Marine Materiality and Ontologies of Marine Conservation in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Geothermal Domes in Costa Rica (2023)

ocean policy

Dio 153,

July 2023

, 105646

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Proximity to sovereign space is an important principle of modern management approaches. This rationale for demarcating and recording space as a manageable area constitutes the conventions of conservation regimes. To what extent do these motivations translate into protective effectiveness? This article addresses this issue in Thermal Dome, amarine biodiversityEastern tropical Pacific hotspot on the west coast of Central America. Here, winds and ocean currents interact to create a cool, nutrient-rich upwelling system, creating rich and productive waters and thus an area of ​​ecological and commercial importance. It is dynamic, extensibleexclusive economic zoneindividual coastal states and beyond national jurisdiction. Unfortunately, efforts to preserve the Thermal Dome are fragmented, uncoordinated and ineffective. This paper examines how the limited effectiveness of conservation management in the Thermal Dome stems from terrestrial ontologies that dominate terrestrial conservation. Using perspective in the oceaninterest, this article shows that mobility andseasonalThermal Dome challenges those standards and reflects the need to include the uniqueness of the ocean in understanding transboundary conservation of the high seas. These efforts have opened avenues for the establishment and expansion of practices in Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), enhancing the sharing of Dome-up technical capabilities, scientific knowledge, and coordination frameworks.


The sea is chaotic, rhythmic and turbulent. The constant movement of living and non-living matter takes place in a distant, expansive view. "In this space of the open ocean... the spatial configuration of surface and depth is constantly changing, one becoming the other in constant intensity of movement. The depth rises to the surface and then returns to the bottom again. The surface is submerged and becomes the depth... this merging and folding Fluid the materiality of the sea represents the open sea as essential experience" (Ryan, 2012, cited in [33]: 261). These fluid and volumetric features and the dynamic collection of activities that move in and through this complex entity contrast sharply with a terrestrial perspective in conceptualizing, mapping, and managing the ocean. These terrestrial perspectives are codified in the institutions and practices of ocean governance, which refers to "the legal and institutional framework that governs ocean space, activities, and marine resources to maintain ocean health, productivity, and resilience" [35]. Similarly, protected areas for [12] are "spatial interventions based on legal and/or other institutional systems that change human relations with the environment and access to and control over resources". Spatial interventions can include techniques for mapping, demarcating and controlling these spaces ([12]). Most importantly, the assumptions, power structures and institutions that emerge from these 'spatial interventions' shape the codification and territorialization of marine conservation and their subsequent impact on conservation effectiveness.

Therefore, this document begins with the conservation of Costa Rica's thermal domes (hereinafter referred to as "domes"), particularly by establishing them as an "Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area" (EBSA) [17]. a dynamic oceanic phenomenon, has long been recognized as a hot spot that requires effective management because it is threatened by numerous anthropogenic pressures. Its flow and fluidity pose unique challenges for zoning and management, providing insight into how protected areas should be codified and legislated. The landmark Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) has created greater urgency for such analysis, known as the Convention on the High Seas. It is a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) related to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction [38]. Most importantly, it enables the creation of large-scale marine protected areas on the high seas using area-based management tools. Therefore, examining the logic and dilemmas that affect the construction and regulation of the sea can provide insight into the shaping and design of future protected areas.

The study of the materiality of the ocean [2], [32], [33] contributes to the material turn in cultural geography and acknowledges the material role of land [5]. Geophysical dismantling understands territory as dynamic matter, not as a hollow, homogeneous spatiality of matter "unmanageable, changeable, flowing and flowing" [39] ([21]:418). In motion, the ocean and its constituent parts create political situations that govern through their ability to resist, complicate, or cooperate. This challenges the idea that terra is an inanimate craft used for steering [3]. In these interactive spaces, human and non-human actors interact, drawing attention to the role of ocean systems in shaping management behavior. This calls into question the central role of human actors in ocean dynamics and opens up new policy avenues that integrate a diversity of actors into the current mix of activities.

This article sheds light on the conservation management challenges of domes arising from the way they are located within and between areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). Chapter 2 outlines efforts aimed at addressing the uniqueness of domes and addressing maritime boundary challenges in ABNJ in the face of an institutional framework based on land-based conceptualizations of sea space. Section 3 applies the concept of ocean materiality to domes to further clarify the ontological limitations of this approach to ocean governance. In Chapter 4, we saw the opportunity to create an EBSA based on ocean matter to establish a dome-centric ocean management framework. Before concluding this article, we provide some remarks in the last section.

Territorial legislation in the border area creates space for political order and rationality. However, the physical characteristics of the dome withstood these efforts on a material level. This paper argues that the design and codification of EBSA, which brings aquatics into the international framework, offers an opportunity to bridge this gap to improve environmental resilience and governance.

partial fragment

Introduction of a thermal dome

Located in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, on the Pacific coast of Central America, the Thermal Dome is one of the most biodiverse hotspots in the world. It has a diameter of 300 km to 1000 km and is located mainly in the north of Australia, outside the 200 nautical miles established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the state (Figure 1). As shown in Figure 1, the dome extends over the exclusive economic zones of several Central American countries, such as Costa Rica and El Salvador.


conceptualizing the dome through marine materials

Unpacking existing views on prioritizing maritime delimitation reveals the need for a more precise ontology. This ontological adaptation first requires an understanding of the unique geophysical properties of domes as part of the oceanic moist ontology [33]. So with this appreciation it is possible to subvert and reshape our interactions with the sea in ways that are not hindered by land.

Admire the dome's geophysical properties

Redefining dome boundaries - expanding areas of ecological or biological interest

A critical look at the preservation of contemporary domes allows us to expand our imagination of how governance can be carried out beyond the constraints imposed by earthly conceptions of liminal spaces. This author recognizes the importance of binding institutions active in the credible established state-building process of the international community, normalizing notions of territorial sovereignty and their claims. It's over though

last comment

A few notes are in order. Strengthening the legal status of the EBSA, whether through the High Seas Treaty or otherwise, will not address the limited ability of Domes-dependent countries to manage them. The lack of technical, human and financial resources to implement effective controls and ensure compliance with their exclusive economic zones has become an obstacle, especially when it comes to the management of ABNJ [22]. Therefore, cooperation between countries remains crucial in building the capacity of regional control


This research received no specific funding from funding agencies in the public, commercial or non-profit sectors.

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