There are many resources available on the European MSP Platform to address questions that may arise about MSP. On this page you will find several FAQs according to specific MSP related topics. For a general introduction to the topic of MSP in Europe, please see the Introduction to MSP page.

When questions are submitted to the EU MSP Platform Question & Answer Service, they are answered individually. Depending on the nature of the question, they will be generalised and the corresponding answers provided will be added to this page.

The answers on the FAQ page are continuously kept up to date and linked to more practices and projects as they are added to the website. This ensures that the answers will always refer to the most relevant and advanced information, knowledge and experiences with MSP today.

For information specific to maritime sectors, please visit the MSP Sectors section of our website.

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Climate change

  • Are there examples of plans or pilot plans taking climate change mitigation and/or adaptation measures into consideration?

    A pilot marine plan was developed for the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, as part of a number of pilots to inform the development of marine planning in Scotland. It considers climate change both in terms of how actions under the Plan might help mitigate the degree of anthropogenic induced climate change and also how the Plan need to be adapted to take into account the effects of climate change. Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Measures in the general principles and also specifically referring to measures specifically oriented to different maritime sectors.

    The Pilot Draft Plan for the West Part of the Gulf of Gdańsk (PL) points out the need for adequate technical solutions for infrastructures, coping with climate change (sea level rise) is stressed. Specific technical solutions are envisaged in order to respect the restriction that the height of above-water structures, built for scientific, environmental and nature conservation needs, should not exceed 5.5 m above sea level. At the same time, the pilot plan points out the lack of knowledge on how climate change will affect the protection of marine areas in long term, and how, in turn, the protection will influence the development of coastal communities is pointed out.

    The Pilot Coastal Plan for Šibenik-Knin County (Croatia) recommends several adaptation measures for the county coastal area; some being also relevant for marine and maritime aspects, e.g.:

    • Infrastructure: protection against coastal flooding, adaptation of the existing coastal infrastructure to the expected higher sea levels, climate proofing of future infrastructure
    • Spatial planning: implementation of Article 8 of the ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean establishing set-back zones along the coast, managed realignment to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts, marine spatial planning for more sustainable and resilient sea use.
    • Governance and management: ICZM coordination body at regional level, creating favourable conditions for participation, awareness raising and capacity building.

    Experiences of implementation of plans for coastal protection and management and adaptation to climate change effects, such as erosion and submersion risks, are available from the results of the COASTANCE project (namely from the practice Territorial Action Plans for Coastal Protection and Management). The focus is on low sandy or pebbly coastal zones and their inlands, the most expo­sed to sea level rise, erosion and submersion risks. Soft options like beach nourishment, while also being temporary and needing regular replenishment, appear more acceptable than hard defence structures (e.g. breakwaters, seawalls, groynes), and go some way to restore the natural dynamism of the shoreline. This has clear MSP implication in terms of identification and exploitation of submerged sand deposits. Practical applications are already available: Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace (GR), Département de l'Hérault (FR), Emilia-Romagna Region (IT) and various areas in Cyprus.

  • Are there examples of integration of climate variability and climate change into strategies implementing ICZM and MSP in specific sea regions?

    Addressing the requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, the Clyde Marine Region Assessment 2017 represents the first step in formal regional marine planning in the Clyde. It presents a comprehensive review of environmental, social and economic trends and issues at the Clyde Marine Region level. Climate change is considered among high priority issues: potentially vulnerable areas were identified using the IPCC emissions scenarios to predict sea level rise and flooding (this was done through the 2017 sea level rise and storm surges in the Firth of Clyde).

    The Macro-Project of the Bologna Charter and its Joint Action Plan (JAP) represent a coordinated effort of the Mediterranean coastal Administrations (sub-national level) to face concretely the challenges of the coastal natural risk, by adaptation policies contributing to develop conditions for the Blue Growth in the Mediterranean. The JAP identifies concrete actions for implementation of adaptation policies to the risks driven by climate change. Structural works and management solutions are identified. Works include coastal defences and closely related infrastructures and actions, like waterfronts, port arrangements, touristic assets, natural protected areas, etc.

    Within the MedPartnership, UNEP/MAP, its Regional Activity Centres PAP and Blue Plan, and GWP-Med run the project “Integration of Climatic Variability and Change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean (ClimVar & ICZM)". "Guidelines for adapting to Climate Variability and Change along the Mediterranean Coast" were prepared. These Guidelines offer specific information on how to integrate climate variability and climate change into national ICZM strategies, plans or programmes, making reference to the Protocol on ICZM in the Mediterranean which applies also to territorial sea (art. 8). The entire process is guided through a set of steps (Establishment, Analysis and Future, Setting the Vision, etc.).

    COP19 of the Barcelona Convention endorsed on February 2016 the "Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas". The main objective of the Framework is to set a regional strategic approach to increase the resilience of the Mediterranean marine and coastal natural and socioeconomic systems to the impacts of climate change, assisting policy makers and stakeholders at all levels across the Mediterranean in the development and implementation of coherent and effective policies and measures by identifying strategic objectives, strategic directions and priorities.

  • Which elements/conditions are needed to effectively include climate change with MSP process?

    The PartiSEApate project promoted a dialogue on MSP at pan-Baltic level between sectors and planners. The Transnational MSP Stakeholder dialogue pointed out some relevant needs for MSP process related to climate change:

    • Appropriate communication and information strategies are needed to allow spatial planners to access and interpret climate change data. Planners at the local level require support in downscaling global and regional trends and projection to their local situation.
    • Due to the uncertainty of prognoses concerning environmental, as well as socio-economic changes, MSP national legislation needs to become more flexible regarding climate change adaptation issues, e.g. through “adaptive licensing”.
    • (For the Baltic Region) A pan-Baltic multi-level strategy for integrating climate change adaptation into MSP and ICZM should be developed.
    • Collaboration between MSP and climate change adaption experts is required both at the practical as well as the policy level.
    • Climate change may have significant impacts on many sectors. So far, however, only consequences resulting from sea level rise are generally taken into account. The value of maintaining and strengthening ecosystem services (securing sectors like fishery, tourism, energy production, etc.) should receive greater attention.

    Still in the Baltic, MARISPLAN investigated how climate change how climate change will influence the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea and its uses. How the society can adapt its policies and uses of the marine ecosystem in a changing climate was assessed, and GIS-based MSP tools were developed.

  • Are there climate change indicators available to support coastal planners that can be useful in taking care of land-sea interactions?

    Climate change indicators to be used in coastal planning are available from the Coastal Indicator System (COINS), developed within the BLAST project. COINS is based on the 27 sustainability indicators identified by the European Expert Group on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and concentrates on the indicators particularly related to the impact of climate change. Examples of (directed or undirected) climate-related indicators included in COINS are:

    A - Indicators aiming at controlling further development on undeveloped coasts:

    Demand for property on the coast
    The area of built-up land
    Rate of development of undeveloped land
    Demand for road travel on the coast.

    B Indicators recognising the threat to coastal areas from climate change:

           5. Coastal zone erosion
           6. Natural, human and economic assets at risk.

    C Indicator recognizing the sustainable development value of the coastal area:

           7. Potential of the coastal zone as a resource for renewable energy.

    Coastal planners can visualise the effects of climate change on coastal areas using the COINS system. They are able to develop scenarios of socio-economic development balanced with environmental protection that are realistically constrained by the potential effects of climate change.

    The SUSTAIN project has developed an indicator-based methodology and scoring system, DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool, which enables a self- assessment approach for local and regional authorities, to evaluate their sustainability performance for the purpose of improving the management of coastal zones.

  • Are tools/approaches available to account for climate change under MSP?

    The CoMPi project has developed an innovative service to support development of the maritime sectors of the Blue Growth Strategy, under climate change conditions. The service provides an indication of the historic profile of the coast, predictions for the future positions of the shoreline, monitoring services of the dynamic coastal evolution, recent high-resolution images, bathymetric charts and contour maps. The use of this service will facilitate potential end-users to protect their properties from climate change effects with greater efficiency, preventing from unnecessary and inefficient public works and supporting the decision-making-process for future planning and sustainable development of coastal areas.

    The recently started OCEANPLAN project will develop an index to assess MSP vulnerability to climate change applying it to selected case studies around the planet. Alongside, it will investigate operational approaches for adapting to change and uncertainty, further analysing how specific MSP processes and policies have been integrating, and dealing with climate change. Guidelines for MSP under a changing climate will also be developed.

    The Wadden Sea Region Climate Atlas has been developed to support the Wadden Sea Forum activities in the field of climate change and climate adaptation, as it concerns the society and the different sectors. The climate office of the HZG (Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht) has adapted their existing climate atlas to the requirements of the Waddens Sea Forum sectors. For the Wadden Sea Region, several climate scenarios are placed in this atlas and different parameters can be selected. Further information on water levels, wave heights and water currents will be carried out and integrated in the atlas within the coming months. It is also foreseen, to provide the atlas in the Danish, German and Dutch language.


Communicating MSP

  • What tools can MSP planners use to communicate their planning processes and results with stakeholders?

    The choice of a tool depends on the purpose of the communication (why and what), the target audience, the available budget and staff resources (e.g. to keep a website updated). Communication can be simply about informing people - of process steps, stages, projects, outputs of an MSP- or be a tool for a more interactive, collaborative planning approach that focusses on learning and co-development of a plan.

    Concerning informing people, many MSP authorities create a well-organized, visually attractive website to serve as a central information source on MSP in their country. This can provide a centralized location for information on the entire MSP process in one portal, rather than developing separate websites for individual parts of the process. One example is the Dutch Noordzeeloket, which provides a clear outline of different sea uses and plans, or the Finland Maritime Spatial Planning website, where the latest news and events are shared. While MSP may involve multiple distinct government entities, it is useful to have one website for the whole process, rather than multiple pages on individual agency websites, to facilitate ease of use for stakeholders. Different types of stakeholders should also be kept in mind when designing a website, and navigation should allow users to find information targeted to their needs. Websites should be kept as up to date as possible to ensure information is periodically refreshed.

    Websites can be filled with all different kind of information. In many cases visual elements are of an added value, if they are easy to understand at first glance. Several MSP authorities have produced short animated videos to describe MSP in general, such as ‘What is Marine Planning?’ produced by the UK’s Marine Management Organisation or the Planning Fundamentals video produced by the Estonian Ministry of Finance (in charge of MSP). Other videos use an interview format to share individual stakeholder perspectives, such as one example produced by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

    Printed materials can include flyers or fact sheets for specific themes, such as the ‘Crossing of offshore wind farms for shipping in the Netherlands’. This is one way to share information on a given topic or issue with stakeholders. When maps are shown, it is best to make use of thumbnails, and provide maps for different sea uses as well as maps for the entire plan, such as those for example from the Noordzeeloket. Printed materials can also be archived on a website.

    Newsletters and social media are important tools to keep stakeholders informed of latest updates and direct traffic to certain pages on the website. A newsletter should have a reliable, recognizable layout so that readers can expect to find the information they are looking for in the same place each time. Social media channels, such as Twitter, can be used to share short term updates and document event highlights. Organising one account to be used for the whole process, such as the Marine Planning Ireland Twitter account. It is also an effective way to feed news to broader, transnational MSP networks (such as the EU MSP Platform) or specific sector stakeholder platforms.

    The main tool for creating an interactive, collaborative planning process is organising workshops. With this tool planners are able to facilitate stakeholder input throughout the planning process, from visioning to elaborating concrete plan alternatives and designations. Pre-workshop information should be designed to attract attendees and include information such as what is at stake for the target audience and what will be shared or discussed. Organising a back-to-back networking event may make the event more appealing for stakeholders to attend. If a meeting is intended to attract a large audience, smaller breakout groups may be helpful to facilitate more in-depth discussions. Interactive tools for a broad audience, such as sli.do, can make a meeting more interactive by using polls and questions. In meetings with complicated subjects, a visual recorder may be helpful to develop an overview picture capturing the essence of the discussion. Visual recordings are also currently more often done digitally on smart-boards or tablets, which allow elements to be amended and the picture can be easily shared in the future. An example of a digital graphic recording was made at the kick-off event of the International Forum for MSP.

    An interactive tool which can be used during a workshop itself is the MSP Challenge Board game or the MSP Challenge 2050 digital game, both developed by the NHTV in Breda. This simulation game is mainly relevant for the early phases of the planning process to introduce the concept and complexities of MSP. Both tools provide new ways to stimulate discussion and show visual elements on a map. An example of its application is the use of the MSP Challenge Board Game as part of the Belgian North Sea visioning process

  • What are examples of digital and innovative tools used to communicate MSP?

    Digital communication tools, other than informative websites, can enable sharing of draft plan content and exchange of information and opinions with stakeholders. Many MSP authorities, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Norway share the draft plans or information on current sea uses in a digital map format. These maps are not only interesting for sector specialists, but with an easy to understand legend, they can also be used by other countries to understand details of the current plans. A digital map allows the user to zoom into an area of interest to identify site specific information, or decide which layers to display to focus on select uses. Digital maps can also be used to gather input directly from stakeholders. For example, in the Danish project Havfriluftsliv, maritime tourists (e.g. sailors, divers, surfers, etc) are invited to share information on their spatial use to develop a user-based map of marine recreation hotspots, along with physical conditions and facilities in areas of interest.

    Other examples of digital communication tools include visualization tools, such as the Dutch Offshore Wind Farm viewer, which allows users to virtually experience the visual and acoustic impact of different alternatives of offshore wind farms at different locations along the Dutch coast. Another innovative tool is the Baltspace findings tool which allows users to navigate between different short movies on specific themes and click through to find more detailed information about the findings of the project. Story maps can also be used to share content on a particular topic; for example, the SIMCelt project developed a story map for stakeholders to understand the application of the ecosystem services in MSP. The advantage of this format is the compatibility with smartphones and tablets, making it more future-proof and usable for different generations. Several free and easy to use tools are available for spatial story telling, such as ArcGIS Storymaps.

  • What tools can be used for communicating transnational coordination of MSP?

    Transnational coordination of MSP is challenging due to a variety of factors, including differences in planning cultures and languages, as well as diverse goals and understandings of MSP. Thus, communication tools for international audiences should be mindful of these challenges, and where possible, be developed in multiple languages or a common language (e.g. English).

    To understand planning processes in multiple countries, an overview of the process in the form of a timeline can be very useful. This can help neighbouring countries understand how the MSP process is run somewhere else. This has been done in the context of the NorthSEE project, first using large format paper drawings that were then transferred to a digital format. It resulted in a better understanding of the key terms and concepts used in the different national planning processes.

    Wallpaper work on timeline of North Sea MSP processes

    Another example is from the Plan4Blue project, which developed a visual comparison of two countries’ MSP processes in the same style:

    (Images from http://www.syke.fi/download/noname/%7BE17F51E5-7A05-4559-858E-778F770016...).

    It is recommended that when MSP authorities are developing a timeline, they should first consult with neighbouring countries and potentially develop a common set of symbology, colors and phases.

    Transnational coordination of data and information sharing is also relevant in the development of databases. Examples of this are the centralized EMODnet data portals and the decentralized HELCOM map and data service. The portals provide the opportunity to develop custom made digital maps. Other tools are in development, for example the Infoquarium, which is a stakeholder information tool of the NorthSEE project.

  • How can researchers communicate their findings to planners for integration in MSP processes?

    Scientific data and findings provide key evidence for MSP. Many MSP authorities actively involved scientists in their processes to ensure the latest findings and information are considered. For example, in Germany, an official Scientific Advisory Board provides feedback at various points in the process. In the Netherlands, the annual North Sea Days event is held to facilitate discussions between different Dutch research institutes (NIOZ, MR, Deltaris, TNO) and governmental agencies.

    Complementary to these in person forums, researchers seek to make their findings as usable and practical as possible for integration in a planning process. In doing this, they need to use a jargon-free language and keep messages short and to the point. Also, it needs to be clear for the planners what the relevance of the research for the planning process is. For example, researchers of the Belgium research institute VLIZ develop the Compendium of the Sea every two years, which is an attractively designed bundle of reports on specific uses, showing the most recent data and scientific underpinnings.  While longer reports are intended to be comprehensive, policy briefs provide a concise format for researchers to communicate their findings at the political level. The BONUS BALTSPACE project developed several policy briefs , including infographics, to provide a short summary of project deliverables in a visually appealing format.

