At the 7th conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP7, Kuala Lumpur, 2004) it was agreed to establish a global network of marine and coastal protected areas by 2012. The defined objectives of this MPA-network are based on the ecosystem approach: to protect biodiversity and other ecological values, and to ensure sustainable use. The (inter)national policy guidelines state that the selection of MPAs should be based on scientific information and ecological criteria only. As a signatory to the Convention, the Netherlands is now faced with meeting this obligation, and the process of designating the first Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Dutch part of the North Sea is currently in progress. We focus on the science-policy interactions that are part of this Dutch MPA selection process. By taking a closer look at the contemporary site selection process as well as its historical background, we show that ecological, socio-economic and political considerations cannot always be easily separated. Uncertainty is high and the ultimate selection and delimitation of candidate sites rather seems to be the result of a balancing act between ecological, socio-economic and political interests, in which scientific and policy guiding procedures blend with ad-hoc political decision making, and with expert judgment in cases where data is lacking. As such, this paper presents an example of present-day environmental policy making in action.
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