Human dimensions are important too

-for a healthy ocean.

At present, management, stakeholders, monitoring research and sustainability sciences lag behind in understanding the dynamics of socio-ecological approaches (SESs), as well as, single-species and single-sector approaches, which focus on industry-specific goals. Assessments and solutions are still prevailing in both science and management of coastal ecosystems, including the Norwegian fisheries and commitment to a blue growth. To secure sustainability of the marine industries and to leverage scientific support to ecosystem-based management (EBM), a more integrative and interdisciplinary approach in the interface of social science, economy and ecology is warranted.

A healthy ocean is an ocean which; sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people now and in the future.

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There are especially two problems that are challenging: Firstly, different stakeholders necessarily have different perceptions of what is good health (for example, there is reason to believe that fishermen will define ecosystem health differently from nature conservationists). Secondly, both nature and society are constantly changing, so it is impossible to define a common zero point or “baseline” for how an original ecosystem looks but also difficult to define realistic goals for how the ecosystem can look in the future.

Thus, similar to the ecosystem service (ES) concept, ocean health is anthropocentric and normative in character, i.e.; the benefits for people need to be specified to measure its content. In essence, ocean health comprises both tangible and non-tangible benefits, it has an emphasis on sustainability, and it recognizes explicitly the interplay between social and natural systems. To become operational for decision makers, ocean health has been defined by a set of specific indicators of benefits that are combined into a common measure. For example, on a global scale, defined ten widely-held societal goals for healthy oceans: Food provision; artisanal fishing opportunities; biodiversity; clean waters; sense of place; coastal livelihoods & economies; tourism & recreation; coastal protection; carbon storage, and natural products. The availability, detail and extent of societal and biological datasets that can be used to describe and quantify such goals have increased immensely the last decades. Together with better analytical capabilities, including increased processing speed and new statistical methods, this has greatly improved our ability to define, measure and scrutinize the different benefits that together constitute ocean health. However, since ocean health depends on a subjective judgement of the values and benefits that we ascribe to coastal ecosystems, scientific analyses need to be combined with more deliberative approaches that includes stakeholders and the public in defining baselines and sustainability goals. Consequently, expert measures of sustainability goals for ocean health must be flexible, repeatable and transparent to enable public deliberation and judgement.

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To investigate various aspects of the ecosystem health concept, we will assemble and analyze data sets of 81 coastal municipalities in Northern Norway. However, we lack data in an important area, namely how the locals themselves experience and prioritize different aspects of coastal and coastal ecosystems and it is these we wish to additionally collect and emphasize.

How will the growth in marine industries affect different components of ocean health as well as people’s perception and prioritization of benefits from coastal ecosystems? Given the anticipated growth in the importance of marine resources, the link between blue transitions and ocean health is of global relevance.

Wishes and values ​​for how the coast should look may affect future planning, management and research on the seas and fjords surrounding northern Norway. In a survey the youth contributed and to what ares the perceived as valuable and how they prefered to see these areas in the future.

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Why specific areas along the coasts of northern Norway are valuable.
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How they see these specific valuable areas along the coasts of northern Norway in the future.

It is no secret that discourses, perceptions and outcomes are many when regarding “Dynamics, sustainability and change of Arctic marine social and environmental systems”. Changes seen in the future are not only caused by climate change, but through anthropogenic disturbances, politics, economy and global demand on given resources -all of these interlaced, interacting and impacting ocean health.

It is important to study and emphasize on how the growth in marine industries will affect different components of ocean health as well as people’s perception and prioritization of benefits from coastal ecosystems. Additionally, given the anticipated growth in the importance of marine resources, the link between blue transitions and ocean health is of global relevance.