    Scientists can also make use of digital formats to explain their findings, such as online tutorials. For example, an online tutorial on culturally significant areas was developed as part of the BALTSPACE project. Webinars can provide more detailed information and allow for exchange between the audience and presenters, such as the webinar on cumulative impact tools for MSP co-organised by the EU MSP Platform.

    To target a younger audience of students or beginning planners, research projects, such as BONUS BALTSPACE and BONUS BASMATI , organise summer schools and training courses to share latest findings with a new generation of planners in an easy and attractive way. More information on upcoming trainings and summer schools is available on the EU MSP Platform Training page.

Cross-border Cooperation

  • What is the difference between cross-border consultation for a given MSP and general sea-basin cooperation on MSP?

    According to the Regional Baltic Maritime Spatial Planning Roadmap 2013-2020, the HELCOM-VASAB Guidelines on trans-boundary consultations, public participation and cooperation (HOD 50-2016) have been adopted in 2016. They could be of use for eventually all Baltic Sea countries to carry out trans-boundary consultation according to a common practice.

    Consultation of more practical topics is arising in the course of elaboration of maritime spatial plans, e.g. trans-boundary impacts of the plan, or trans-boundary coherence of the planning provisions. This usually takes place in bilateral or trilateral interactions (cross-border interactions) and refers to the formal process, which takes place between affected Baltic Sea Region (BSR) countries and their authorities on specific provisions foreseen in a given Maritime Spatial Plan.

    Cooperation on maritime spatial planning is understood as a more open and preparatory process with focus on information and knowledge exchange as well as development of common understanding. Co-operation at pan-Baltic level concerns strategic and farsighted decisions”.

    The cross-border consultation for a concrete cross-border plan can be different than general sea basin co-operation, although both processes might reinforce each other by building trust, extending knowledge, improving information sharing and stabilising personal contacts between maritime spatial planners from various countries. Example explanations of the differences can be found in:

  • How should cross-border cooperation be carried out between countries?

    The MSP Directive urges Member States to cooperate in their MSP processes with the aim of ensuring that maritime spatial plans are coherent and coordinated across the marine region concerned, especially taking into account issues of a transnational nature.

    The Directive does not set specific measures for cooperation, recognising that there are differences between marine and coastal areas. MSP authorities should develop the most appropriate mechanisms of cooperation. This is likely to include one authority circulating draft versions of their plan for comment by neighbouring authorities and those comments being taken into account. Comments may also be invited from other transnational organisations and stakeholders.

    Other mechanisms of cooperation may be agreed by authorities, such as a forum at an early stage of planning where issues of joint concern may be identified and priorities set out. This may be followed by subsequent meetings and on-going contact, where the development of key issues in emerging plans is kept under review. Established mechanisms for cooperation may extend to the implementation of maritime spatial plans.

    The Seanergy 2020 project has developed a set of seven criteria to evaluate the different MSP regimes across the 17 EU Member States one of which is cross-border cooperation. In this practice the findings concerning best practices in cross-boundary cooperation for MSP will be elaborated. In addition the Seaenergy 2020 project also produced a Cross Border MSP Case Study demonstrating transnational cooperation on MSP can lead to benefits for offshore wind development.

    The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group agreed on principles for trans-boundary consultation within specific MSP processes as well as trans-boundary pan-Baltic cooperation in more general terms. The guidelines are legally non-binding, but recommended to be applied voluntarily to set joint standards for MSP cooperation in the Baltic Sea region as outlined in the guidelines.

    The study, Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, was designed to assist the European Commission (EC) and Member States in the implementation of the MSP Directive through the identification of good practices of MSP, with a particular focus on cross-border cooperation. The practices are derived from reviewing an inventory of non-European global MSP processes, and an in-depth analysis of four case studies. The practices are presented to support and encourage cross-border cooperation in MSP, while recognizing that MSP is primarily a social and political process with major economic consequences, as well as a scientific and technical challenge.

    With respect to MSP cooperation with third countries, the project East West Window has demonstrated how to involve Russia to MSP even when authorities responsible for MSP were not existing. Further investigation into this topic is included as part of the study on cross-border consultation, prepared by the EU MSP Platform for the European Commission, to be made available in late 2018.

  • Are there already examples of trans-boundary plans available to show how such a plan could look like with proposals for selected areas and recommendations for designated issues?

    The Trans-boundary Planning in the European Atlantic (TPEA) Project was part-funded by DG MARE with the objective of investigating the delivery of a commonly agreed approach to cross-border maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the European Atlantic region. TPEA was a pilot initiative, bringing together Government bodies, research centres and data agencies from the UK, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland.

    Compared to other European Sea Basins trans-boundary plans in the Baltic Sea are reasonably well developed. A number of projects have been carried out over the past decade. The first major project BaltSeaPlan accompanied the EU Maritime Policy by supporting the introduction of Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning within Baltic Sea Region. More recently, the Baltic SCOPE project   conducted case studies for two cross border areas: the Southwest Baltic (South-West Sweden bordering Denmark, Germany and Poland) and the Central Baltic (the Latvian sea border with Sweden and Estonia).

    The EU DG Mare funded ADRIPLAN aimed to deliver a commonly-agreed approach to cross-border MSP in the Adriatic-Ionian region, considered as a whole and more specifically through two Focus Areas: (1) Northern Adriatic Sea; (2) Southern Adriatic/Northern Ionian Sea.

    The case studies included in the study, Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, are four non-European examples of cross-border MSP processes and plans: the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP); The Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); The Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI- CFF); and Xiamen Marine Functional Zoning (MFZ). Case study summary reports are available to present an overview of each MSP initiative, and outcomes and lessons learned from each process.

    The MARSPLAN - BS project included development of a pilot maritime spatial plan for a cross-border area Mangalia-Shabla, between Bulgaria and Romania. The pilot plan was developed in 5 steps: review and analysis of existing and future activities and uses in the cross-border area Mangalia (RO) – Shabla (BG), development and assessment of alternative strategic scenarios for the region, selection and description of the optimal strategic scenario and goals for maritime spatial planning,  elaboration of a Maritime Spatial Plan for the Cross-border area next to the Romanian and the Bulgarian Black sea coast.

MSP Sectors

  • ALL SECTORS: What are required capability or site suitability parameters for human activities in offshore environments?

    Site suitability parameters (how suitable is a given site for certain activities) may relate to the physical and biological characteristics of an area, and are relevant to the type of activity that is being planned. It is important to keep in mind that site suitability parameters will vary significantly depending on the local conditions and the type of activity considered. For example, offshore wind arrays must take account of the wind resource, water depth and proximity to the shore, in order to minimise grid connection distance (see http://www.windpowerengineering.com/projects/guidelines-selecting-sites). Aquaculture farms must take account of currents, water quality (e.g. turbidity, nutrients) and nearby sensitive species (see for example suitability maps developed from the COEXIST project). A careful analysis should therefore be carried out of the demands of the activity in question and the relevant constraint criteria for the area of interest.

    During an MSP process, it is recommended that the context of a defined area is assessed and then late further refined– this is commonly referred to as a stocktake (see for example the Handbook on Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning developed from the Plan Coast project). Information collected during the stocktake is then analysed, such as through modelling of data per site suitability parameters, including for example a cumulative impacts assessment (see for example the Adriplan Cumulative Impact Tool). This information is then used to establish or recommend suitable areas for certain activities.

    Site suitability parameters are usually identified in the early stages of MSP processes. Some documents developed during an MSP process may lay the foundation for development of a statutory MSP plan, but were themselves not formally adopted. For example, the Portuguese Plano de Ordenamento do Espaço Marítimo (POEM) is a study that served as a precursor to Portugal’s statutory MSP plan, by laying out the economic, environmental and social importance of Portugal’s mainland sea area, showing existing and potential uses and their integrated planning and adaptive management. Pilot MSP plans can have a specific focus on a particular sector, such as the pilot plan for the Southern Middle Bank on the Swedish/Polish border developed as part of the PartiSeaPate project. In terms of adopted plans, the German MSP plans for the North Sea and Baltic Sea contain precise information on the site suitability parameters for given sectors, as well as their accompanying SEAs (North Sea and Baltic Sea).

Cross-sector integration

  • What are the challenges and limitations associated with cross sectoral integration?

    The BONUS BALTSPACE project explored MSP integration challengesand identified the following challenges and limitations under three major themes including:

    1. Multi-scale and transboundary integration

    • Integration between different (geo)political scales (e.g. local, regional, national, international) 
    • Integration of MSP across national borders
    • Integration of MSP and terrestrial planning 

    2. Policy and sector integration 

    • Integration of environmental policies (in particular MSFD) and Blue Growth 
    • Sectoral integration in public policy (e.g. maritime transports, fisheries, tourism etc.) 
    • Integration of public, private and voluntary sector activities Stakeholder integration 
    • Integration of stakeholder knowledge, values, interests, critique etc. in MSP with regard to important procedural aspects (e.g. transparency, legitimacy, power, mobilisation, timing, roles) 

    3. Integration of knowledge base 

    • Interdisciplinary integration linked to e.g. risk and uncertainty analysis, sustainability assessments
    • Integration of sectoral knowledge 
    • Integration of decision support tools in practical MSP processes handling ecological, economic and social issues on a spatial level

    The BALTSPACE interactive tool facilitates exploration of these challenges and their related aspects.

  • How can one analyse the costs and benefits associated with a given set of maritime uses? 

    Cross-sector integration implies good knowledge of the implication, requirements and planning criteria for collocation of sea uses. In particular it is important to analyse costs and benefits of different combination of uses in different circumstances (e.g. legal, oceanographic, economic etc.). There are several tools and guidelines assisting planners in this process. E.g. Individual Stress Level Analysis - ISLA quantifies the impact of future activities on the specific activity, E.g. it allows to estimate the effects of future management on fisheries based on the closure of fishing grounds. BONUS BALTSPACE project has elaborated guidance on how to use a tool to analyse the distribution of costs and benefits associated with a given set of maritime uses.

    Also more comprehensive approaches do exist. The Latvian pilot plan provides a separate "Cost-benefit analysis for balancing sea use interests within the LV MSP process". The Seanergy 2020 project developed the study  “Cross-border MSP Case Study Benefits Assessment”; this shows how to evaluate the benefits of cross-border coordination of MSP, focusing in particular on offshore wind energy. Finally, Marine Planning: socio-economic study might help maritime planners, developers, local authorities and others to understand issues affecting coastal communities. It includes national level information and more detailed information for the East of England, also regarding parallel uses of the marine area and associated costs and benefits.

    The MUSES project has elaborated: (i) a comprehensive overview of opportunities (analysing related benefits) for multi-uses in given sea-basins; (ii) analysed perceived and real barriers to various forms of co-uses across all sea basins, (iii) defined a multi-level action plan recommending priority issues to be tackled to overcome those barriers and exploit such opportunities.

    However, while looking for inspiration it is important to keep in mind that the “one size approach fits all” should be avoided. In each case costs and benefits might look different. They depend of the level of development of a given area, stakeholder consciousness and even planning culture and experience. Thus, they are context dependent.

  • What kind of tools are available to plan and manage the overlapping sea uses?

    MSP aims for win-win solutions. However, this is possible in exceptional cases only. More frequently spatial conflicts prevail. Different sea users compete for the same sea space. For instance, fishing can be hampered by any solid construction in the sea but also by the same token by an intensive navigation, underwater cultural heritage or underwater pipelines and cables. However, the same uses can bring also synergetic effects since underwater constructions with time might become artificial reefs: an important place for fishes to shelter. Therefore it is so important to analyse possible spatial conflicts and discuss trade-offs that might require political decisions as a part of the MSP process. The departure point is usually the mapping of sea uses, facilitating visualization of possible conflicts (and synergies).

    The COEXIST project offers a good example of a tool for mapping of activities - past, present, and future. The dedicated GIS software helps to analyse and visualise information on the location of the current and planned activities. It addresses the following questions: ‘Do overlapping activities exist?’, ‘Where to expect conflicts?’ and ‘How does a specific management result in a change of conflicts?’. Geo reference Interactions Database – GRID elaborated under the same project is a web-based flexible database connected with a number of tools (stress level and conflict score analyses) to review marine activities and interactions (conflicts and synergies). Whereas the Web-GIS platform for implementing MSP in Greece and Cyprus might be helpful for visualising conflicting interactions (considering both maritime and land-based activities and uses) and deriving density activity maps and/or conflicts maps. There are also several tools that might help quantifying the overlapping uses and calculate conflicts scores and other indicators (e.g. including costs). One example, among many, is the Analysis of Conflict Scores tool developed by the COEXIST project, which supports a (semi-) quantitative conflict analysis and can answer some questions such as how does the conflict score change with management options or did a changed management result in a change of conflicts. The conflict score tool, developed by the Adriplan project, is based on the above. It allows to quantify the overlapping of uses, calculating the direct spatial conflict score (in the current and future scenarios) based on the COEXIST methodology. The method includes five consecutive steps: (i) identification of maritime uses; (ii) spatial normalization of uses on hexagonal grid; (iii) setting of temporal and spatial attributes for each maritime use; (iv) calculation of the co-existence score per each pair of maritime uses insisting in the same cell of analysis; (v) calculation of the total coexistence score per each cell of analysis.

    Individual Stress Level Analysis - ISLA also developed by the COEXIST project, quantifies the effects of future management options on concrete sea uses. Many pilot projects have also used the MARXAN software for planning new uses in a way that allows minimising spatial conflicts while achieving the agreed policy goals (e.g. on nature conservation, off-shore energy production or fishery). Results are available in the BaltSeaPlan project reports no.


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    . The BONUS BALTSPACE project also elaborated further guidance on the application of MARXAN for planning for offshore wind in the western Baltic Sea.

  • Are there samples available for written dispute resolution agreements? 

    Maritime ecosystem forms a unique continuum hardly affected by administrative borders. Exploitations of some ecosystem services in one country and resulting from these negative externalities may affect societal wellbeing and the state of the sea environment in other countries. The influence varies. Oils spills might travel quite a long distance, solid construction might change the transfer of sediments and thus affects coastal dynamics far away from the place of its location whereas laying of pipelines might hamper international navigation and affect ships from outside of a given sea basin. Therefore, some conflicts would benefit from a formal dispute resolution. Its preparation is not an easy task.

    For instance in the Baltic Sea region the BaltSpace VISION 2030 endorsed by VASAB and HELCOM identified four topics required more intensive trans-boundary collaboration: offshore energy, fishery, nature conservation and navigation. Thus, some Baltic Sea region countries several times have raised the questions of the need to establish some kind of a formal macro-regional agreement regulating those topics. Some preparatory work has been started under the international projects such as BalticLINES and BalticGrid. It is however, not clear whether they will results in some kind of a formal agreement or guidelines (good example of such recommendations is provided by Seanergy 2020 project).

    Another form of formal resolution of international spatial conflicts is making use of existing international treaties and convention. For instance, Norway has managed to reroute the international navigation potentially jeopardizing the environmental integrity of its coastal waters through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) framework. However, there are also some good examples of bi-lateral and multi-lateral formal agreements of different nature and scale that help resolving some spatial conflicts. On a local scale one can study and follow the case of Wismar Bay. Through an intensive stakeholder process facilitated within the MSP framework tourism sector convinced the German nature protection authorities to allow the usage of the environmentally sensitive waters in the certain period of time. Sea tourists (mainly boat owners) subscribed themselves under the ban of not entering those sea areas in the time in which they are closed. At a larger national scale one can study the UK experience in preparing different types of agreements.  In UK wind developers and/or submarine cable companies and fishery industry representatives develop written agreements, such as Co-existence Plans (agreed-upon communication protocols; measures for avoidance, mitigation, and cooperation; and dispute resolution), Memoranda of Understanding (MOU; articulate goals for engaging with fishermen, for example, on routing cables in nonessential Fishery areas), and Statements of Common Ground (summarize discussions on areas of agreement and remaining/unresolved conflicts). Each form of conflicts resolution shows particular strength in different circumstances. For instance, the Co-existence Plans are mainly linked to the offshore wind, WOC (World Ocean Council) or grid-nets while Memoranda of Understanding work well with regard to routing cables in non-essential Fishery areas with consent from fishermen.

