Many parts of the world rely on nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to improve farming production and increase yields. There are significant food security as well as socio-economic issues at stake. However, it is also clear that fertilizer loads are particularly damaging to aquatic environments, including lakes, rivers, coral reefs, and wetlands. This article explores governance approaches to fertilizer practices that impact on aquatic environments (eutrophication) by examining a case study of the Great Barrier Reef. Governance involves any and all forms of state and non-state control over a given set of issues. It can include, but is not limited to, rule-based approaches like regulation, although it can also involve market-driven measures like nutrient trading schemes, government grants and other financial incentives. So, which approach to governance works best to combat this particular policy question? What other insights into the design of effective regulation and governance can be gathered? In this article, the authors make three broad arguments for change: firstly, it is crucial that regulation features within government strategies; secondly, there must be a rigorous systematic evaluation of the strategies to ensure that the desired behavioural change is achieved along with the desired outcomes; thirdly, and most importantly, the strategies and the evaluation methods must be appropriate for the culture of the industry they are designed to regulate.
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