Policy Day 2023

The focus of this year’s policy day was Marine Nature Restoration. The event, hosted at the University of Amsterdam, brought together policymakers, industry leaders, and researchers to discuss the latest policy developments and research on the topic. The resulting policy brief can be found below.

Marine (nature) restoration: examining ambitions and impacts in an era of upscaling

Photo: Veerle Boekestijn
Photo: Veerle Boekestijn

For long, marine nature conservation has focused on protecting habitats and species through measures such as the implementation of marine protected areas. Yet the realization is growing that preventive measures alone do not suffice. Over the last decade there has been a shift from ‘hands-off’ approaches towards the more ‘hands-on’ and active rehabilitation of marine nature to restore ocean health. This is  exemplified by new proposed EU legislation for nature restoration, and the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration. Thus, instead of attempting to exclude human interventions in nature, restoration makes use of human intervention and care practices to ‘repair’, ‘restore’ or even ‘enhance’ marine nature. This goes hand in hand with the application of (bio-)technological advances.

With climate change, coastal adaptation projects are becoming more and more urgent, A dynamic understanding of restoration that incorporates the changing state of coastal and marine environments, such as the ‘building with nature’ approach, is required. Restoration may thus contribute to regional development, coastal safety and community empowerment, and serve new or existing ecosystem functions such as eco-tourism. However, the current proliferation of restoration projects worldwide also raises crucial questions around the fair distribution of benefits and responsibilities.

Restoration policies and programs commonly aim to bring back a natural ecological state that is assumed to be lost. However, restoration also produces ‘new natures’ that are inherently unstable, hybrid, malleable, and can serve different or combined purposes. Marine restoration is therefore normative by design: what do we understand to be a healthy ecological state? What kind of (scientific, lay, indigenous) knowledge is included or excluded to inform intervention? What is a good reef or seagrass bed to restore and for whom? What and whose definition of biodiversity underpins policies to restore it? What are the social impacts of restoration policies and programs?

This MARE policy day coincides with the EU’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law, the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and the UN decade of Ocean Science. The slogan of the latter – ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’ – in fact calls for a discussion which we would like to have at this policy day where we critically reflect on the questions formulated above with scientists, stakeholders and policy officers.


University of Amsterdam
Nieuwe Achtergracht 166,
1018 WV Amsterdam,
The Netherlands

Policy Day Program – Monday June 26 

09.15-10.00       Reception with coffee and tea and registration – Central Hall, A building

10:00-10:15       Opening and introduction

Annet Pauwelussen (Wageningen University, Environmental Policy Group) – Room: C1.03

10:15-11:00        Plenary introductions 

            • Eva Varkevisser (Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality)
            • Arjen Buijs (Wageningen University, Forest and Nature Conservation Policy)

11.00-11.30        Coffee and tea break – Central Hall, A building

11.30-12:15         Continued Plenary introductions – Room: C1.03

            • Jessica Vandenberg (Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, University of Washington)
            • Grant Blume (Evans School of Public Policy and Governance & Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, University of Washington)

12:15-13:15         Lunch – BRUG (4th floor)

13:15-14:45        Break-out sessions – 2nd Floor, A building

            1. Different visions for marine nature enhancement – Room: A2.07
            2. Community involvement, empowerment and livelihoods – Room: A2.08
            3. Upscaling technologies: ambitions, potential and societal risks – Room: A2.11

14:45-15:15      Fruit break – Central Hall, A building

15:15-16:15       Feedback from break out groups – Room: C1.03

Plenary discussion with the fish bowl format

            • Niels van Houten (Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality)
            • Hein Sas (Consultant, Native Oyster Restoration Alliance)
            • Arita Baaijens (Ocean Advocacy and Director Living Landscapes Foundation)
            • Henk Buitjes (Fisherman ZK37)

16:15-16:30       Wrap up 

16:30-19:00      Drinks – BRUG (4th floor)

Monday 26 June 2023 10-17 hours
University of Amsterdam