Finance Goes Fishing

As ocean acidification, overfishing and coral bleaching become increasingly pressing environmental problems, conservation finance is increasingly trying to develop mechanisms that can attract private investments for marine conservation and coastal protection. Development finance institutions, international non-governmental organisations and philanthropists are but some of the actors that are trying to promote conservation finance for the ocean. Often discussed under the heading of the so-called “Blue Economy”, marine biodiversity offsets, parametric insurances, blue carbon projects, new bond mechanisms and changes in fisheries management are some of the approaches that receiving increased attention amongst actors in biodiversity conservation in an attempt to attract further economic resources for conservation.

This project will contribute to the emerging literature on how the ocean is becoming framed and re-enacted as a conservation finance frontier. Firstly, this involves examining new policy regimes and changing modes of environmental governance. Secondly, while some conservation social scientists have started to note the changes in discourses and policies with the emergence of the Blue Economy, most studies of for-profit conservation in the Blue Economy tend to rely on document analysis. This research therefore seek to dissect individual conservation deals in the Blue Economy in order to get a deeper understanding of what marine conservation finance may come to look like in the future. This involves empirically and critically examining how conservation finance transforms and intersects with coastal societies’ existing social and socio-environmental relations.

More specifically, this research will try to answer the following questions:

  • How are financial models, techniques and logics being used to make coasts and oceans investable? This will involve investigating how different forms of valuation come into play at different organisational levels as marine environments are turned into assets.
  • How does marine conservation finance interact with civil society, the state and environmental governance? The making of conservation finance tends to rely on the making of new institutions and property rights regimes, but at other times conservation finance inserts itself existing social relations and institutional arrangements. This study will understand how conservation finance finds it ways into an environment that has proven itself highly difficult to marketise.
  • How are terrestial conservation finance mechanisms, principles and ideas transferred to marine spaces? This furthermore involves studying how the historically contingent modes of governing the sea as well as the specific materiality of the sea influence conservation finance’s ability to make assets out of marine conservation.


Research contacts:

Jens Christiansen, PhD Candidate, Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster,

Patrick Bigger, Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster,

 Publications and outputs to date:

Christiansen J. and M. Schutter. 2019. Riding the waves of the Blue Economy: implications for impact investors. The Journal of Environmental Investing 9: 34-43.