'I Need the Sea and the Sea Needs Me': Symbiotic coastal policy narratives for human wellbeing and sustainability in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human desire to be near coastal waters is an innate aspect of both human settlement choices and leisure behaviour. Emerging research agendas in the general field of ?wellbeing? focus on outdoor wellness, advocating the health and psychological benefits of nature. This presence of and engagement with coastal landscapes and water, or ?Blue Space? is a positive indicator in wellbeing, learning, outdoor activity and pro-environmental behaviour amongst the wider population. Simultaneously, the global marine policy agenda continues its commitment to coastal conservation and sustainability. To date, wellbeing, and marine policy agendas have mostly been segregated. This paper advocates a combined, integrative approach to policy that incorporates symbiotic sustainability-wellbeing narratives, proofing, and monitoring for the long term successful management of the coastal environment. Starting with the proposition that the sea needs humans, and humans need the sea, this research argues that valuing the coast and sea through its learning and wellbeing benefits can encourage pro-environmental and pro-sustainability attitudes. Little has been done to explore how the wellbeing benefits and emotional meaning people have felt through interacting with coastal environments can be harnessed for greater engagement and education around marine conservation. It challenges the mainstream discourse on marine conservation which often relies on people valuing the sea intrinsically from an altruistic and moral perspective. Primary research is presented on UK coastal learning and outdoor wellbeing programmes. Framing the coast as a therapeutic landscape with potential for simultaneously meeting human needs and marine needs, allows for inclusive policy decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-231
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018


  • Coastal sustainability
  • Wellbeing
  • Nature
  • Bluespace
  • Symbiosis
  • Outdoor wellbeing
  • Emotional geography
  • Children
  • Beach
  • Education
  • Place-attachment
  • Therapeutic landscapes


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