Can critical accounting perspectives contribute to the development of ocean accounting and ocean governance?

Publication Name

Marine Policy


Global initiatives indicate that nations wish to monitor changes in the economic, environmental, and social values when managing their national assets, including their oceans, for the future. Ocean accounting is developing to meet this future challenge. Since the Law of the Sea Convention (1984), valuations of ocean economies have gradually adopted the System of National Accounts to measure productive activity, while recognising it's deficiencies in valuing environmental capital and flows. The System of Environmental-Economic Accounts has been accessed to capture the contributions of the environment via ecosystem goods and services. Recently ocean accounting has developed into an integrated monetary and physical environmental accounting framework for the oceans. Ocean accounts also have the potential to include contextual social and cultural information, though like the inclusion of environment, this may take time to achieve. However we observe that critical accounting, now accepted in mainstream accounting, has not previously been applied to this emerging field. Critical accounting asks fundamental questions of ‘accounting for what?’ and ‘accounting for whom?’ It is proposed that this alternative perspective can contribute to the development and emergence of a more accountable and inclusive ocean accounting framework contributing to areas that ocean governance has found problematic, such as sustainability, subsidies, transnational crime, including illegal fishing and slave labour in supply chains. A future for ocean accounting that is relevant to effective ocean governance, will need more than just numbers.

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Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



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