Could we facilitate harmony amongst different ecological needs, economic activities and conceptions of our oceans become a core capability?
Could WA institutions convene conferences and collaborations that beneficially contribute to global oceans governance?
Harmonious governance could focus on recognition of difference, and acceptance of the rightful co- existence of different needs, activities and values. Translation between, and harmonisation across, disciplines and nations are necessary skills when the starting assumptions for oceans governance include: different meanings, diverse goals, and overwhelming challenges. The actual forms governance of oceans- initiatives may include those that are: heuristic, polycentric and community-oriented.
In WA there are many examples requiring complex governance approaches, such as conflicting, complementary and unexpectedly synergistic relationships between different activities in close proximity: offshore oil and gas, commercial fisheries, tourism attractions, fragile habitats and busy shipping activities.
There are also examples of WA institutions having the capability to govern multiple aspects and scales of the oceans: state-wide marine spatial planning, 50-100 year plans for ports and other infrastructure, facilitating multi- national science collaborations, and hosting gatherings of global ocean leaders.
For WA, marine-specific policies could change how current governance limits opportunities.
Australia is recommended to take a whole- of-government approach to engaging and investing in the Indian Ocean.
Globally, implementation of international agreements and laws is seen as a key indicator of progress towards sustainable development, specifically SDG 14.
Aligning oceans governance is desirable, but not probable. The current context is one of multipolarity; ecological changes unprecedented in human history, and increasing delimitation, commodification and securitisation of the oceans.
There are also examples of how those activities have attracted international investment and generate significant local economic benefits. Harmonising how we govern the oceans in WA is necessary to enable healthy ecologies, human activities, and social ontologies to advance simultaneously and in ways that are complementary.
Doing governance well, could also be something WA institutions facilitate more for the international community: hosting more conferences, leading international initiatives, and contributing strongly to the coming UNESCO Decade of Ocean Science 2021-2030.
The proposition of harmonising governance seems timely, and necessary, if WA, the Indian Ocean, and humans are all to benefit from their interdependency, enduringly.