    The study titled Addressing conflicting spatial demands in MSP: Considerations for MSP planners was conducted in 2018 with an aim to explore the range of spatial conflicts experienced in MSP in Europe. It provided an overview of common types of spatial conflicts and solutions that have been found in various EU Member States, with particular focus on spatial conflict prevention and mitigation and conditions for applying them.Detailed results of the study and relevant examples are presented in nine conflict fiches available here.

  • What are some examples of cross-sectoral synergies and multi-use opportunities?

    Cross sectoral synergies can be achieved in practice and at the operational level through the combination of different maritime uses at the same location or with multi-use offshore platforms which contributes to the  sustainable and efficient use of maritime space and natural resources. Combining uses, both in close proximity, through joint operations, or on the same platform, can reduce space demand and potentially offer significant socio-economic and environmental benefits. The concept of multi-use is still relatively new and has been mostly advanced by research institutes/commercial enterprises which is also the participants involved in the stakeholder analysis.

    Multi-use in Europe has so far been explored at the project level. The TROPOS project designed a modular MU platform concept for use in deep waters, focusing on the Mediterranean, tropical and sub-tropical regions. The MERMAID project examined different design concepts, such as the combination of structures or different uses at representative sites under different conditions. H2Ocean instead focused specifically on the combination of wind and wave power for hydrogen generation, supporting multiple energy users. The MARIBE project focused on analysing and developing business cases for a selection of most promising MU combinations. 

    The MUSES project went beyond exploring technological solutions to review and analysed other barriers and opportunities for a variety of multi-use combinations at the national and sea basin level. The following project outputs give examples of multiuse opportunities in Europe: 

    • The MUSES project Multi-Use Analysis report provides a clear overview of multi-use potential (including environmental, economic and societal benefits) and barriers specifically  for 13 multi-use combinations.
    • The Sea Basin Synthesis report identifies potential and barriers for MU applications across the five European sea basins, depicting MU applications with real potential and maps out their location and the opportunities to promote MU implementation. 
    • The MUSES Multi-Use Action Plan builds up on all the MUSES work packages and reports to provide actions and recommendations on what should be done, and by whom to address multi use barriers.

    These reports overall highlight major barriers (inappropriate regulations, operational, environmental, health and safety, technology, societal and legal aspects) stalling the transition of multi-use of ocean from a concept to real life recognition and practical implementation. They also highlight good practices, case studies and recommendations across the EU related to multi-use concepts. The following are some findings and examples of multi-use opportunities based on the project outputs: 

    • The North Sea, Eastern Atlantic and the Baltic Sea have a strong offshore wind energy sector that could potentially develop further while also allowing growth in other relevant Blue Growth sectors such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture.
    • Combination of offshore wind, wave and tide energy generation (usually as part of the same physical platform), with the purpose of maximal energy generation from the resources at the given sea space, is something that developers are increasingly considering. For example, there is already some experience in combination of wave and tide energy in the Northern part of Scotland (Pentland Firth and Orkney waters), while a pilot test hybrid wind and wave technology is supposed to be commissioned (Cathness).
    • Different approaches can be noticed across countries in regard to integration of fisheries within offshore wind farms. On the other hand, in some countries, new tourism activities have already been established in relation to the OWF (i.e. renewable energy museums and visitor centres, boat tours, etc.).
    • Tourism combined with other activities including UCH (e.g. diving and walking trails) have strong potential in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea and other environmental/conservation benefits of this MU have been realised; and offshore wind (e.g. boat tours for OWF sightseeing), provides additional and innovative tourism opportunities that could potentially sustain tourism sector all year round. 
    • The MU combinations that concern the diversification of tourism and fishing sector in combination with sustainability and environmental protection goals are relevant in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the coastal areas of the Eastern Atlantic; with existing examples in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece
    • In ‘remote’ areas in Eastern Atlantic with little access to grid, combining aquaculture with wave energy generation (Mingary Bay, Scotland, UK) is driven by the need to use generated energy directly for the purpose of aquaculture operations.
    • The North Sea and specific areas of the Mediterranean Sea (Northern Adriatic in particular) have the potential for development of innovative solutions for sustainable reuse of decommissioned O&G platforms


Ecosystem-based approach

  • Are there application examples and guidance available that can help MSP authorities operationalize EBA?

    General support is provided by guidance or pilot plans. At the sea-basin level, the HELCOM Guidelines for the implementation of the EBA in MSP refer to the Baltic Sea context and elaborate on the key elements to consider when applying the approach, such as deploying best available knowledge and practice, following the precautionary principle and identifying ecosystem services. The practice includes also the analysis of the relevant legal and policy context for the ecosystem-based approach, such as the Helsinki Convention, HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and the Joint HELCOM-VASAB MSP Principles. Additionally, in the Mediterranean Sea, a Roadmap for implementing the EBA as a guiding principle for the Mediterannean Action Plan Programme of Work was developed, under the auspices of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention.

    Individual countries have also developed guidance or frameworks for EBA in the context of their national MSP processes. In a practical guidance of the Marine Management Organisation, the CBD Principles for EBA have been modified for application in marine planning in England. Implementation of EBA in MSP in Latvia follows a three step approach: a) analysing best knowledge and practice and identification of ecosystem services, b) finding alternative developments to assess impacts on marine ecosystems and c) applying precaution and mitigation when using an impact matrix. 

    The Guidelines developed for the project ECODUMP  are explicitly dealing with the influence of MSP and ecosystem based principles on the search and assessment of new disposal sites at the near-shore of Lithuania. The pilot plan for the Western Gulf of Gdansk developed in the project BaltSeaPlan outlines the preparation of an SEA report for maritime spatial plans in line with the EBA and with the special issue that the planned area contains Natura 2000 sites. The ADRIPLAN methodology provides techniques and methods based on the EBA for practically implementing MSP in the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region. The project BALANCE outlines the concept of blue corridors and how to work with it during practical marine spatial planning processes.

    Different studies and tools are providing support when implementing ecosystem-based management. ECOMAGIS developed a complex GIS for an ecosystem-based management through integrated monitoring and assessment of the status of flora and fauna in the Romanian part of the Black Sea. Two practices have developed tools for all sea basins like the MareFrame Decision Support Framework and the ODEMM approach for EBA.

  • Are there practices available to find out more about the application of cumulative impact methodologies?

    In all MSP contexts, one of the main challenges related to EBA is the evaluation of cumulative effects that may result from the combination of different activities, and the potential lack of a continuous series of data and related assessment tool. Several initiatives are ongoing to investigate how cumulative impact (or effect) assessments can be carried out to support analytical steps in an MSP process, including Strategic Environmental Assessments of plan alternatives. These include:

    • The ADRIPLAN Cumulative Impact Tool was developed to evaluate the potential cumulative impacts of various maritime activities on the marine environment in the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region. It was initially developed in the ADRIPLAN project, and then further advanced in the Ritmare project to incorporate methodological advancements related to human and environmental components, and quantification of pressures and sensitivities. The tool is integrated into the Tools4MSP Geoplatform (formerly ADRIPLAN Data Portal) and is used to support MSP exercises within other projects (e.g. SUPREME). 

    • The ESaTDOR and Med-IAMER projects investigated typologies of land-sea interactions and developed associated spatial indicators, which were then used in a cumulative impact assessment of environmental pressures
    • In national MSP processes, Sweden uses the Symphony method to compare the environmental impact of different plan alternatives and assess cumulative impacts. The tool is used in the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Swedish MSP (under development) to assess ecological risks. Symphony is being further enhanced as part of the Pan Baltic Scope project.

    • The SIMCelt project applied two cumulative effects assessment tools - ODEMM to offshore Brittany and Marlin to the Irish Sea – to investigate how to make cumulative effect assessments function for marine planning. Lessons learned include the importance of interpreting maps resulting from an assessment, the need to consider future developments, end user needs, and data availability. SIMCelt also studied at what points in the MSP process is cumulative effects assessment most useful, shown below.

    These efforts and several others were presented at an expert roundtable organised by the EU MSP Platform in January 2018. A summary report and presentations are available here. Participants discussed limitations and opportunities for applying cumulative impact tools in MSP and associated Strategic Environmental Assessments, shown in the following table:

    Further work is planned on cumulative effects assessment in several projects, such as the SIMNORAT / SIMWESTMED joint working group on a common methodology for cumulative impact assessment. The Pan Baltic Scope project will also work with HELCOM's Baltic Sea Impact Index to further integrate cumulative effects assessments and MSP. 

  • What kind of knowledge is available at the sea basin level regarding seabed habitats, which could be used for applying the EBA in MSP?

    There is one tool available for the specific region of the North-East Atlantic: from the MESHAtlantic project. It compiles the knowledge of our seas, particularly the seabed habitats, and produces harmonised habitat maps for the Atlantic Area. This includes conversion of existing paper-based maps to digital formats. Examples of mapping Natura 2000 sites are used to test mapping methods.

  • How is the implementation of MSP linked to Good Environmental Status (GES) and the related objectives and measures of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)?

    EU Member States (MS) must ensure that no significant risks or impacts on marine biodiversity, marine ecosystems or human health are posed by legitimate uses of the sea. This is enshrined in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; 2008/56/EC), a piece of EU law, which extends monitoring and assessment of EU seas out to 200 nm.

    As such, the main aim of the MSFD is ‘to promote sustainable use of the seas and conserve marine ecosystems through the aim of achieving a Good Environmental Status[1](GES), based upon 11 Qualitative Descriptors[2] by 2020’.

    In the MSFD cycle (Figure 1) to achieve GES by 2020, a first step is that MS produce initial assessments of the environmental status for their national parts of the seas. Next, monitoring programmes and programmes of measures (PoMs) are developed, including spatial protection measures.

    Image source: Borja, A., Elliott, M., Andersen, J. H., Berg, T., Carstensen, J., Halpern, B.S., Heiskanen, A-S., Korpinen, S., Stewart Lowndes, J.S., Martin, G., Rodriguez-Ezpeleta, N. (2016). Overview of Integrative Assessment of Marine Systems: The Ecosystem Approach in Practice. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3:20. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2016.00020. Doi. 10.3389/fmars.2016.00020.

    On the other hand, the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSP Directive, 2014/89/EU) aims for ‘the sustainable growth of maritime and coastal economies and the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources’.

    Despite the fact that each of the Directives have their specific objectives, many authors[3]-[4] have shown the importance of linking these Directive´s efforts (along with others such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC) or Habitats Directive (HD, 92/43/EEC)) in order to attain their objectives in a more coherent way (Figure 2).

    Image source: Boon, A., Uyarra, M.C., Heiskanen, A-S., van der Meulen, M.D., Galparsoro, I., Viitasalo, M., Stolte, W., Garmendia, J.M., Murillas, A., Borja, A. (2015). Mapping and assessment of marine ecosystem services and link to Good Environmental Status (phase 1) - Background document to the Roadmap for an integrated approach to a marine MAES. doi. 10.13140/RG.2.2.28660.35204

    One possible way of linking both objectives of the MSFD and MSPD could be through the ecosystem-based approach, defined under Main Issues above and discussed in several sources[5].

    The MSP Directive sets out 10 key principles which are closely linked to the principles of the ecosystem-based-approach as defined under the Conference of Biological Diversity[6]. These two groups of principles can be related as described in Figure 3[7].

    Practical ways on how to integrate ecosystem-based approach principles in the MSP process have been proposed, for example, by the experience in the Baltic Sea[8].

    As contemplated in the MSP Directive, this legislative instrument should apply the ecosystem-based approach, as referred to in Article 1(3) of the MSFD, with the aim to ensure that the collective pressure of all activities is kept within levels that are compatible with the achievement of GES[9]. The preamble clearly emphasizes the fact that the monitoring of indicators of GES in the MSFD is a key factor when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of the programs and achieving the anticipated objectives on a regional and local scale[10].

    However, the application of the ecosystem-based approach still entails some difficulties as to merge environmental quality management (e.g. MSFD) with MSP and Blue Growth initiatives. The main challenge remains on how to maintain and protect ecological structure and functioning (MSFD) while at the same time allowing the system to produce sustainable ecosystem services from which we derive societal benefits (MSP Directive). Furthermore, uncertainty still exists on cumulative and in-combination effects, footprints of activities and footprints of both Directives (spatial and temporal).

    The following table from Gilbert et al, 2015, provides an overview of the main drivers of change coming from maritime activities expected to affect MSFD descriptors: The table distinguishes between: 

    1. Drivers potentially subject to spatial planning and the descriptors they are likely to influence (in bold) and
    2. Drivers beyond the remit of MSP but with pressures that might need explicit consideration when developing plans.

    Possibilities for linking MSFD and MSP Directive's aims exist through:

    • making available data collected under MSP as information basis for pressure indicators under MSFD;
    • making available data collected under MFSD as information basis for maritime spatial plan assessment (i.e. how well they are performing, if measures to reduce pressures should be put in place, etc.);
    • taking into account land-sea interactions;
    • an adequate design of monitoring programs for measuring MSFD indicators, assessing predominant pressures and impacts and environmental status of marine waters[11];
    • an adequate evaluation of pressures and impacts produced by activities, including cumulative impact assessments;
    • setting adequate targets for indicators;
    • considering ecosystem boundaries  instead of administrative ones;
    • taking into account the assimilative capacity (carrying capacity of the system before breaching GES); and
    • regularly undertaking assessments and considering marine ecosystems in a holistic way (including humans as part of the system)[12],[13],[14].

    References and further reading:

    [1] Concept of GES accommodates the structure, function and processes of the marine ecosystems together with natural physiographic, geographic and climatic factors, as well as physical and chemical conditions including those resulting from human activities in the area concerned.

    [2] Qualitative Descriptors (QD) are: Biodiversity; Alien species; Fishing; Food-webs; Eutrophication; Sea-floor integrity; Hydrography; Pollution in the environment; Pollution in seafood; Litter; and Noise/energy.

    [3] Boyes, S. J., and Elliott, M. (2014). Marine legislation – The ultimate ‘horrendogram’: International law, European directives & national implementation. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 86, 39–47. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.055.

    [4] Maccarrone, V. Filiciotto, F., de Vincenzi, G., Mazzola, S., Buscaino, G. (2015). An Italian proposal on the monitoring of underwater noise: Relationship between the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and marine spatial planning directive (MSP). Ocean & Coastal Management 118, 215-224. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.07.006.

    [5] Borja, Á., M. Elliott, J. Carstensen, A.-S. Heiskanen, W. van de Bund, 2010. Marine management - Towards an integrated implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework and the Water Framework Directives. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60: 2175-2186.

    [6] CBD COP 5 Decision V/6 2003. Ecosystem approach.

    [7] Ramieri E., E. Andreoli, A. fanelli, G. Artico, R. Bertaggia 2014. Methodological handbook on Maritime Spatial Planning in the Adriatic Sea. Final report of SHAPE project WP4 “Shipping towards maritime spatial planning”.

    [8] HELCOM-VASAB 2016. Guideline for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea area.

    [9] Borja, A., M. Elliott, J. H. Andersen, A. C. Cardoso, J. Carstensen, J. G. Ferreira, A.-S. Heiskanen, J. C. Marqués, J. M. Neto, H. Teixeira, L. Uusitalo, M. C. Uyarra, N. Zampoukas, 2013. Good Environmental Status of marine ecosystems: What is it and how do we know when we have attained it? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 76: 16-27.

    [10] Cinnirella, S., Sardá, R., de Vivero, J.L.S., Brennan, R., Barausse, A., Icely, J., Luisetti, T., March, D., Murciano, C., Newton, A., et al., 2014. Steps toward a shared governance response for achieving Good Environmental Status in the Mediterranean Sea. Ecol. Soc. 19, 47.

