Ocean Sustainability Pathways for Achieving Conflict Transformation (OCEANS PACT)

Life on earth depends on healthy oceans. But our oceans are in decline. There is mounting pressure on finite marine resources because of the increasing number of competing activities, technological advances, and over-exploitation, pollution and climate change.

Conflicts about how to harness benefits from marine resources are widespread, intensifying, and unfolding in unprecedented ways. There are long-standing disputes between activities like fisheries, and oil and gas exploitation. New conflicts are emerging, e.g., sea-level rise could displace millions on low-lying coasts, and submerge some small island nations. Ocean conflicts reflect deep-rooted struggles over ownership, rights, benefits, and human-nature relationships on our Blue Planet.

Surprisingly, ocean conflict resolution is an under-developed field of scholarship and practice. OCEANS PACT argues that ocean sustainability prospects depend on building tailor-made capabilities to analyze, productively manage, and where possible transform ocean conflicts. 

We construct a co-designed, transdisciplinary, action research approach. We aim to develop deep insights about diverse ocean conflicts through real-world collaboration of context-specific research teams that include stakeholder partners, social and natural scientists, and conflict resolution experts. Our comparative analysis focuses on conflicts that traverse the Global North and South, in South Africa, India, Brazil, Norway/Barents Sea, Baltic Sea and United States.

We investigate how existing conflict resolution practices help or hinder ocean sustainability. We examine how formal interventions, e.g., law, and informal practices, e.g., negotiation, can be harnessed to unlock the transformative potential of conflict resolution.

The new knowledge gained will be used to develop and test ocean conflict resolution tools and practices. OCEANS PACT will generate significant scientific, socio-political and practice benefits in our case studies, and enable scaling up of insights, tools and conflict resolution practices that foster global ocean sustainability.


Start: August 01. 2020
End: July 31. 2024
Unit: Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics


Research Council of Norway (RCN)


Peter Arbo
Maaike Knol-Kauffman
Kåre Nolde Nielsen
Gunnar Sander
Jasmine Magali Nahrgang-Berge


  1. Toward understanding marine conflicts and sustainability pathways: A study of the expansion of industrial activities in the Barents Sea (Academic lecture)
  2. Conflicts as catalysts for sustainable ocean development (Academic lecture)
  3. Sustainability conflicts in the Blue Economy: Planning for offshore aquaculture and offshore wind development in Norway (Academic lecture)
  4. Conflict transformation in the environmental state: Lessons from oil and gas development in Norway (Academic lecture)
  5. Extraction of seabed minerals: The new growth industry in the North? (Academic lecture)
  6. Marin næringsvekst - et hav av konflikter? (Popular scientific lecture)
  7. Areal, sameksistens og konflikt (Lecture)
  8. Sustainability conflicts in the blue economy: planning for offshore aquaculture and offshore wind energy development in Norway (Academic article)