In the European Union (EU), marine resource management policies and legislation include not only environmental objectives but also a broad range of explicitly stated economic, social and institutional (ESI) goals, objectives and priorities. Although the environmental objectives often guide scientific assessments, the ESI objectives are often the primary drivers of political decisions. During a workshop we analysed primary EU documents related to North Sea management to start defining the spectrum of ESI objectives and indicators for this region and to develop a more general framework. The implications of ESI objectives in legislative texts and policies are not always clear, and interpretations are likely to change depending on personal or institutional viewpoints. For example, there may be trade-offs expressed between avoiding risk to fish populations and maximizing employment, but there are no clear guidelines for weighing these objectives. The objectives can be categorized, although there is a lot of flexibility in how this may be done and many approaches to this categorization. Therefore, ESI objectives need to be refined in collaboration with policy makers and stakeholders to operationalize them. In addition, spatial scales and time frames matter, information about the time in setting the objective as well as a stated end date of achieving this objective need to be taken into account when evaluating trade-offs. We will present the developed framework of ESI objectives derived from policy documents with a first refinement by government representatives. We will also discuss challenges and possible tools for visualizing the landscape of objectives with stakeholders.