    [11] According to the indications provided in the Commission Decision 2017/848/EU of 17 May 2017 laying down criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters and specifications and standardised methods for monitoring and assessment, and repealing Decision 2010/477/EU.

    [12] Borja, A., M. Elliott, J. H. Andersen, A. C. Cardoso, J. Carstensen, J. G. Ferreira, A.-S. Heiskanen, J. C. Marqués, J. M. Neto, H. Teixeira, L. Uusitalo, M. C. Uyarra, N. Zampoukas, 2013. Good Environmental Status of marine ecosystems: What is it and how do we know when we have attained it? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 76: 16-27.

    [13] Brennan, J., C. Fitzsimmons, T. Gray, L. Raggatt, 2014. EU marine strategy framework directive (MSFD) and marine spatial planning (MSP): Which is the more dominant and practicable contributor to maritime policy in the UK? Marine Policy, 43: 359-366.

    [14] Gilbert, A. J., K. Alexander, R. Sardá, R. Brazinskaite, C. Fischer, K. Gee, M. Jessopp, P. Kershaw, H. J. Los, D. March Morla, C. O'Mahony, M. Pihlajamäki, S. Rees, R. Varjopuro, 2015. Marine spatial planning and Good Environmental Status: a perspective on spatial and temporal dimensions. Ecology and Society, 20.

Indicators, monitoring and evaluation

  • How can objectives for MSP be formulated and linked to indicators?

    For authorities to be able to monitor MSP and develop appropriate indicators,   objectives need to be formulated. MSP objectives should adhere to the SMART criteria:

    • Specific: Objectives should be concrete and not too broad.
    • Measurable: Objectives should ideally be formulated in a way that allows quantification.
    • Achievable:  Objectives should be reachable within the given timeframe and the relevant context.
    • Relevant: Objectives should correspond to the needs identified. Also, the objectives should be influenced by MSP.
    • Time-bound: Objectives should be situated in a specific timeframe.

    At the same time, as explained in the Handbook on MSP Indicators, these objectives can be situated at different levels:

    Only process and operational objectives are within the control of the MSP authorities, while the other levels are impacted by MSP and external factors. High-level objectives should still be taken into consideration in the planning processes, as they often result from political plans in which MSP is situated.   

    Once objectives have been formulated, they can be linked to indicators that measure their achievement at all different levels:

    1. Overarching Blue Growth indicators. In line with the Blue Growth Communication, jobs, added value, and GHG reduction can be used as overarching indicators. Depending on the MSP objectives, authorities can customise the indicators to a specific sector of the blue economy. These indicators are mostly to be used as context indicators rather than for measuring the success of MSP.
    2. Impact indicators (e.g. MW of wind power generated at sea) measure the achievement of global objectives and observe the evolution of Blue economy sectors. Outputs and outcomes have influence over these indicators, but they extend beyond the control of MSP authorities.
    3. Outcome indicators (e.g. Capacity of oil / gas installations at sea) are linked to the different sectors of the blue economy and reflect socio-economic and ecological aspects. Some are controllable by the MSP authorities, while most of them are not. They can also be developed to measure efficiency of different maritime uses, by linking a certain output to the space assigned to the activity.
    4. Output indicators (e.g. Maritime space assigned for tidal energy installations) are a direct product of MSP processes and measure progress towards operational objectives. They should be linked to operational ecological objectives, consider land-sea interactions (as required under the MSP Directive), but can also monitor blue economy sectors.
    5. MSP process indicators can be quantitative or qualitative. Qualitative indicators (e.g. Availability of sufficient staff assigned to MSP processes) may be binary or use appropriate scales. Quantitative indicators (e.g. Number of consultations held with neighbouring countries) consider aspects of the MSP processes that are directly measurable and quantifiable (stock-taking, coordination, securing resources, stakeholder perspective). A shortcoming of quantitative indicators is that they might not account for the quality of the processes. MSP authorities may ideally develop a combination of both types of indicators. 
    6. Additional Ecological indicators monitor include specific ecological objectives included in MSP, however these are usually broad horizontal objectives and are related to objectives for certain Blue economy sectors. The MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) sets out the marine environmental objectives and the descriptors used by MSFD can be used as ecological indicators for MSP processes. 

    When formulating MSP objectives, a number of tipscan guide planners in the process and make sure the objectives are fit for purpose:

    • Consider the Blue Growth objectives (jobs, growth, safeguarding biodiversity and protecting the marine environment), national strategies/policies/action plans, as well as objectives set out in regional and local strategies/policies/action plans.
    • Define objectives for the different sectors of the blue economy.
    • Define environmental/biodiversity objectives.
    • Define objectives for the MSP process.
    • Take into account the various levels and structure them logically. 
    • Ensure the objectives respond to all SMART criteria.
    • Discuss and agree on the right type of objectives with the right stakeholders.


  • How can MSP authorities define indicators?

    After MSP authorities have defined the MSP objectives, planners can design or select appropriate indicators for each level.

    The Handbook on MSP Indicators suggests to first consider the availability of information. At the higher levels of indicators (e.g. impact), information sources are mainly official statistics. Regarding indicators on aspects under control of the MSP authorities, data can be collected from stakeholders, existing studies and from the authorities themselves. 


    • Verify if the indicators are cost-effective with regard to the cost for obtaining the data.
    • Consider all available sources of information and verify if the data is validated.
    • Ensure the data is up-to-date, available at the required frequency,  at the correct geographical level.

    Next, planners should define baseline values for each indicator. The value set as the baseline will be used to compare change registered by the indicator. The baseline allows making an initial assessment of the situation and monitoring improvements or deteriorations linked to MSP. 


    • Identify baselines for every indicator. If not possible, explain why there is no baseline.
    • Set the baseline year as close as possible to the year of adoption of the MSP.
    • Baselines can be taken from a preceding generation of maritime spatial plans.

    The third step is to identify external factors and to set target values that are aligned with the objectives. They may include interim and final targets. External factors outside the authorities influence are more significant at the higher levels and reduce their control over reaching the target values at these levels. In addition, authorities should clearly flag any assumptions made to reach the target values. Therefore, the validity of these assumptions also needs to be verified in time. 


    • Consider all main external factors that could affect the reaching of the target values.
    • Clearly state the assumptions that need to hold true in order to reach the expected targets.
    • Make sure the indicators are achievable within a given timeframe and context.
    • Make sure the indicators are time-bound,  so that targets are set for an intermediate/final year of achievement. 
    • Ensure that baseline values and target values in the same measurement unit and result from the same calculation methodologies/sources.



Land-Sea interactions in MSP

  • Is MSP only about planning of sea areas or does it refer to a broader geographic context?

    According to the DIRECTIVE 2014/89/EU establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, whilst it is noted that activities carried out on land such as agriculture and urban growth can have a profound impact on the marine environment for example via run off of chemicals / waste etc. and as such are relevant in the context of Maritime Spatial Planning, MSP directive manages only maritime activities and activities in coastal waters.

    It is noted that achieving consistency between maritime and terrestrial will be challenging and that in order to “promote the sustainable use of maritime space, maritime spatial planning should take into account land-sea interactions”.

  • What is the difference between integrated coastal management (ICM) and MSP processes?

    Whilst Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM, sometimes referred to as Integrated Coastal Zone Management or ICZM) both involve a strategic approach to planning within the marine environment in terms of uses and activities, the main difference between the two are the scales to which they can be applied. Typically ICM is applied to marine zones less than two kilometres from the coastline, conversely MSP can be applied to much wider areas such as coastal watersheds or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

    ICM can be defined as dynamic, multi-disciplinary and iterative process to promote the sustainable management of coastal zones (EC COM(2000) 547). The 2002 Recommendation sets out broad principles for ICM processes, including the need for informed participation and co-operation of all stakeholders. The same Recommendation (and the following EC COM(2013) 133) invites Member States to develop ICM strategies based on the results of a previous stocktaking of major actors, laws and institutions influencing coastal management. Indeed, there is no EU requirement for all Member States to conduct ICM, and practice varies according to local conditions. However, for the Mediterranean basin the ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention defines a common binding framework for ICM. MSP, by contrast, is a formal requirement for all EU Member States and mounts into maritime spatial plans. It is worth mentioning that the geographic scope of the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean extends seaward to the external limit of the territorial sea of the Parties, overlapping with the MSP area of interest.

  • How can be MSP used to integrate various already existing planning approaches like ICM or EBM (Ecosystem-based management)?

    The IMP identifies maritime spatial planning as a cross-cutting policy tool enabling public authorities and stakeholders to apply a coordinated, integrated and trans-boundary approach. The application of an ecosystem-based approach will contribute to promoting the sustainable development and growth of the maritime and coastal economies and the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. With this in mind the maritime spatial planning should not be seen as a standalone tool, rather one that incorporates ecosystem based management and integrated coastal zone management where applicable. Art. 7 of the MSP Directive states that “to take into account land-sea interactions in accordance with Article 4(2), should this not form part of the maritime spatial planning process as such, Member States may use other formal or informal processes, such as integral coastal management. The outcome shall be reflected by Member States in their maritime spatial plans.”

  • What examples of plans or guidelines exist which can provide a framework for integrating terrestrial and marine planning?

    The Interreg funded C-Scope project was undertaken by the Dorset Coastal Form (DCS) and the Coordination Centre on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Belgium. One of the key aims of the project was to develop a framework for an integrated approach to land and sea planning and management which also provided practical case studies, comprehensive information resources and test cases for the implementation of MSP in both partner areas. 

    In the Kattegat and Skagerrak the Hav möter Land (Land meets Sea) project brought together 26 municipalities, regions, universities and governmental organisations from Norway, Sweden and Denmark one major aim being  working to achieve coordinated management of the land and sea.

    In addition a number of examples of guidelines have been produced to encourage local authorities and other regulatory bodies to consider how land use planning and marine planning are interlinked. For example in the UK, the Marine Management Organisation produced a Guide for Local Councils which compared land use and marine planning in order to improve understanding of the links between the two. 

    These and a number of other practice examples can be found on the practices section of this website. In addition to these practices a briefing paper was produced prior to the LSI Conference in Malta which outlines the complex dynamics which exist between land-sea interactions along with the various options for governance which have been used to address this. The diagram below summarises this framework.

    In 2018 the European Commission Directorate-General for Environment produced a brochure entitled “Land Sea Interactions in Maritime Spatial Planning” designed to give an understanding of how LSI can be addressed in the development of maritime spatial plans for 8 key sectors.  The eight most typical marine sectors described in the report are: Aquaculture, Desalination, Fisheries, Marine cables & pipelines, Minerals & mining, Ports & Shipping, Tourism & coastal recreation and Offshore Energy. More detail can be found in the Practice description 'Land-Sea Interactions in MSP'.

  • What are European approaches to coastal landscape and seascape protection? 

    There is high appreciation and public interest in coastal landscapes and seascapes, leading to a desired to preserve them as they are. Landscape is understood to be not just a “scenery” because it links culture with nature and the past with the present. The EU Landscape Convention (ELC) is the first international convention to focus specifically on landscape. ELC sees “landscape” as “an area, perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and / or human factors” (Council of Europe, 2000). This includes land, inland water and marine areas. The convention foresees actions to identify and assess landscapes and, most important in this context, requires the integration of landscape into planning policies, including underwater landscapes and their cultural heritage like ship wrecks (please see the FAQ on Marine Cultural Heritage for more on these topics).

    For example, in Finland, new approaches related to underwater landscapes are emerging. ELC can be seen as a key driver behind the Member States approach, with 39 countries having already signed the convention, to take all aspects of a landscape into account when protecting, managing and planning it.

    Additionally, as defined by the ELC, the term “seascape” is “an area of sea, coastline and land, as perceived by people.” With the advent of major maritime economies activities that are very large in scale,  coastal landscapes and seascapes may in some cases be affected and thus visible from shore. As a defined spatial element of conservation, in the Habitats and Birds Directive (92/43/EEC, adopted 1992) much emphasis is placed on the primary pillar, i.e. designation and inclusion of MPAs in planning processes in order to achieve conservation objectives. In most cases, MPAs have already been designated and are therefore incorporated into the MSP process when allocating areas for other activities (for example in Germany). Their status would not be expected to change through MSP, and the objectives of the MPA will be a consideration in planning activities which may interact with the site or its’ conservation features. Where MPAs are required, MSP can support their designation and understanding of objectives in relation to other interests.  Please see the FAQ on Nature Conservation for more discussion on MPAs.

    When protecting European coastal landscapes and seascapes, also the international IUCN Protected Area Categories are important. They classify protected areas according to their management objectives and range from “Strict Nature Reserves” (Category Ia) to “Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources” (Category VI). Also a category V “Protected Landscape/Seascape” is foreseen where interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value. However, so far only a few examples outside the EU applied the category in coastal and marine settings. Instead, in Europe, protected areas range from national parks, nature parks to biosphere reserves. The latter provides the unique opportunity to preserve cultural landscapes and to allow sustainable use in parallel to strong protection according to the UNESCO programme “Man and biosphere” from 1970. An example for a biosphere, which protects on 22.000 ha all types of landscapes and coasts of the German Baltic Sea is the biosphere South-East Rügen. 

    Several projects and approaches have been up-taken to define landscape and seascape more precisely and to find new ways to protect and develop cultural landscapes in a sustainable way:

    • In the C-Scope project a seamless coastal and marine planning framework was created to suit the demands of professional and non-professional users. Inter alia the Coastal Atlas was upgraded to a Coastal Explorer to have an interactive and dynamic planning tool to support decision-making on the coast.
    • In the Baltic Sea Region, there are HELCOM-VASAB "Common Recommendations for Spatial Planning of the Coastal Zone in the Baltic Sea Region", and the Balance project developed a sophisticated approach to mapping marine landscapes. On the national level, Germany’s Mecklenburg-Vorpommern's marine plan has so-called reservation areas for tourism. These are defined as "areas of sea where, depending on the elevation of the outer coastline (height above sea level), vertical structures could interrupt the uninterrupted view of the scenic landscape". Essentially, this excludes large parts of the territorial sea from offshore wind farming for aesthetic seascape reasons. The argument is that the seascape has special scenic qualities that are important for tourism, so the plan seeks to ensure (where possible, and bearing in mind the visibility of vertical structures) a mostly natural looking seascape, looking from land to sea and vice versa. In Poland, wind farms are not allowed in the territorial waters at all, in order not to disturb tourism developments. 

    • The Scottish government has published several guidelines that consider the concept of coastal landscapes, including ‘Guidelines on the Environmental Impacts of Wind Farms and Small Scale Hydroelectric Schemes’ and the ‘Guidance on Siting and Designing Wind Farms’ (2001, 2009, 2014). The latter was obligational for offshore wind farm planners and landscape assessors alongside the document ‘Offshore Renewables –guidance on assessing the impact on coastal landscape and seascape’ (2012). 

    • With the adoption of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for England and Wales, the concept of ‘seascape’ was formally defined. This legislative requirement further stimulated the production of Seascape Character Assessments across the UK. In the framework of these assessments, an innovative method of mapping land-sea and sea-land visibility has been developed (see figure below.) An example of a seascape assessments are available for England's South Marine Plan, Northern Ireland and Wales. In the Welsh example, 29 ‘marine character areas’ assessments, were developed to identify the ‘character’ of Wales’ seascapes. These assessments have been taken into consideration into the Wales National Marine Plan. 


Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) and MSP

  • How can planners promote the role of MCH sites and support their sustainable use?

    In their plans, MSP authorities could set out a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment; plans could contain a clear strategy for enhancing the historic environment. MSP authorities could set out their strategic priorities to deliver conservation and enhancement of the historic environment for a given area in a maritime spatial plan. Of course, conservation and policy to enable sustainable access to MCH sites are under the responsibility of the competent ministry or authority. The main objective of MSP would then be to integrate this indication in the maritime spatial plans, assess and solve any conflicts with other sectors, and possibly support some sustainable use of MCH sites (e.g. sustainable tourism, biodiversity conservation and research, etc.).

