Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

The determinants of legitimate and sustainable governance in the Gulf of Gdansk

Gulf of Gdansk, an intensively used Polish marine area, is highly valuable from the biological point of view. It is subject to several top-down forms of governance, relatively new in Poland. New bottom-up conservation initiatives are also emerging. These initiatives influence the way marine areas are used, alter the conditions various sectors operate in, and change the existing balance of power. These changes, at least in theory, should lead to more sustainable governance of marine and coastal areas. To achieve that, management actions need to consider views and requirements of various stakeholders, and seek for consensus. In this study, using semi-structured interviews and a stakeholders’ workshop, we aim to better understand reasons and values supporting different, often conflicting or contradictory, opinions of marine and coastal stakeholders. We explore cooperation and coalitions between various actors, barriers to sustainable governance of the Gulf, and solutions that are needed to enhance such governance.


There are quite a few conflicts within the Gulf, and the conflicts with nature conservation are most evident. Many stakeholders feel that nature conservation on the sea and on the coast is implemented without proper consideration of social and economic needs.

As the number of Gulf users grows, so does the need for space. All respondents underlined the need for conservation measures but they had very different ideas what would be the best way to proceed. Conservation efforts prioritized by European Union legislation puts limits on the development of other sectors. All sectors present in the Gulf could list the areas of conflicts with conservation measures, with the fishers being the biggest losers of all. This sector was especially confident that environmentalists “want too much and too quickly” and because of that fishing heritage and their life-style is being lost. In contrast, the representatives of the environmental sector thought that not enough attention is given to monitoring mass tourism, by-catch, management of fish stocks, and large oil platforms. They called for more decisions on what is allowed, where, and when. Many interviewees claimed that these problems are reinforced because the decision-making process is not inclusive. There is no practice to include stakeholders already in the initial phases of the management processes, and public consultations rarely provide space for consensus seeking. Increased communication between sectors, and between sectors and decision-makers was often considered as a crucial precondition to end misunderstandings and conflicts, and to regain trust.


A variety of barriers for sustainable governance of the Gulf were identified. Although often differently justified, many stakeholders pointed out similar problems related to sustainable governance of the Gulf of Gdansk. They also proposed similar solutions to enhance the legitimate governance.

Low societal awareness and limited knowledge on marine ecosystem functioning, conflicting or incompatible values and opinions, and lack of proper management focused on sustainable principles were most highly ranked. It was a common opinion that the sea is more difficult to manage than land, and management initiatives, especially these undertaken at the central level, often fail to understand the specifics of marine areas. Interactions between the sea and the land are often ignored, and are managed separately. Highly rated recommendations included the establishment of a competent authority to create and manage marine protected areas, and a better clarification of powers and responsibilities between already existing agencies. This would lead to better law enforcement - currently a problem noted by the study participants. Local municipalities, stakeholders and general public should be involved in the initial phase of the consultation process, already at the planning stage of the most important initiatives. More funds for education and country-wide coordinated campaigns were also called for quite often.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • Habitats and Birds Directive
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Lead Author:

Joanna Piwowarczyk
( )
Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAS)
Date of research: June 2014

Related articles:

How tourism interacts with other users of the sea?

The link between tourism and ecosystems 

Changes in herring larvae and environment 1957-2010

Conflicts of interests in the Sinis MPA (Sardinia)

Could MPAs mitigate the effects of fishing? 

Deliberative valuation and the Dogger Bank 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.