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Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00414

Social licence for marine conservation science

  • 1Centre for Marine Socioecology, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • 2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), Australia
  • 3CSIRO Land and Water, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia

Marine environments are complex and dynamic social-ecological systems, where social perceptions of ocean stewardship are diverse, resource use is potentially unsustainable, and conservation efforts rely strongly on public support or acceptance. Decreasing trust in science in recent years has weakened social acceptance and approval for marine conservation and science. Social licence is a concept that reflects informal, unwritten public expectations about the impacts and benefits of industry and government practices, including research, on natural resources, including the ocean. Working towards improving social licence may provide opportunity to bolster support for marine conservation, by allowing communities to engage with marine issues and marine science, and share their concerns and views. Here, we argue that marine conservation requires social licence and we highlight science advocacy, accomplished through outreach, as a means to achieve this. We identify a role for marine conservation science to engage with the public through advocacy to improve understanding and perceptions of conservation. Drawing from the literature, we identify how science advocacy can enhance social licence for marine conservation research and outline four key steps that can advise marine conservation scientists to achieve and promote social licence for their research and the wider marine conservation community.

Keywords: marine conservation, Public perceptions, science advocacy, Social licence, Science Communication

Received: 24 Jul 2018; Accepted: 17 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

John A. Cigliano, Cedar Crest College, United States

Reviewed by:

Kevin A. Hovel, San Diego State University, United States
Jim M. Wharton, Seattle Aquarium, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Kelly, Fleming and Pecl. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Rachel Kelly, Centre for Marine Socioecology, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 7004, Tasmania, Australia,