    On the basis of evidence, advice, consideration and review, MSP authorities could therefore develop a spatial approach with respect to the historic environment, recognising that the character and significance of the historic environment is not uniform across all maritime areas. This is for example outlined in the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014 under Schedule 4: Functions of historic environment Scotland in relation to the marine environment. The approach to areas or zones could be integrated with spatial policies for the historic environment in adjoining terrestrial plans.

  • Are there classification systems of UCH available which might be relevant for MSP?

    To enable planners to achieve a level of comparison of cultural heritage sites in their marine waters as well as cross municipalities' or countries’ borders and to facilitate  development of planning solutions, the BalticRIM project started developing category templates for defining / describing frameworks for the following topics:

    1. Statutory templates describe national legislation governing the protection and preservation of MCH and maritime heritage in general (not site-based) and display the international policy framework and country’s relation to these.
    2. MCH (assessment / evaluation) templates describe respective national categories of MCH assessment. As international professional criteria, templates include the Australian Criteria System, which is approved globally by heritage experts as the ICOMOS Australia Burra Charter. First adopted in 1979, the Burra Charter is periodically updated to reflect developing understanding of the theory and practice of cultural heritage management. The current version of the Burra Charter was adopted in 2013.
    3. Environment & vulnerability templates to visualize the various factors that affect UCH.

    The templates will be published as a project output, possibly in spring 2019.

  • Are practices available which foster collaboration and cooperation between key UCH and MSP stakeholders?

    The PartiSEApate sectoral workshop on UCH and MSP took place to gather information on the composition and level of pan-Baltic organisations within the UCH sector, general development trends, views of MSP generally, and willingness of the UCH sector to contribute to a pan-Baltic MSP dialogue. Outcomes of the workshop are improved communication, sharing and integration of information and data between MCH and MSP stakeholders.

    In the BalticRIM project, UCH and MSP stakeholders are starting with case studies including a sea battle area (Kymenlaakso, Finland) and a ship trap area (Jussarö in Raasepori, Finland). During these case studies, cooperation with local museums, historians, divers, blue growth businesses and regional MSP authorities are core tasks of the project.

  • Are there examples of marine licensing in MCH sites?

    In England, marine licensing is the responsibility of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), effective as of April 2011 in accordance with the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA 2009). The purpose of marine licensing is to help protect the marine environment including archaeological and historic sites in the English marine area (please see English Heritage, 2014: Marine Licensing and England’s Historic Environment). This includes activities directed at heritage assets on the foreshore and at sea around England (please see Marine Licensing and Cultural Heritage). Some activities used in the process of archaeological investigations that usually require a marine license include:

    • Using a rope, chain or lifting bag to recover objects powered by a vessels winch or crane;
    • To carry out any form of dredging, including excavation using a water dredge or airlift, other than hand-only dredging (i.e. fanning);
    • Deploy and leave marker buoys for more than 28 days;
    • Removal of objects from wrecks as well as excavations and surface recovery from designated sites. Diver investigation trails are exempt on designated wreck sites.

    In case the appropriate license is not obtained, or there is a breach of a condition held on a license, this can be fined of up to a maximum of £50,000 in the Magistrate’s Court or a fine and/or imprisonment of up to two years on indictment. Activities significantly impacting a designated European marine site, a Ramsar site or a Marine Conservation Zone, cannot be licensed.

    Another approach is outlined in the Study on the Conditions of Spatial Development of Polish Sea Areas, which focused on the permission system for the exploration and sustainable use of UCH and related to Polish tourism. It establishes a permission system for the exploration and sustainable use of UCH. Furthermore, it provides rules and procedures to regulate tourism activities and measurement of its impact on the development of coastal communities; these might be useful for an MSP process taking UCH into account.

  • How can a multi-use approach support interests of the UCH sector or foster Blue Economy?

    Sustainable and efficient use of marine space can be achieved through a combination of different maritime uses in the same location or with multi-use offshore platforms. The MUSES project outlined some benefits of a multi-use (MU) approach, associated with ensuring spatial efficiency and not expanding maritime uses and activities beyond the optimal area required:

    MUSES identified for MCH a MU-approach with tourism and environmental protection when a touristic and recreational activity is combined with the protection of underwater archaeology and its adjacent marine ecosystems.

    In countries with a ratified UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, the designation of a MCH site may positively support the environmental protection aspects of this MU. In addition, national management plans set different levels of protection for MCH. In some cases, and based on the nature of the MCH site, the general public can be allowed to access these sites through touristic activities. Two types of MU touristic activities can foster the Blue Economy:

    • Dry access with museums on land showing the richness of cultural heritage in the near sea or glass bottom boats which are used for the non-diving public to view these fragile objects.
    • Dive tourism where in situ access is given to scuba divers to view UCH sites.

    Combined MCH multi-use is most prominent and popular in the Baltic Sea (Estonia, Finland and Denmark) and the Eastern Atlantic Seas (Spain, Portugal and France). It has good potential in the Black Sea after the HERAS project, and Underwater Routes were set up and jointly implemented by Romanian and Bulgarian research institutes and historical museums to explore shipwrecks and other underwater remains and opportunities for diving. It has a strong and imminent potential in many countries of the Mediterranean Sea due to rich UCH sites, good temperatures and clear waters with great visibility.

    Positive synergies can occur with wind farm planning, such as in the Netherlands. Large infrastructural works with low social acceptance have benefitted from positive publicity through discovered MCH sites during the installation work. In the North Sea, preserved wreck locations within a poorly protected natural marine park have strengthened the protection of an ecosystem through the ban on ship-passages.

MSP Data and Assessment Tools

  • What themes or categories of data have been frequently used for the MSP purposes?

    MSP information and data needs strongly depend on the type of planning that is being carried out in a particular maritime jurisdiction. However, results based on the MSP Data Study show that the data categories currently used by MSP planners are essentially similar across countries.A general list of types and categories of data and information commonly used in MSP processes have been indicated in Table 1. The table also shows how these MSP data themes and categories relate to INSPIRE spatial themes (column 3). This is not to say that MSP planners have no need for additional data sets, but rather that these may be either unknown or inaccessible to MSP planners, or in fact non-existent due to ‘knowledge gaps’. 

    Four broad categories have been identified:

    1. Administrative boundaries,
    2. Description of the geophysical environment and biological/ecological features,
    3. Data relating to the relevant human activities and sectors,
    4. Socio-economic and policy-related data.

    Least variation is noted with respect to the first two categories, i.e. the description of the geophysical environment and biological/ecological features in the planning areas and boundaries (basic geographical and administrative boundaries, such as the limits of the EEZ, country and county boundaries or depth contours).

    Physical and biological data are often related to the MSFD categories and, in some cases, are drawn directly from MSFD assessments. Such data is largely descriptive and serves to characterise the planning area and its major features. Where there are direct links to MSFD assessment, the descriptive data categories also include human pressures and occasionally the sources of such pressures (e.g. marine litter, marine underwater noise, point sources of pollution). Linking MSFD and MSP efforts in this manner seems an effective way of ensuring MSP is based on sound environmental evidence; in turn, it is a way of ensuring that MSP is able to contribute to achieving the objectives of the MSFD.

    The third category, data relating to human activities and sectors, is more varied. The main sectors are once again similar and differences are mostly found in the weight given to each sector in terms of the diversity of data categories specified and the expression of the sector (e.g. whether offshore energy refers to offshore wind farming, wave energy, CCS, oil and gas, etc.). The most significant differences are found in the fourth category (socio-economic and policy-related data) and whether this is included in the plan/data portal. There is evidence that older plans are less likely to include this type of information (e.g. the German plan for the EEZ) but all of the more recent drafts or plans make some reference to it. It is therefore likely that this data category will become more important in the future.

    Data, information, evidence and knowledge are closely related concepts but each has their own role in relation to the other. Knowledge is the logical interpretation of evidence from data and information. Evidence needs are therefore likely to be influenced by:

    • The strategic level of the plan, taking its timeframe into account (e.g. requiring evidence on future trends, long-term perspectives, scenarios and projections),

    • The level of integration pursued by the plan (e.g. requiring more complex evidence, such as evidence of cumulative impacts of sea use),

    • The degree of participation and, linked to this, the types of knowledge included in decision-making (influencing the kind of evidence that is admitted to the decision-making process – e.g. scientific vs. non-scientific evidence),

    • The need to be able to justify planning decisions (e.g. if the plan is challenged in court),

    • Transboundary dimension of the plan, if relevant,

    • Monitoring and evaluation of the planning area and the plan itself.

  • What are known MSP information gaps?

    Most Member States apply a similar approach to stocktaking of current uses and describing the status quo, although they employ slightly different data sets and descriptions of categories in accordance with their needs. However, there is a predominance of descriptive data, which describes the marine environment, and less analytical information, which is where the challenge lies in developing more detailed second generation plans. These tend to be more ambitious in scope and focus on a broader range of evidence. Some data gaps do exist, and commonly, these are found under the categories of socioeconomic data for different uses/activities, commercial fisheries data and socio-cultural information. While the concept of ecosystem services has advanced over the last decade and theoretical approaches have been developed to quantify their value, applying these practically in an ecosystem based approach remains a struggle for planners. Further discussion on socio-economic information can be found in the FAQ on that topic (forthcoming).

    Common challenges with respect to data gaps, data policy and transboundary data exchange found at the European, sea basin and regional scales include:

    • Availability of suitable data sets in a consistent manner (i.e. compatible formats) across sea basins and regions, coherence across boundaries.

    • No statistical unit (i.e. NUTS equivalent) for sea space.

    • Difficulty in disaggregating information between land and sea

    • Limited availability of data or information on land-sea interactions, e.g. degree to which coastal communities are dependent on their links to adjacent seas and the potential for them to benefit from growing maritime  

    • Limited access to social, economic and governance data, although this is improving.

    • Gaps and weaknesses in historical time series, and ensuring data quality.

    Overall, with respect to data and information gaps, the challenge for MSP authorities is not so much about what data but more how to aggregate and interpret the data in order to acquire the information needed by the planner. Further insight into specific data and information gaps are likely to be identified as part of the EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints where the availability and adequacy of marine data to meet different commercial and policy challenges is being evaluated.

    Further detail is provided in the table on information gaps from the MSP Data Study:.

  • What data infrastructure have been made/used ?

    A systematic analysis of data infrastructures across European sea basins was carried out as part of the Data Study  to identify the scope and potential relevance of existing data infrastructures to MSP processes. The focus was on European and national level systems which are operational (i.e. regularly updated and maintained). Themes and sub-themes adopted from the MMO Evidence Strategy 2015 – 2020 were used to establish the scope of the data infrastructure with respect to providing relevant data for MSP purposes. A total of 60 data infrastructures potentially addressing one or more of the above MSP process themes were identified. Among these, a broad coverage of different types of data infrastructures across the different sea basins was found, with data portals being at the forefront, followed by GIS mapping tools and information services. The following table presents the findings from the MSP Data Study on Data Infrastructures:

    The following are information services, data catalogues and data portals which provide data that describe marine areas that may be useful for MSP Planners (not MSP-explicit):

    European-wide Data Infrastructures:
    Atlantic Sea Basin
    Baltic Sea Basin
    North Sea Basin
    Mediterranean Sea Basin

    Data portals that have been developed to support an MSP process or project can be found at the bottom of this page with a short description, under the tab "Data Portals for MSP."

  • What are some assessment/decision support tools that have been used for MSP?

    In various completed MSP projects, assessment/decision support tools were used to support the interpretation of information and building of evidence for MSP. However, only in some instances were assessment/decision support tools actually developed and/or applied throughout the course of a project. 

    According to Sprague & Carlson (1), decision support tools or Decision Support Systems (DSS) are defined as interactive computer-based systems designed to help decision makers use data and models to solve unstructured problems. Decision support tools are commonly separated into 4 distinct classes according to their focus as follows:

    • Model driven DSS –are often more complex systems using mathematical, statistical or simulation models to generate results.
    • Data driven DSS –do not require a computer model rather allow users to use data to provide specific answers to specific questions for example by selecting options within a database in order to generate a result.
    • Communications driven DSS –facilitate communication between different stakeholders to assist in providing different outcomes. An example of this could be online collaboration systems.
    • Knowledge driven DSS –(also known as expert DSS) use a series of stored rules and facts in order to generate results. These systems are designed to produce results, which mimic the way experts reach decisions.

    Below is a list of examples of different decision support tools that are available:

    MARXAN site selection tool in MSP

    Developed by the University of Queensland Marxan is a model driven decision support tools which is most commonly be used in the selection of site for nature protection. It is reported to be the most widely used decision support software used for conservation planning globally and used in 184 countries globally (Marxan.net). As part of the BaltSeaPlan and BALTSPACE projects, the Marxan software tool was tested in MSP for site selection of i.e. offshore wind power and/or fishery areas. Further resources on how to use Marxan are available from PacMARA. 

    DISPLACE Model for spatial fishery planning and effort displacement

    The DISPLACE project developed a model based platform primarily for research purposes aimed to transform the fishermen’s detailed knowledge into models, evaluation tools. The software also has the facility to incorporate other utilization of the sea including but not limited to energy production, transport and recreational uses.

    DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool

    The DeCyDe for Sustainability tool is a data-driven, spread sheet based set of indicators and decision support tool that allows coastal communities and authorities to self-assess their progress towards sustainability goals.

    FisherMap - Mapping the Grounds: recording fishermen’s use of the seas

    FisherMap is an example of a communication driven decision support tool, which aimed to map the nature and extent of fishing activities and fishermen’s knowledge of marine ecosystems. The tool developed by Finding Sanctuary a regional development partnership aimed to assist them in developing a network of Marine Protected Areas around the coasts and seas of South West England. A series of interviews were conducted with individual fishermen who also highlighted they areas they used on maps along with providing information of the types of equipment used, species targeted and other relevant information. The results were fed into a GIS database and maps digitised. The information was used to create summary maps, which were made publicly available. 

    Recent reviews have been conducted regarding the use of decision support tools in MSP, including recommendations for future application (2) (3) (4). Descriptions of additional decision support/assessment tools which are or could be used in an MSP process are available under the tab "Decision Support / Assessment Tools" below, and a list of those that have been used in MSP projects can also be found in Table 3 from the MSP Data Study.

    [1] Sprague, R. H. & E. D. Carlson. Building Effective Decision Support Systems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982.

    [2] Vanessa Stelzenmüller, Janette Lee, Andy South, Jo Foden, Stuart I. Rogers. Practical tools to support marine spatial planning: A review and some prototype tools, Marine Policy, Volume 38, March 2013, Pages 214-227

    [3] K. Pınarbaşı, I. Galparsoro, Á. Borja, V. Stelzenmüller, C.N. Ehler, A. Gimpel. Decision support tools in marine spatial planning: present applications, gaps and future perspectives. Mar. Pol., 83 (2017), pp. 83-91

    (4) Janßen, H. Göke, C., Luttmann, A. Knowledge integration in Marine Spatial Planning: A practitioners' view on decision support tools with special focus on Marxan. Ocean & Coastal Management, Vol. 168 (2019), pp. 130-138

  • Does a common standard exist for representing uses / sectors / activities on maps used in national MSPs?

    Cartographic standards for MSP are a national issue, often determined based on specific national planning ordinances. Therefore, common and agreed standards for representing uses / sectors / activities on maps in national MSP plans do not yet exist across EU Member States. As a result, uses and their respective spatial areas are often symbolised in diverse formats. 

    However, there have been some attempts at the sea-basin level to develop common cartographic standards for depicting maritime uses and activities as a result of voluntary, transnational cooperations. For example, the Adriatic Atlas to support ICZM and MSP was one the outputs of the Shape project in the Adriatic Sea region. 

    Additionally, the INSPIRE Directive relates to data on spatial aspects of maritimes uses and activities. The relationship between the INSPIRE Directive and MSP data is discussed in the recently published MSP Data Study, specifically in the section "MSP data themes and the INSPIRE Directive.“ 

MSP for Blue Growth

  • What future sectoral uses are considered important for MSP?

