Understanding institutional barriers in marine governance through a transitions lens

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Coasts are complex, dynamic ecosystems and are subject to increasing pressure from human activities. The nature of these socio-ecological systems presents challenges for the design of integrated governance systems. In Ireland, the management of coasts is largely carried out in a fragmented manner. There is no overarching national coastal or marine policy and there is no single body with overall responsibility for Irish coasts. Indeed, many coastal responsibilities are split across a number of government departments and agencies.
The adoption of conventional integrated management approaches are proposed in current marine governance literature as potential solutions. These approaches, however, tend to be implemented within existing governance arrangements and, as such, fail to address institutional barriers such as path dependency, bounded rationality, political inertia and power imbalances. These institutional barriers or ‘persistent problems’ hinder local experiments in coastal management from taking off. Following a critical analysis of two Irish coastal management initiatives, it became clear that the adoption of an integrated approach which fails to address persistent institutional barriers is unlikely to secure the robust and sustainable management of Irish coasts over the long term.
Transition Management is presented as an alternative perspective to understand, analyse and explore potential solutions to coastal management challenges. Ultimately, to break down the deep structural problems associated with fragmented marine governance or an incumbent regime, a radical transformation is needed. A transition management pathway approach is offered as a fresh perspective for adopting short, medium and long-term institutional, legislative, economic and socio-ecological systems change needed for coastal management. This alternative pathway approach will be applicable on a national basis and flexible to allow it to be applied elsewhere internationally.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Sep 201713 Sep 2017


ConferenceUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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