Science, scale and the frontier of governing mobile marine species

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.1, 2020


Science, scale and the frontier of governing mobile marine species (Abstract)


Elizabeth Havice, Lisa M. Campbell and Amy Braun


Marine turtles have complex life histories and make expansive migrations over their long lifetimes, often through multiple states’ exclusive economic zones and areas beyond national jurisdiction. This complexity makes it difficult to “know” marine turtles and presents jurisdictional mismatches for existing state and inter-state bodies that govern turtles. This paper examines how scientists tasked with assessing marine turtles for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species have used their scientific expertise to make marine turtles legible for governance, including by rescaling the Red List assessment process to include both global and regional levels. We find that in this rescaling project, marine turtle scientists have created two new objects of governance: spatially bounded “regional management units” and the scientists themselves, who have begun to sort themselves and their work around the new spatial units in the interest of generating progress in ocean conservation. More broadly, the story of the IUCN Red List process for sea turtles turns attention to the work of science and scientists in making oceans resources legible, and therefore governable, even when they defy the boundaries of state-led regulatory bodies or jurisdictional spaces.