Blue Economy: A sectoral review of implications. Marine Policy109(October).

Cohen, P. J., Allison, E. H., Andrew, N. L., Cinner, J., Evans, L. S., Fabinyi, M., … Ratner, B. D. (2019). Securing a just space for small-scale fisheries in the blue economy. Frontiers in Marine Science

Gurney, G. G., Mangubhai, S., Fox, M., Kiatkoski Kim, M., & Agrawal, A. (2021). Equity in environmental governance: perceived fairness of distributional justice principles in marine co-management. Environmental Science and Policy124(June), 23–32.

Gustavsson, M., Lindström, L., Jiddawi, N. S., & de la Torre-Castro, M. (2014). Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based managed Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Marine Policy46, 91–100.

Kahmann, B., Stumpf, K. H., & Baumgärtner, S. (2015). Notions of justice held by stakeholders of the Newfoundland fishery. Marine Policy62, 37–50.

Kockel, A., Ban, N. C., Costa, M., & Dearden, P. (2020). Addressing distribution equity in spatial conservation prioritization for small-scale fisheries. PLoS ONE15(5), 1–23.

Lau, J. D., Gurney, G. G., & Cinner, J. (2021). Environmental justice in coastal systems: Perspectives from communities confronting change. Global Environmental Change66, 102208.

Satizábal, P., Dressler, W. H., Fabinyi, M., & Pido, M. D. (2020). Blue economy discourses and practices: reconfiguring ocean spaces in the Philippines. Maritime Studies

Svarstad, H., & Benjaminsen, T. A. (2020). Reading radical environmental justice through a political ecology lens. Geoforum108(November 2019), 1–11.

Zafra-Calvo, N., Pascual, U., Brockington, D., Coolsaet, B., Cortes-Vazquez, J. A., Gross-Camp, N., … Burgess, N. D. (2017). Towards an indicator system to assess equitable management in protected areas. Biological Conservation211(May), 134–141.

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