Marine restoration narratives, drivers of change and governance constraints in 3 cases from Europe

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Christopher J. Smith, Jan P.M. van Tatenhove, Paulina Ramírez-Monsalve, Eira Carballo-Cárdenas, Nadia Papadopoulou, Ronan Long

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Drivers of change challenge existing marine conservation narratives (having emphasis on closures and MPAs) by building on the possibilities of assisted recovery through active restoration actions for example by transplanting or by increasing connectivity corridors. New restoration opportunities can be created to assist or speed up the recovery of nature. Besides ecological insights, understanding legal and governance constraints is of critical importance. With renewed and more ambitious restoration targets and a more involved society, new governance arrangements emerge. Making use of different marine restoration narratives, coalitions of public and private actors conceptualize problems in different ways, and by that, they try to influence the design of activities and the rules of the game. This article discusses three cases: the restoration of two keystone natural sedimentary and hard biogenic habitats in the Mediterranean hosting the fan mussel (Pinna nobilis) and the red coral (Corallium rubrum), and artificial habitats concerning the Rigs-to-Reefs debate, in the context of North Sea oil and gas decommissioning. The analysis shows how discourses shape the arrangements that currently govern the protection and management of two emblematic and endangered species in the Mediterranean (one of which is still harvested and the other one while being protected is now at the brink of extinction) and the decommissioning of obsolete oil and gas structures in the North Sea. For each case, we analyze the constraining conditions of the “active restoration” narratives, also providing recommendations on how to strengthen the restoration element in policies and legislation.

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Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program