Combining offshore wind farms, nature conservation and seafood: Lessons from a Dutch community of practice
Large-scale development of offshore wind farms implies an increase in marine resource use conflicts. Managing potential impacts on marine ecosystems and on resource access for traditional and prospective users is key. Multi-use scenarios are a solution but are often approached as a 'design question' that can be settled through Marine Spatial Planning. In practice, regulatory, technical and socio-economic factors often hinder multi-use. Overcoming such barriers requires active collaboration between all stakeholders, yet meaningful participation in MSP processes often is a challenge. This paper explores the role of Communities of Practice as a participatory tool for developing multi-use. The Netherlands set up a ‘Community of Practice North Sea’ to stimulate the development of multi-use pilots by bringing interested parties together, sharing experiences and learning from each other in a context of existing and developing spatial and social claims. This development is part of the government's strategy aimed at finding a balance between offshore wind energy development, nature conservation and seafood production. The paper shows that by (partly) decoupling policy from practice and creating a positive learning environment, Communities of Practice have potential as a participatory tool for encouraging cooperation between stakeholders in an informal setting and facilitating a transition towards multi-use of marine resources. The paper proposes ten guidelines for using Communities of Practices as an action-oriented tool for salient multi-use practices.