    The potential sectoral uses are determined by various factors which are both related to external drivers (such as climate change adaptation, ageing population, technology changes) as well as the internal response capacity and the competitive position of Europe’s industry overall.

    Typically important uses of maritime space are maritime transportation and ports, fisheries and indirectly tourism. Offshore oil and gas plays a role within the North Sea as well as the Adriatic; whereas the rapid expansion of offshore wind is one of the most important drivers for MSP within Northern Europe with important spatial consequences – thus requiring careful long-term planning. Cables and pipelines are therefore also growing in importance; while other uses such as aquaculture and seabed mining also have relevant spatial implications.

    The original Blue Growth Study contains important information – notably on synergies and tensions, as fully described under chapter 5 of the study report. Important maritime economic activities, which already have a critical mass (e.g. short-sea shipping, cruising, offshore drilling, offshore wind and coastal tourism), can have substantial knock-on effects for future growth and development of other activities. For example, several economic activities make use of similar inputs (e.g. shipbuilding as input to cruise shipping, short-sea shipping, coastal protection, offshore wind, offshore oil and gas, and marine mineral mining) or share the same infrastructure, notably ports. 

    As part of the MSP for Blue Growth Study, nine Sector Fiches suggest how to best consider the expected development in terms of spatial requirements of each maritime sector during the MSP processes. The nine sectors covered are the key maritime activities listed above. The fiches present key facts of each maritime use, including its gross value added, presence across sea basins, temporal aspects, life cycle of installations, land-sea interactions and relevant spatial needs. On top of this, each fiche provides and overview on the sector’s future trends as affected by policy, industry and financial developments. Based on the identified trends, the projections are presented on the requirements of maritime space for every maritime activity. The interactions between sectors are also analysed and potential for spatial conflict or synergies are identified.

    All together, the report points to an extraordinary diversity of spatial implications of each sector given their spatial characteristics, planning time horizons and implications of technological change. Obviously, rapidly developing and emerging sectors might have more important implications for MSP, compared to established activities that have already consolidated their spatial use. Finally, the study offers a set of concrete recommendations on how both planners as well as sectors may inform each other to create MSP solutions, unlocking Blue Growth potentials in a sustainable manner.

  • What are some examples of sea-basin wide assessments of future uses?

    Such assessments are increasingly taking place as part of sea-basin specific maritime spatial planning. To support of these endeavours, the MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing a vision with the aim of having an agreed-upon perspective on the maritime area, its specificities and what the area might look like in the long run if the maritime spatial plan is implemented. Numerous examples of past and ongoing transnational projects have developed sea-basin wide visions, for example BaltSeaPlan and the BlueMed Initiative. Other examples of efforts at sea-basin assessments of futures uses are presented below.

    The ‘Study on Blue Maritime Policy and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’ aims to identify the potential for Blue Growth in the Baltic Member States at a sea-basin level and to provide recommendations for its development in the context of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) and the next programming period.

    The main outcome of the MEDTRENDS project illustrates and maps the main scenarios of maritime economic activities for the EU Mediterranean countries in the next 20 years.  The analysis was implemented at the Mediterranean regional or sub-regional (Adriatic Sea) scales and more specifically at the level of the eight EU Mediterranean countries.

  • How can trade-offs be made between various future space uses?

    Decisions about the use of maritime space are – as on land – are often political. The term trade-off involves losing one quality or aspect of something in return for gaining another quality or aspect. It is now more generally used for situations where a choice needs to be made between two or more things that cannot be had at the same time. Trade-off covers a wider array of phenomena, such as conflicting land and sea-uses, a negative correlation between spatial occurrences, incompatibilities and excludability.

    In parallel to this, tensions can exist between different maritime economic activities directly, but also indirectly, for example if one activity puts pressure on the marine environment – thus compromising the potential of another activity strongly relying on marine environment quality. Most tensions are spatial in their nature. Hence a strong link exists with MSP to address these tensions. MSP processes offer a framework for managing potential conflicts and fostering synergies between, but also within, sectors. Tensions can be minimised through the involvement of stakeholders from the early stages of planning.

    In order to plan ahead and anticipate potential conflicts between different uses, MSP authorities can develop a vision for MSP in their sea basin. A maritime vision or preferred scenario provides and an agreed-upon perspective and can establish a common understanding of the future of a maritime area. The MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing such a vision.

    Another element to reduce conflict and minimise potential trade-offs, is trans-national and cross-border planning.

    Finally, if trade-offs need to be made, there are various ways of comparing the weight and importance of such future space uses, such as multi-criteria analysis or cost-benefit analysis. For example, the BaltSeaPlan has produced a practice on the Cost-Benefit Analysis for Balancing sea use interests within the Latvian MSP process. Section 4 of this FAQ section provides further information on how the costs and benefits of maritime uses can be analysed through cross-sector integration, while also providing a list of useful tools and concrete examples of projects.

    Early cross-sectoral stakeholder engagement and discussions allow for identification of possible trade-offs, synergies and opportunities of multi-use of space and resourcess for compatible uses. The MUSES project is an initiative funded by Horizon 2020 that is exploring where, and under which conditions, the sustainable Multi-Use of ocean space and resources can be developed to ensure that Blue Growth is taking place in a sustainable and space efficient manner. To bring the Multi-Use of Oceans from concept to life, joint actions need to be taken on different governance levels, by actors from the maritime business community, planning, policy and regulatory agencies, financing bodies - including EU programmes - and research institutions. 

MSP Options and scenarios

  • Can you provide examples of countries that have made use of scenario development as part of their MSP process?

    Considering different scenarios for development is a common tool employed when formulating a Maritime Spatial Plan. Different scenarios, which primarily focus on different driving forces can affect spatial use in the maritime area and its marine resources.

    The Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP) for the Internal Waters, Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Latvia was published in 2016.  In the development of the MSP four alternative scenarios were put forward identifying different maritime development options, which were then strategically assessed in order to arrive at an optimal sea use solution, which was acceptable to all stakeholders and society. In the Latvian example Strategic scenarios for use of the sea, the following four scenarios were assessed:

    • Economic growth
    • Social well-being
    • Resilient marine ecosystem
    • Development within common space of Baltic Sea Region

    The practice description accessed via the link above outlines the objectives, methodology and results of this example.

    The MEDTRENDS – Future Trends in the Mediterranean Sea Project was a 12-month project, which was completed in May 2015 and implemented in early 2016. The practice Scenarios of maritime economy for the Mediterranean from the MEDTRENDS project illustrates scenarios of maritime economic activity over the next 20 years. The project analysed the existing situation and potential future trends in 10 maritime economic sectors along with their drivers and environmental impacts. The project examined these sectors at the Mediterranean regional or sub-regional (Adriatic Sea) scales and at the level of 8 Mediterranean countries (Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Spain). A series of reports were published providing an analysis of the existing economic sectors and users of existing marine and coastal resources as well as the current and potential future interactions between sectors in order to reflect their spatial extent. Reports have been created for each individual country as well as on a regional and sub-regional (Adriatic) scale. MEDTRENDS scenarios and other project outcomes within the next implementation of the MSP process in the Mediterranean.

    The GAUFRE (Towards a Spatial Structure Plan for Sustainable Management of the Sea) project team has used a software to develop a ‘What if’ model to potentially be used by decision makers. Modelling allows integrated assessments of changes over time in a multitude of causal relationships. They allow for the exploration of different scenarios and policy options. MSP expands beyond the boundaries of a single department and requires collaboration between several departments and agencies on both federal and local levels. Stella Architect, a software for modelling and interactive simulations, was used to create holistic system diagrams that can be simulated over time. The systematic view allows the examination of the system and its behaviour to determine where changes are beneficial and to avoid decisions that have a negative impact. This also allows for clear visual communication of results to engage with the target audience. As a result, six scenarios were developed: 1) the relaxed sea; 2) the natural sea; 3) the ritch sea; 4) the playful sea; 5) the mobile sea; 6) the sailing sea. Each scenario was elaborated to produce relatively extreme and conflicting outcomes. As such, they provide a larger and less obvious picture, and encourage the development of a policy that not only reflects present trends but also anticipates future changes in the North Sea environment.  

    In 2016 the Dutch MSP Authorities commissioned the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) to develop Long Term Scenarios for the North Sea for 2050. The development process used participatory mapping. A total of 19 GIS base maps were produced and used during the workshop to capture the input from a moderated group of experts. The drivers for the scenario development do not focus on the MSP solely, but are overarching, aiming to include many new laws and policies and assisting stakeholders in reaching their ambition. To increase awareness about scenarios for the North Sea and stimulate long term forward thinking, a movie was produced during a creative workshop at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). The movie, called 2050 - An Energetic Odyssey, focuses on energy transition.


  • What tools and methods are available for developing and presenting scenarios in MSP? 

    The choice of scenario techniques depends on the overall aims of the process, the target audience (e.g. policy makers, industry, or public in general), geographical scale considered and the time and resources available within the responsible organisation. 

    Several techniques can be combined and/or coupled with modelling and simulation using various software. For example, ExtendSim, a software widely used in a number of fields, including engineering, environmental management, and public policy, allows for better understanding of how natural systems react to changing conditions, including anthropogenic impacts. Another software, InVEST, is widely used for developing scenarios to assess ecosystem service tradeoffs. Analysis of scenarios is also often conducted through interactive exercases by using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) or PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural and technological) analysis technique. To contribute to a better communication and engagement, scenarios can take different forms including a story or “narrative”, with maps, graphics, drawings, pictures, etc. 

    The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' provides multiple examples of scenario development processes and relevant literature and scenario toolboxes from other relevant fields such as sectoral and urban planning. 

    Some of the methods described in the handbook inlcude

    SketchMatch - developed by Dutch Government Service for Land and Water management (Dienst Landelijk Gebied, DLG) for the project "Room for the River in Cat’s Bend, Romania". This interactive method was applied in Eforie and Sfantu Gheorghe case studies to identify and visualize potential development paths and facilitate the decision-making process for managers, policy makers and local stakeholders. The aim of the SketchMatch was to lay the basis for so-called ‘spatial development sketches' for integrated MSP in the Black Sea region.

    Scenario backcasting - an exercise in which stakeholders choose one or several future images as the starting point for their analysis and subsequently, in working backwards to the present situation, interactively explore which interventions are needed to realise this future. 

    Matrices – matrices can be used for evaluating variables (e.g. development trends in maritime sectors or geomorphological and biological trends in marine environment) according to their degree of unpredictability, degree of impact and strength, and directivity of impact. Matrices are a good way to present information in a structured manner and discuss various options.

    Microsites - the Celtic Seas Partnership Future Trends exercise used an interactive online platform to present their scenarios. This website allowed users to manually manipulate the targets, thereby creating different scenarios and encouraging the user to reflect on the process. The MEDTRENDS project also illustrated and mapped the main scenarios of marine economic performance in the Med-EU countries for the next 20 years. This project also uses an interactive online platform to show an in- depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in four main marine economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts. 

    Apart from the 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP',  VALMER project outputs can also serve as a valuable resource to maritime spatial planners in the for scenario making process. The VALMER project and advised its application in marine planning and governance. As part of the project, a Scenario Toolbox, an online learning module, was developed with a comprehensive description of specific tools that can be used in a scenario development process. The toolbox provides concrete examples of implementation and supporting documents for an effective implementation of the tools.

    There also some valuable international sources in regards to scenaio development and presentation. For example, in the Northern Mozambique Channel, as part of the East and Southern Africa/Western Indian Ocean futures project the scenarios were developed to guide the implementation of multi-stakeholder platforms that will be important for Marine Spatial Planning in coming years. Transformative Scenario Planning was used to bring concerned stakeholders from different, often competing, perspectives together around pressing sets of problems to build narratives that illustrate a range of potential futures. While most planning methodologies focus on adapting to the future, transformative scenarios seek to also shape it. This structured yet creative method, involving multiple events over several months, helps diverse actors discover what they can and must do. Apart from written naratives, these scenarions were also presented as different types of music and as videos. 

MSP Strategies

  • What is the difference between a macro-regional strategy and a sea basin strategy?

    Since the first macro-regional strategy - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, was adopted in late 2009, there has been a growing interest towards developing integrated frameworks for countries and regions to address common challenges for a certain geographical area and maximise common assets. There are a number of similarities between the strategies as they are both place-based, relating to EU Member States and non-EU countries located in the same geographical area, they are focusing on common issues, solutions and actions of strategic relevance providing genuine added-value for the entire region, they are both encouraging strategic cooperation and coordination among policies, institutions and funding sources and their implementation requires an integrated approach establishing cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination mechanisms as well as multi-stakeholder dialogue.

    In contrast to this, the sea basin strategy typically sets up a structured framework of cooperation in relation to a given geographical area, developed by EU institutions, Member States, their regions and where appropriate, Third Countries which share a sea basin, taking into account the geographic, climatic, economic and political specificities of the sea basin. In terms of the actual strategy, the macro-regional strategy is initiated by Member States or regions and formally requested by the European Council to the European Commission. In contrary, the Sea-basin Strategy is initiated by the European Commission at the request of the regions and/or Member States. Finally, the macro-regional strategy addresses common challenges of a defined geographical area to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion, and the sea basin strategy seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas.

  • What is the difference between a strategy for MSP and the actual planning process?

    The development of a general strategy for MSP can be seen as an important preparatory stage for MSP development. It can complement the MSP vision if one exists (please also see the topic MSP visions). However, developing a strategy might be treated only as an initial part of a planning process itself. The ultimate goal of the planning process is allocation of the sea space whereas a general strategy rather facilitates placing MSP within the regulatory set-up of a country. A MSP strategy can also outline and help to agree on key goals, ambitions and expectations towards MSP. The development of such a strategy is not a compulsory part of the MSP planning process, as it is not required by the EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, and neither is the elaboration of a strategy suggested by key MSP handbooks such as PlanCoast or UNESCO. Thus the decision on developing a MSP general strategy should be taken on a case-by-case basis, comparing the costs and benefits. 

    So far there is no EU country that has developed such a specific MSP strategy. However, the existing good practices show the importance of anchoring MSP at the national strategic level. This can be done in several ways. Sea space can be integrated into national spatial strategies as it has been done in case of Poland – National Spatial Development Concept and the Netherlands  – National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning and the 

    Sea space can be also part of the national or regional maritime policy. Examples are numerous, for instance in Ireland, Portugal  or the Västra Götaland region in Sweden. Another option is the development of national MSP scenarios of a cross-sector character as developed by Latvia. Finally, the impact of national policies on the use of the sea space can be evaluated. For instance within the BaltSeaPlan project, such an analysis has been undertaken for each Baltic Sea region country for all relevant policies and strategies, which are currently in force in the given country.

  • What are the basic elements of an MSP planning process?

    MSP planning processes can generally follow some basic steps to ensure appropriate consideration of important issues. It is important to keep in mind that a “one size fits all” approach that is appropriate for all MSP processes likely does not exist, as it depends on the context one is working in – specifically, existing governance frameworks and actors involved. Regardless, there are several overarching guidelines and real world examples for how an MSP process takes place which can help in formulating a planning process.

    The following resources provide guidance on how to conduct an MSP process:

    Although these four reference documents were prepared prior to the adoption of the EU MSP Directive, they are worth consulting as they lay out the basic steps and elements which need to be undertaken when conducting an MSP process. Many of the steps are to be done in an iterative way but they basically provide for an ideal foundation for developing an MSP planning process.

    The short film, MSP in a nutshell, also presents the concept and basic elements of MSP in an easy-to-understand, dynamic format.

    Elaborating an MSP Planning process will also depend on who, how and with how many resources each step is planned to be undertaken. This is contingent not only on the budget available, but also the specific situation in the geographic context in question with regards to existing governance structures; supporting institutions, available information/knowledge and expertise as well as the respective ‘issues’ at stake. Therefore, each of the referenced approaches includes initial steps to lay the groundwork for an MSP process, including defining roles, responsibilities and authority for the MSP process.

    Analysing the existing governance framework may be necessary to support these definitions, and such an analysis conducted as a ‘preliminary’ step for defining a planning process. Methods applicable to such an analysis include the Governance Analysis Framework from the MESMA project or Governance Baselines from the BALTSPACE project.

