Marine Spatial Planning: Citizen Science and Political Consciousness

The management of marine space has become a major environmental planning priority for coastal nations. A number of nations have begun to implement Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) initiatives so as to efficiently manage their ocean and sea spaces. The ‘spatial turn’ in marine governance is a result of the increasing demand for marine space, fuelled, in part, by the increased industrialisation of the marine environment and the creation of conservation zones. However, limitations on time and resources often restrict the data available for MSP. Adopting a citizen science approach to MSP is advanced as a means of gathering fine-scale environmental marine data and measurements (Jarvis et al., 2015). This, however, is a rather narrow conceptualisation of the utility of citizen science, which focuses on data provision and ignores its transformative potential. As Mcquillan (2016) has argued, citizen science should also be viewed as a practice of political consciousness and as a means of decoupling ‘power’ and ‘truth’. This project will explore the transformative potential of adopting a citizen science approach to MSP. It will examine how citizen science can be harnessed for transformative societal change. Adopting a participatory action research approach, it will explore if citizen science can instigate “a radical MSP that invites alternatives, actively intervenes to secure a more democratic decision-making and promotes a fairer distribution of the benefits derived from our marine resources” (Flannery et al., 2016 p.127).

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