Existing approaches to governing the oceans have largely failed. One example is the overfishing problem. According to FAO (2011), the state of the world’s marine fish stocks is worse than ever: Almost a third of all stocks are overexploited or depleted, imposing a threat to marine biodiversity and the functioning of marine ecosystems. New problems, such as CO2 storage in the ocean or climate engineering, are also not sufficiently handled by existing frameworks and thus require completely new governance approaches, too. Furthermore, all of these international issues lack a clear assignment of responsibility to an authority, institution, or person. Different players impact the ocean, including States, international organizations, private businesses and individual citizens.
A major challenge is the growing interconnectedness of both differing societies in the world and the issues that States and civil societies have to deal with. Therefore, regulation at different levels (international treaties, EU law, national law, ‘soft law’ such as codes of good practice, contracts between private parties or with the State, or discussion processes) has to be coordinated. We will focus on broad approaches of governing the ocean towards sustainability, which assign responsibility for the sustainable use of the oceans to specific entities.