    Finally, the planning process itself should be adaptive, since most initiatives take a “learning by doing” approach which therefore requires that the process reviewed, evaluated and adapted. 

    For an explanation of how these basic elements have been used in an applied MSP process, please see the summary of the Latvian MSP process. 

  • How can a strategy support the forecasting of spatial determinations and interactions?

    Integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming of development at national, regional or macro-regional level helps to understand the demand for the sea space from various sectors, e.g. related to Blue Growth, conservation of the environment and/or social inclusion. It also allows extending the scope of cross-border interactions on land and sea. Moreover, it may provide a good basis for supporting integrative planning, engagement of stakeholders at initial planning stage as well as taking into account adaptation to climate change. It will also facilitate inclusion of maritime planning into the existing national and international regulatory framework, which governs a number of aspects of marine management and therefore provide basis for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions. This includes EU Directives such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive; the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy governing commercial fishing rights and obligations; and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

    There are several good practices taking into consideration MSP relevant spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. Most of them are dealing with macro-thematic or multi-sectoral strategies, referring to coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems, including Blue Growth aspects. Those attempts provide interesting starting points for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions of various kinds:  economic, social and environmental. In general forecasting at strategic level of MSP interactions and determinations is related more to exploiting tacit knowledge and engagement of stakeholders (revealing their interests and stakes) than to scientific modelling.

    The most general practices related to this topic deal with valorisation of the national maritime space on national or sea-basin wide level, such as the Irish Strategy: Harnessing our Ocean Wealth and the Portuguese National Strategy. Many good practices have an environmental focus putting good environmental status at the forefront, such as the Finnish Strategy, the Dutch National Water Plan or the IUCN Strategy. Some of these strategies already take the form of a “plan” to forecast the spatial conditions of development and to prioritize some uses and ensure cohesion. An example can be the Middle Bank Pilot Plan. Only few efforts of integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming put focus on institutional aspects. For instance the Bologna Charter 2012 and the related Joint Action Plan aimed at strengthening the role of the coastal administrations in the context of European policies and initiatives at the Mediterranean scale referring to: coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems (including MSP and Blue Growth) and adaptation to climate change. Thus there is no 'one size fits all' model for forecasting and then taking into consideration spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. The choice depends on situation of each country, its development/conservation priorities and institutional set-up and experience. 

  • How to consider MPAs at a strategic level?

    Conservation issues are an important component of MSP. In many EU countries the MSP process is seen as an important contribution to achieving the goals and objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning stipulates that due regard should be given to the various pressures in the establishment of maritime spatial plans. Human activities, but also climate change effects, natural hazards and shoreline dynamics such as erosion and accretion, can have severe impacts on marine ecosystems, leading to deterioration of environmental status, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. An MSP strategy could help to integrate these concerns into the planning process.

    There are several good practices of tackling MSP relevant environmental concerns at the strategic level.  For instance, the third part of the Finnish Marine Strategy 2016 assesses the sufficiency of the current measures to protect the marine environment and contains 29 new measures for achieving and maintaining a good environmental status, i.e. to include marine protected areas conservation objectives in MSPs. The Dutch National Water Plan describes the measures that must be taken to keep the Netherlands safe and habitable for current and future generations and to make the most of the opportunities that water has to offer. Important parts of the National Water Plan include, among others, the North Sea policy and the marine strategy based on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Marine alien invasive species strategy for the MedPAN Network sets out the broad goals and objectives for the MedPAN network and it intends to support and coordinate with other related regional and local partners to assist MPAs for invasive species management. 

MSP Visions

  • Are there examples of macro-regional / maritime strategies and Action Plans providing input for a vision supporting the growth of maritime economy, environmental and social improvement?

    There are certainly examples of such sea-basin maritime strategies and corresponding action plans that operate with a wide thematic approach and contribute the blue economy development. The Atlantic Ocean Maritime Strategy or the Adriatic and Ionian seas Strategies are both valid examples. Both strategies identify challenges and opportunities in the region and take stock of existing initiatives that can support growth and job creation.

    The Atlantic Strategy and its corresponding Action Plan (launched in 2013) aim to revitalise the marine and maritime economy in the Atlantic Ocean area. It shows how the EU's Atlantic Member States, their regions and the Commission can help create sustainable growth in coastal regions and drive forward the "blue economy" while preserving the environmental and ecological stability of the Atlantic Ocean. By promoting cooperation, the Action Plan encourages Member States to work together in areas where they were previously working individually. They are now able to share information, costs, results and best practices, as well as generate ideas for further areas of cooperation of maritime activities. This includes both traditional activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and shipping, as well as emerging ones such as offshore renewables and marine biotechnology.

    The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (established in 2014) mainly revolves around the opportunities of the maritime economy - 'blue growth', land-sea transport, energy connectivity, protecting the marine environment and promoting sustainable tourism – sectors that are bound to play a crucial role in creating jobs and boosting economic growth in the region.

    Finally, and from a national perspective, Portugal’s National Ocean Strategy, contains an Action Plan aiming at the economic, social and environmental valorisation of the national maritime space through the implementation of sectoral and cross-sectoral projects.

  • How can research on potentials of sea and coastal areas be translated into a vision, which guides the development for the future planning of the sea?

    Research is fundamental in order to develop a clear Intervention Logic for a possible initiative to be taken in order to address identified problems, with a clear focus on the added value for the relevant sub-sea basin. This research will have to convey aspects such as the definition of the problems or existing challenges, the underlying factors and root causes that underpin that problem or challenges or what is the actual scale of the issue at stake. The practice within the preparation of the Western Mediterranean Maritime initiative shows that, at the time of developing the vision, an overall framework has to be prepared.

    At the heart of this framework lies the response capacity, defined as the ability of systems and structures in the Western Mediterranean (businesses, research organisations, authorities and the civil society at large) to fully address the range of challenges and opportunities posed by the regional and global context in which they operate. If such response is not efficient and effective, the outcomes and impacts of such response are expected to be unsustainable (e.g. socially, environmentally and/or economically) either in the short- or the mid/long-term. A key element in the response capacity is the extent to which the existing policy framework is providing effective and efficient regulation and incentives, for the system to function properly. This approach allows for the identification of possible gaps emerging in such support through time, which may require additional action.

    Adding to this, the North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda (Netherlands - MSP) constitutes a joint research report on the long term potential of sea and coastal areas, translated into a vision, series of ambitions, opportunities, points of action and maps.

    Finally, the BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030 undertook an in-depth research on how MSP processes would impact upon the planning of the Baltic Sea by 2030, especially in relation to shipping, fishery, offshore energy and environmental planning. The principles and transnational topics identified in the vision have been leading guidelines for MSP processes throughout the Baltic Sea Region.  

  • Are there examples of MSP sea-basin wide visions?

    There are examples of sea-basin MSP visions related to spatial development of a given sea basin, such as the Baltic Sea Region Vision 2030, developed as part of the BaltSeaPlan project.  In 2012 it received political acknowledgement through the Committee on Spatial Planning and Development of the Baltic Sea Region (VASAB 2010). The Irish Sea Maritime Forum also agreed on a vision guiding development of the Irish Sea. In 2013, it launched the Irish Sea Issues and Opportunities Report, intended to act as a position statement reflecting the concerns and priorities of Irish Sea stakeholders on a number of issues, as well as suggesting future directions for joint activities. Also, the DG MARE cross-border project ADRIPLAN developed a vision on how to proceed with MSP at a trans-boundary scale within the Adriatic Ionian Region (published in its final recommendations and conclusions). However, this publication has so far not received a formal political endorsement.

    Such visions play a role in ensuring sea-basin coherence of MSP efforts. The visions provide an opportunity for discussing goals and priorities for spatial development of the given sea-basin and for identifying the MSP issues and tasks requiring joint co-operation of several countries. There are also several visions on the scope, content and the level of ambitions of the MSP process. They are different to the visions described above since they focus on the MSP process exclusively. For example, the Baltic Sea Broad-scale MSP principles have been agreed upon and the Regional Baltic MSP Road Map 2013-2020 was adopted. The TPEA project compiled a check-list of key issues necessary in the Atlantic sea-basin for a proper execution of trans-boundary MSP process in a Good Practice Guide.

  • What temporal horizons are used for different visioning processes? 

    There is no specific rule as to what temporal horizon vision should be developed for. While marine spatial plan is medium-term (usually revised every 6 years), a general vision is usually developed for a longer temporal horizon (e.g. 20 years). Some of the broader type visions that are not linked to a specific implementation plan, do not even specify the temporal horizon they cover. Strategies and action plans with specific actions and evaluation systems normally have a shorter temporal horizon, e.g. five years.

    Preferably, the interim temporal horizon should also be defined for more specific objectives and actions for implementing the strategy and reaching the desired vision.

    When deciding on a temporal horizon it is relevant to consider the planning horizons of sectors, e.g. lifecycle of a renewable energy project; and temporal horizons of high-level policy objectives, political mandates and other planning cycles, e.g. coastal zone and land planning processes.

    For example, the VASAB Long Term Perspective operates with three different temporal horizons starting from the endorsement date of the document. Actions denoted as short time are recommended to be completed within five years (until 2015). The medium temporal horizon implies completion of the actions within ten to fifteen years (until 2020-2025). Finally, the long-time horizon indicates that the actions will be implemented on a constant basis throughout the whole period (until 2030).

    The North Sea Policy Document 2016 – 2021 summarizes the Netherlands long term vision (2050) and incorporates a maritime spatial plan. It also aims to look at the broader picture and consider other relevant trends in the region. The document is being officially revised every six years, but given that this is an adaptive process it is also continuously being revised for certain aspects within shorter periods, as soon as new relevant evidence is available. This enables the vision process to adapt to changes in the environment and new technology (i.e. technology readiness and commercialization of floating wind energy generation).

    The Long term Vision Document for the Belgian Part of the North Sea looks up to the year 2050. On the other hand, the Belgium marine plan considers the timeline 2020-2026.


Multi-scalar approach to MSP

  • Which EU Member States apply a multi-scalar approach to MSP?

    Several EU countries consider a multi-scalar approach to MSP under a variety of different situations and contexts, as described in the Countries section of the MSP Platform website. The following examples can be considered (last update: spring 2018): 

    • In Sweden, three distinct plans for separate areas, covering the territorial sea from 1 nm outward of the base line and the EEZ, are under preparation by the same national authority; while coastal regions also have the right to prepare their plans up to 12 nm (see Carl Dahlberg’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);
    • In Poland, one plan covering almost the entire sea space and additional separate local plans for lagoons and ports are under preparation (with no hierarchy between these plans), in the future also the “large” plan can be limited in space and if necessary its parts can be replaced with more detailed plans.
    • In Estonia, two legally binding MSP pilot plans have been adopted for two small sea areas (the area around Hiiu island and Pärnu Bay), which now need to be integrated into the overall Estonian plan that is currently under preparation (see Anni Konsap’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In Germany, there is no hierarchy between the different plans; e.g. in the Baltic Sea the plan prepared by Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for its 12 nm zone (and equally for the Schleswig-Holstein) is not under a hierarchical order of the plans prepared by the Federal Government for the EEZ in the Baltic and North Sea (see Holger Janßen’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In Finland, the national MSP process has identified four planning areas bringing different regions together (including the EEZ and territorial waters), while territorial waters are also part of the planning mandate of coastal municipalities, with overlap among different levels (see Tiina Tihlman’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In the UK, the preparation of marine plans is the responsibility of the respective governments within the UK. For example, Scotland has prepared the Scotland’s National Marine Plan, which provides a single framework for managing Scotland’s seas. This plan will be supplemented by eleven Regional Marine Plans - two of which two have been developed so far - prepared by the Marine Planning Partnerships;

    • In Italy, national guidelines for the preparation of maritime spatial plans have been recently finalized and three plans are going to be developed for three distinct marine areas, with the possibility to also develop small scale, nested plans for hotspot sub-areas.

    • In France, the National Strategy for the Sea and the Coast (NSSC) was adopted in 2017; each of the four French maritime regions are called to elaborate a strategic document (Stratégie de Façade Maritime) under the coordination of a national level methodological guideline (see Laurent Courgeon’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018).

    The links between the plans developed under the same multi-scalar process may be different in nature. They could include a national strategy (e.g. the Portuguese National Ocean Strategy 2013-2020), national guidelines for vertical and/or horizontal coordination of plans (e.g. the Dutch Policy Document on the North Sea 2009-2015), and/or a national integrated plan (e.g. the Irish strategy Harnessing Our Ocean; the Dutch Integrated Management Plan for the North Sea 2015).


  • How can one achieve integrated planning process and coherence of plans under a multi-scalar approach?

    The plans prepared under a multi-scalar approach should be coordinated and coherent in terms of objectives, methods (e.g. involvement of stakeholders), assumptions (e.g. continuation of shipping routes) and provisions. Coordination and coherence should be guaranteed both vertically with the overarching plan (e.g. under a nested approach), and horizontally among the different neighbouring/overlapping sub-plans

    Developing a common vision and/or strategy, including identification of common values and strategic interests/objectives, for different planning areas can provide a base for coordination of plans under a multi-scalar approach. The ‘Handbook on Visions’ - prepared by the EU MSP Platform - can support planners in developing such future visions. A common vision allows for a systematic approach to MSP that considers a larger marine ecosystem that crosses boundaries between different planning areas (either overlapping or not). 

    Timing is also an important factor, which needs to be coordinated. For instance, alignment of timing was indicated as one of the most relevant challenges to improve coherence among the Swedish national MSP plan and the inter-municipal joint plan for territorial waters developed in northern Bohuslän region (see Carl Dahlberg’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March). Aligned timing with closely related policies, such as MSFD, would also facilitate a better integration of these policies (see for example slide n. 6 in Laurent Courgeon’s presentation). However, this is a challenge due to different timelines and reporting requirements for both directives as well as often different authorities being responsible. Planning under a multi-scalar approach requires an integrated stocktaking assessment of the entire planning area. This should be coherent with the more detailed sub-area assessments. Ensuring coherence of stocktaking at different scales not only implies data coherence, but also coherence of methods, indicators and approaches between the different planning processes. Shared tools can improve the coherence of stocktaking among different plans under a multi-scalar approach. Many tools are available for integrated assessment in general, and particularly for cumulative impacts assessment. A roundtable on this topic was organized in early 2018 by the EU MSP Platform. 

  • How to deal with the multiple stakeholder dimension under a multi-scalar approach?

    A multi-scalar approach to MSP calls for specific tools to engage with stakeholders at different levels, with the additional complexity in the cases of a governance structure with superimposition of different authorities (see for example the case of the New Caledonia in the French oversee territories, as illustrated by N. Cadic in his presentation at the workshop on MSP for Islands held in held in Gran Canaria on 11 September 2018 - ref. slide n. 13) . 

    Engaging stakeholders at the national level generally requires a more formal approach, with specific methods (e.g. formal meetings, circulation of official documents). Instead, stakeholders at the local level (including local representatives of sectors, NGOs, etc.) would require more direct and informal, but highly efficient methods (e.g. focus groups, working groups, informal interviews, web-based dialogue platforms, informal fora). For a multi-scalar planning approach to be successful, interactions and exchanges between groups at different levels (from national to local and the other way around) or among different sub-areas (horizontal dimension) must be ensured.

    The importance to identify common values between national and local scale has been pointed out as baseline for marine planning: see for example Shona Turnbull’s presentation on MSP in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters given at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March (ref. slides 9-10)  and Carl Dahlberg's presentation on northern Bohuslän region in Sweden given at the same workshop (ref. slides 2, 5, 8).

    Achieving a correct balance of interests of stakeholders acting at different scales is a key issue to deal with in the multi-scalar approach to MSP, including a clear understanding and balanced representation of the different levels of power, and avoiding under- or over-estimation of degrees of power. 

    An adaptive planning approach including various iterations of the stakeholder engagement process and transparent identification of MSP benefits and constraints (at the various planning levels) might lead to better understanding and reconciliation of different interests. 

