Responses of governance systems to change in coastal and marine ecosystems vary from country to country around the globe. Lessons can be learned from country specific case studies, as national governments strive to adapt and respond to issues of concern. This short paper highlights the benefits of a country-specific, special edition of Marine Policy, with a focus on Ireland. Despite the uniqueness of socio-ecological setting, many of the issues faced by policy makers in Ireland, such as the reconciliation of economic development and conservation needs, are shared elsewhere. This special edition was produced at the end of the 'Celtic Tiger' in Ireland. As a result, it reflects an era when economic development was very much a priority. The same period represented an unparalleled investment in marine science since the foundation of the State in 1922. Despite this, the papers in the Special Edition point to varying degrees of progress in policy integration and implementation. Papers covering a range of sectors (fisheries, ocean energy, conservation and fisheries) and disciplines (economics, science and management) will be of interest to academics, policy makers, students and practitioners of marine policy. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.