Conceptualising change in marine governance: Learning from Transition Management

Christina Kelly*, Geraint Ellis, Wesley Flannery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
400 Downloads (Pure)


Coastal states are increasingly urged to transform their sectoral and fragmented marine governance regimes, and to implement integrated and holistic management approaches. However, to be successful, integrated governance mechanisms, such as marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management, will involve transformative change of institutions, values and practices. Although ‘integration’ is commonly championed as an important normative attribute of marine management by academics, policymakers and environmental groups, it is often done so with little consideration of the complexity of institutional context in which a shift to new management approaches takes place. This paper reviews the most cited academic papers in the field of marine governance, showing that most overlook many of the key institutional challenges to integration, often derived from issues such as incumbency, path dependency, policy layering and other pragmatic strategies. While integrated management approaches have a normative capacity to fundamentally transform marine governance, the failure to understand the institutional dynamics that may impede effective implementation, leaves much of the research in this field naively impotent. There is a need, therefore, to develop a more realistic understanding of the context in which transformative change takes place. It is argued that Transition Management has the potential to both conceptualise and operationalise strategies to address these barriers based on a long term perspective using a participatory process of visioning and experimentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Policy
Early online date05 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • Transformative change
  • Integrated marine governance
  • sustainability transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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