Research Topic

African Ocean Stewardship: Navigating Ocean Conservation and Sustainable Marine and Coastal Resource Management in Africa

About this Research Topic

The oceans around Africa are resource-rich and biodiverse, containing highly productive large marine ecosystems that have supported livelihoods for millennia. These resources continue to attract investment in harvesting, mining, coastal development, energy, and tourism. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily translate into direct benefits for Africa’s people. Discussions on marine and coastal resource management and conservation around Africa tend to focus on negative issues such as illegal fishing, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, pollution, poverty, and piracy. Africa is portrayed as a place of much potential but little hope, disproportionately reliant on aid and instruction from more developed states, unable to sustainably manage its own affairs due to its colonial history and legacy, ineffective governance, corruption, security, lack of technical and scientific capacity, and limited investment and development opportunities. Challenging situations often drive innovation and novel solutions that can lead to the emergence of environmental stewardship as an alternative to conventional top-down resource management. What might Ocean Stewardship look like in Africa and can it help unlock its full potential and ensure a more resilient and sustainable future for its people?

Achieving headline global sustainability objectives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals will depend on the implementation of tangible actions to ensure more inclusive and equitable long-term marine resource management. Such actions and their motivations are usefully framed by the concept of environmental stewardship which describes the interplay between multiple actors, actions taken at different scales, and the overall capacity of the system to drive social-ecological outcomes.

African coastal nations are beginning to challenge the pessimistic narrative around the management of their ocean riches by adopting more holistic approaches. For example, the Africa Blue Economy Strategy sets an agenda for sustainable development over the next decades, including in the areas of fisheries, transport, energy, sustainability, and governance.

However, reporting on positive outcomes from Africa remains a neglected area. With this Research Topic, we would like to address the information gap regarding the successful adoption of stewardship principles or implementation of stewardship actions in the marine and coastal environment that can or have contributed to successfully achieving goals in conservation and sustainable resource management around the continent of Africa and its islands.

We invite the following article types: Original Research, Mini Reviews, Policy and Practice Reviews, Perspectives, Community Case Studies, Brief Research Reports, and Opinion pieces.

Contributions could include coverage of the following topics:

- Examples of the adoption of non-regulatory stewardship approaches or actions for the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems and their sustainable management. These can include, but are not limited to:

- sustainable resource use and co-management, including traditional and community-based approaches.

- education and technical capacity building.

- advocacy and awareness.

- informal enforcement and voluntary compliance, including through customs and traditions.

- resource monitoring and knowledge production, including the use of traditional or local ecological knowledge and citizen science.

- preservation and restoration of habitats and ecosystem services at local or regional scales.

- market-linked mechanisms.

- benefit-sharing arrangements.


We are particularly interested in unique or novel approaches and solutions, for example, the use of mobile technology to advance stewardship actions. Though the focus is mainly on successes or positive outcomes, we are also interested in barriers that may prevent successful implementation, and possible solutions to overcoming such challenges. Submissions that highlight neglected perspectives such as indigenous or gender-specific contributions to stewardship are especially welcome.

The subject matter can relate to any form of utilization, exploitation, or management of any resource, living or nonliving. This can include extractive or non-extractive uses or activities, but it should relate to sustainable resource management, environmental conservation, or delivery of sustainable development goals.

A key criterion is that the research relates to resources in the territorial waters or along coastlines of the African continent and its islands. Consideration will also be given to submissions that cover major inland waters (lakes and rivers) of Africa. While there is no prerequisite that contributors be based or are nationals of African countries, submissions by, or collaborations with African researchers and institutions are strongly encouraged and welcomed.


Keywords: Africa, Stewardship, Ocean Optimism, Marine and Coastal Resources, Fisheries, Conservation, Resource Management, Sustainable Development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The oceans around Africa are resource-rich and biodiverse, containing highly productive large marine ecosystems that have supported livelihoods for millennia. These resources continue to attract investment in harvesting, mining, coastal development, energy, and tourism. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily translate into direct benefits for Africa’s people. Discussions on marine and coastal resource management and conservation around Africa tend to focus on negative issues such as illegal fishing, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, pollution, poverty, and piracy. Africa is portrayed as a place of much potential but little hope, disproportionately reliant on aid and instruction from more developed states, unable to sustainably manage its own affairs due to its colonial history and legacy, ineffective governance, corruption, security, lack of technical and scientific capacity, and limited investment and development opportunities. Challenging situations often drive innovation and novel solutions that can lead to the emergence of environmental stewardship as an alternative to conventional top-down resource management. What might Ocean Stewardship look like in Africa and can it help unlock its full potential and ensure a more resilient and sustainable future for its people?

Achieving headline global sustainability objectives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals will depend on the implementation of tangible actions to ensure more inclusive and equitable long-term marine resource management. Such actions and their motivations are usefully framed by the concept of environmental stewardship which describes the interplay between multiple actors, actions taken at different scales, and the overall capacity of the system to drive social-ecological outcomes.

African coastal nations are beginning to challenge the pessimistic narrative around the management of their ocean riches by adopting more holistic approaches. For example, the Africa Blue Economy Strategy sets an agenda for sustainable development over the next decades, including in the areas of fisheries, transport, energy, sustainability, and governance.

However, reporting on positive outcomes from Africa remains a neglected area. With this Research Topic, we would like to address the information gap regarding the successful adoption of stewardship principles or implementation of stewardship actions in the marine and coastal environment that can or have contributed to successfully achieving goals in conservation and sustainable resource management around the continent of Africa and its islands.

We invite the following article types: Original Research, Mini Reviews, Policy and Practice Reviews, Perspectives, Community Case Studies, Brief Research Reports, and Opinion pieces.

Contributions could include coverage of the following topics:

- Examples of the adoption of non-regulatory stewardship approaches or actions for the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems and their sustainable management. These can include, but are not limited to:

- sustainable resource use and co-management, including traditional and community-based approaches.

- education and technical capacity building.

- advocacy and awareness.

- informal enforcement and voluntary compliance, including through customs and traditions.

- resource monitoring and knowledge production, including the use of traditional or local ecological knowledge and citizen science.

- preservation and restoration of habitats and ecosystem services at local or regional scales.

- market-linked mechanisms.

- benefit-sharing arrangements.


We are particularly interested in unique or novel approaches and solutions, for example, the use of mobile technology to advance stewardship actions. Though the focus is mainly on successes or positive outcomes, we are also interested in barriers that may prevent successful implementation, and possible solutions to overcoming such challenges. Submissions that highlight neglected perspectives such as indigenous or gender-specific contributions to stewardship are especially welcome.

The subject matter can relate to any form of utilization, exploitation, or management of any resource, living or nonliving. This can include extractive or non-extractive uses or activities, but it should relate to sustainable resource management, environmental conservation, or delivery of sustainable development goals.

A key criterion is that the research relates to resources in the territorial waters or along coastlines of the African continent and its islands. Consideration will also be given to submissions that cover major inland waters (lakes and rivers) of Africa. While there is no prerequisite that contributors be based or are nationals of African countries, submissions by, or collaborations with African researchers and institutions are strongly encouraged and welcomed.


Keywords: Africa, Stewardship, Ocean Optimism, Marine and Coastal Resources, Fisheries, Conservation, Resource Management, Sustainable Development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2021 Abstract
01 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2021 Abstract
01 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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