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Keywords:

  • conceptions of sustainability;
  • shellfish fishery;
  • visions of nature;
  • Wadden Sea

Abstract

The concept of sustainability has several, sometimes contrasting, meanings that may generate confusion, misunderstanding, and conflict concerning conservation and restoration practices. It is therefore desirable to clarify the concept of sustainability, thereby potentially contributing to mutual understanding, especially when social conflicts arise. This article discusses a recently published typology of three conceptions of sustainability that range from economic to ecocentric valuations of nature. We argue that the typology is incomplete because it does not include the arcadian approaches. For this reason, we introduce a “tripolar model” for conceptions of sustainability, applying it to the debate on shellfish harvesting in the Dutch Wadden Sea. We conclude that the particular visions or conceptions of sustainability held by relevant actors may have an impact on strategies for conservation.