  • What kind of tools are available to address challenges of MSP under a multi-scalar approach?

    Some examples of tools to support multi-scalar dialogue are available. For instance, a Latvian capacity building effort, which pays special attention to all stakeholders including smaller groups with limited resources and capacities[1], or the web application Boundary-GIS Geoportal that was developed within the BaltSeaPlan project, could support stakeholder involvement. The web application allows any kind of stakeholder to view the current planning status of an area and to comment upon them. The user can do so without any specific IT skills. 

    Among the available experiences of integrated, multi-scale assessment, the NEAT tool(Nest Environmental status Assessment Tool Methodology) developed under the DEVOTES project can be mentioned. This tool can help to determine how pressures from human activities and climatic influences can affect marine ecosystems and identify indicators available to assess biodiversity, specifically in a nested approach context. However, it should be noted that the uptake and concrete use of these tools in the real and formal MSP processes is still very limited, stressing the importance of improving factors that can support the transfer of research-based tools to real MSP practice.

    However, it should be noted that the operational use of these and other tools in a real MSP multi-scalar process need to be tested and accurately verified.

    [1]See Zaucha J. 2014. The key to governing the fragile Baltic Sea, Riga: VASAB; available at https://vasab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/BALTIC-SEA_web.pdf

National Defence and Security

  • What spatial conflicts are typical in relation to national defence and security?

    This question is answered in detail on the page Defence and Other Uses on the MSP Sectors page.

    National defence and security are considered traditional sea uses. Therefore, the main challenges arise with new and emerging maritime uses, in particular those requiring permanent spatial reservations.

    There are several studies and information sources examining the spatial conflicts between national defence (military activities) and other users. For instance, the BaltSeaPlan Findings (p. 77) identified military training areas as incompatible only with offshore energy and oil and gas extraction (based on the Baltic Sea context). Other conflicts can be mitigated and diminished under certain circumstances and conditions (e.g. temporary opening military training grounds to navigation, fishery or gravel extraction).

    Additionally, Scotland’s National Marine Plan (p. 119) lists key conflicts related to national defence. Some conflicts relate to incompatibility character (with carbon capture and storage, aquaculture, off-shore renewables and gas and oil extraction), while other include limitations of temporary restrictions related to fishery, navigation and marine tourism.

    These observations have been confirmed by the official planning process in Latvia (presentation of Ilona Ekmane, 5th slide, from 2nd MSP Baltic Forum), where both defence and security have been analysed. Key conflicts for national defence were identified with diving, wave energy production, mineral extraction, and in the case of munitions dumping, also with bottom fisheries and fairway maintenance. All other activities were determined as able to co-exist with military training areas, provided they can be temporarily excluded during exercise times. 



  • How may MSP address conflicts related to national defence and security?

    This question is answered in detail on the page Defence and Other Uses on the MSP Sectors page.

    For MSP the most difficult conflicts to be managed are not those related to incompatibilities, such as exclusions which are usually addressed by top governmental decisions, but rather those related to co-existence. As with other uses, new types of development and activities can restrict national defence and security (e.g. in both on Sweden and Poland, there have been concerns that wind turbines could interfere with defence radar - please see Sweden: Marine Spatial Plan, Baltic Sea Consultation proposal, 15/02/2018, p. 88).  

    One starting point for potentially resolving co-existence issues should be proper identification of the nature and intensity of conflicts. Defence is therefore also listed as one of the uses to be taken on board for a cross-sector (cross-border) analysis within the Matrix of Interests for Coherent Cross-border Maritime Spatial Planning, developed within the BalticScope project (Lesson learned, pg 63/64). ‘Defence’ and ‘Military Training Areas’ have also been listed also at cross-border level as conflicting with other uses such as ‘Submarine Cable Pipelines’ (Coherent Cross-Border MSP in Southwest Baltic Sea, Kriegers Flak case, pg. 49) or ‘Fishing Areas’ (Coherent Cross-Border MSP in Southwest Baltic Sea, Southern Middle Bank case, pg. 53).

    The planning experience indicates several ways how such conflicts can be handled through various administrative and co-operation process, such as:

    • by establishing laws and voluntary guidelines on the use of the military areas. An example can be the Scottish code of conduct for fishermen jointly agreed by industry and the Ministry of Defence (p. 119, Scotland's National Marine Plan); and the MSP role to observe and support this process if necessary by supplementing it with planning information.
    • by informing (in the plan) potential developers about (i) interests of national defence and security in a given site (please see Swedish draft plan for the Baltic Sea, p. 86-87) and (ii) the role of national defence and security authorities in the licensing process. This allows for bilateral discussions on concrete solutions between interested parties prior to location decisions.
    • by installing in the plan concrete non-controversial conditions for co-existence of uses (e.g. ban of trawling in munitions dumping sites) as it has been done in the Belgian MSP (please see p. 16 of Belgian National Marine Spatial Plan: ).
    • by agreeing on the acceptable trade-offs in the course of MSP stakeholder discussions, and then installing such agreements in the plan. These could include special focus groups such as theFace to Face NAVY consulting group, or the PLANNERS/PORT/NAVY working group in the case of Lithuanian plan (please see 6th slide of presentation of Nerijus Blažauskas from the 2nd Baltic MSP Forum.)

    Even the conflicts between incompatible uses could be handled through:

    All these options require time and patience. For instance, in Germany the military activities are quite secretive, so only indirectly in the course of the licensing decisions can planners identify important military areas. 

    In general, it is easier to handle conflicts related to defence than to national security.  So far, limited experience exists on problems related to search and rescue (SAR)or border control by new maritime activities, in particular permanent sea structures.  Some activities (e.g. wave energy production) might create permanent barrier hampering security functions at sea or increase their costs.  Such discussions should be launched during the MSP process at its early stage.

    One should also keep in mind that national defence and security can also offer important synergies. For instance, military areas that restrict other activities can prevent environmental pressures (please see p. 95 of Swedish report Marine Spatial Planning —Current Status 2014 and p. 119 of Scottish National Marine Plan.)


  • What interests of national defence and security should be considered by MSP?

    This depends on the interests which would need to be established first. Moreover, spatial interests of national defence and security are different. As a general rule, national defence requires space and the restriction of other activities. Security-smart and forward-looking spatial arrangements are needed that can cope with an unpredictable future, in particular low probability and high impact events.

    Spatial interests of national defence and security at sea are actually not limited to the reservation of exclusive or temporal use rights for military training grounds or munitions dumping sites. Although those are the most visible signs of military sector presence at sea, the real needs and requirements are more complex as shown by following examples:

    • locating activities/infrastructure affecting military uses e.g.:

    • securing proper functioning of underwater military infrastructure (e.g. cables); 

    • installing resilience and flexibility of maritime spatial patterns for the sake of the national security:

      • safeguarding areas for unforeseen activities in case of emergency situation (please see presentation of Ilona Ekmane, 6th slide, 2nd Baltic MSP Forum)

      • securing proper functioning of key marine infrastructure indispensable for national safety and security (e.g. pipelines, transmission cables, data cables etc.)

      • securing easiness of the emergency actions of SAR of border police

    While these concerns may differ depending on each country’s context, they should be investigated as part of MSP stocktaking, then mapped (if possible) and properly interpreted. There are several good practices related to mapping and identifying interests and impacts of national defence and security at the sea, such as the Swedish and Polish stock-taking reports. Understanding the concerns of neighbouring countries as well as proper collaboration and data sharing among countries is necessary as well, as is the existing practice in the Baltic Sea region.

    To achieve this, the MSP process must be designed to fully include authorities responsible for national defence and security, in order to build trust among them and other marine stakeholders, and finally result in planning solutions that do not compromise national security and defence. Otherwise, the requirements and concerns of national security and defence will be raised at the stage of concrete sectoral activities, such as constructing sea structures or laying cables, which could make maritime spatial development riskier and costlier, and undermine the role of MSP.  


  • Are there any good practices of including national defence and security in maritime spatial plans?

    Practical ways of including national defence and security in a maritime spatial plan depend on the nature of the plan and importance of national defence and security among national priorities.

    Countries, which include defence and/or security in their MSP objectives

    In the UK Marine Policy Statement, national defence and security is addressed directly: “Marine activities should not prejudice the interests of defence and national security and the Ministry of Defence should be consulted accordingly”. 

    In Sweden, defence and security (named total defence) is included among nine MSP objectives. According to Swedish national MSP legislation (1) “areas that are important for total defence purposes shall, to the extent possible, be protected against measures that may be detrimental to the interests of the total defence”.  Moreover if any area is of national interest for incompatible purposes, priority shall be given to the defence interests if the area is needed for total defence (section 10). 

    In Poland, national defence is among the key MSP objectives stipulated by legislation.

    The Guidelines containing criteria for preparing maritime spatial plans in Italy (Decree of the Presidency of Council of Ministries, December the 1st, 2017) includes military training areas among the maritime uses that MSP plans shall deal with in terms of spatial and temporal distribution of related activities.

    Countries, which do not explicitly include defence in their MSP law

    Some MSP legislation exempts national defence and security from MSP. For example, in the Danish MSP law or Finnish Land Use and Building Act, defence and security are not listed among planning objectives like in Poland. In the Maltese Development Planning Act (2016), defence is almost not existing and its presence is limited to the special purpose buildings and construction.  

    The issues of national defence and security are also differently regulated between strategic non-binding plans and regulatory plans.  For example, in the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) adopted in 2015 in Malta, national defence and security has not been addressed since the plan is focused on the future spatial distribution of development and the protection of the environment. The following examples show that national defence and security can be incorporated either at the general (strategic) or detailed level, or also at both levels simultaneously. 

    Strategic inclusion means focusing on rules, procedures and information sharing.  In the East Inshore and East Offshore Marine Plans (England - UK), the specific policy was formulated that “Proposals” (i.e. new licensable marine activities) “in or affecting Ministry of Defence Danger and Exercise Areas should not be authorised without agreement from the Ministry of Defence”. The map indicating where this policy applies can be found in the plans themselves (please see UK East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plans, p. 110, fig. 13). Similarly, in Scotland’s National Marine Plan (NMP), the defence was operationalised with specific objectives stipulating that at firing danger areas and military exercise areas (delineated in the plan - map 13 on p. 22), proposals for development and use should be discussed with the Ministry of Defence at an early stage in the process. Moreover, the NMP stipulates that this Ministry can establish by-laws for exclusions and closures of sea areas and code of conduct for fishers. The strong position of defence is secured by the statement that “Where potential for conflict with other users is identified, appropriate mitigation will be identified and agreed with the Ministry of Defence, prior to planning permission, a marine licence, or other consent being granted”. As presented, the UK solutions are really at the project/licensing level and not generic with respect to zones.

    A similar approach was adopted by Sweden. In the three draft maritime spatial plans (non-binding strategic documents), areas important for total defence are revealed at maps [2]. Potential developers and investors are informed in which sites they should consider the interest of total defence; however, similar to the UK solution, the details are to be discussed at the project level (when preparing concrete investments).  

    In detailed regulatory plans, defence and security are regulated more comprehensively. The Belgian maritime spatial plan delimits several zones for military activities and assigns exclusive rights to the military sector to use those zones accordingly. The plan also delimits a closed munitions deposit area with some bans related to activities touching the seabed. The Polish draft maritime spatial plan also contains detailed prohibitions and general regulations and defence and security received a status of the overarching objective for the sea areas under Polish jurisdiction. In practice, freedom for various defence and security related activities can impede all other uses (while respecting international conventions), i.e.   restrictions can be imposed on any other sea uses to protect defence and security interests with the use of sectoral law. In both the Belgian and Polish examples, key training military grounds are delimited as the sea areas with defence as a basic (priority) function. In the Polish draft plan, the list of very concrete restrictions for other activities that are allowed to be performed is provided for each of such type of sea area separately, in order to secure priority of security and defence needs. In some other sea areas, the restrictions on the size and heights of the naval constructions were introduced in the plan in line with suggestions from the Ministry of Defence in order to secure free observation horizons for military purposes. For security reasons, SAR and other emergency services were exempted from the navigation restrictions of the plan. 

    National defence and security are also included in other maritime spatial plans (e.g. Lithuania, LatviaFinland, Netherlands, and in Estonia). As discussed above and evidenced in these other plans, there is no single method of inclusion of defence and security into MSP.  It is included in general terms (like in the UK or Sweden) with details left to the licensing process, or in a more comprehensive way (such as in Poland or Belgium) where concrete restrictions are formulated within the plan. However, all planning efforts indicate the importance of inclusion of authorities responsible for national defence and security at the early stage of planning in order to reveal and map their spatial concerns and interests. For example, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management invited the Swedish Armed Forces (SAF) to participate in MSP in Sweden early in the process. As a result, SAF provided information on national Interests of defence, participated in workshops and working groups and analysed how other interests might affect SAF areas and interests (please see presentation of Camila Bramer, 5th slide from 2nd Baltic MSP Forum).



    [1] Chapter 3 section 9 of the Swedish Environmental Code  – https://www.government.se/legal-documents/2000/08/ds-200061/

    [2] Map 13, page 87 of the Baltic Sea draft plan https://www.havochvatten.se/download/18.47bf2cd7163855d85cae2805/1529995...




Nature Conservation

  • How can conservation measures be planned?

    A multi-criteria assessment framework, integrating environmental accounting with MSP, can be pursued to allow a broad and interdisciplinary approach to nature conservation and spatial planning. This approach was applied to the case of the Egadi islands (Italy)  where the biophysical and non-market monetary value of natural capital was assessed through the emergy accounting method. In addition, by using the Marxan software, the results of the environmental accounting were integrated with spatial data on main human uses to identify key areas for natural capital conservation, taking into consideration the trade-offs between protection measures and human exploitation.

    From an operational point of view, the combined use of the Marxan software and a cumulative impact decision support tool can help to analyse areas suitable for conservation measures. This has been applied to the MSP process in Portugal, focusing on marine waters off the mainland of Portugal . For practical applications, the Cumulative Impact Model, developed by Fernandez et al. (2017)[1] would need to be adapted to a different context in order to be used as a surrogate for ecological condition, input as “costs” in Marxan.


    [1] Fernandes M., Esteves T. C., Oliveira E. R., Alves F. L., 2017. How does the cumulative impacts approach support Maritime Spatial Planning?,Ecological Indicators 73: 189-202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.09.014.
  • How is the functionality of MPA networks assessed and what is its relevance for MSP?

    The objective of networks of MPAs are that they are ‘ecologically coherent’ which is fundamental to understanding the contribution of MPAs to an ecosystem-based approach, but ‘ecological coherence’ is a challenging concept to define and evaluate. Most definitions envisage MPA networks that maintain ecosystem processes, functions and structures and where individual MPAs function synergistically with others in the network. Criteria used to judge ecological coherence include representativity, replication, adequacy, viability and connectivity.

    Understanding ecological functioning is a critical basis for ecosystem-based MSP, hence knowledge and analysis of such systems would be beneficial to developing a shared understanding of the system and the effects of proposed activities. Relating ecosystem functioning from a conservation perspective to the ecosystem services framework would improve communication of the potential for maritime activities to negatively affect ecosystem processes, functions and structures in MSP. It would also build understanding of the reliance of such activities on healthy ecological networks (in terms of benefits and services) such as fisheries and sustainable tourism.

    Essential Fish Habitats (EFH) (those waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity[1]) and fish migration patterns can be used to assess the ecological coherence of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and eventually plan additional MPAs. In the BALANCE project, analyses of ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network in relation to EFHs  was performed using existing maps of designated Natura 2000 sites, and maps of Natura 2000 habitat types. For a preliminary assessment of how well Natura 2000 habitat types may be representative of potential EFHs, the expected association of different fish species with defined Natura 2000 habitat types was estimated. Explicit analyses of connectivity and other aspects of ecological coherence (for example representativity) may be performed based on those fish species and life stages for which maps of potential EFH are currently available. This indirect approach can be used for broad, preliminary descriptions of the distribution of EFHs, but should be replaced by maps based on statistical models as soon as enough information is available for predictive modelling.


    [1] U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (1998)

  • How can mobile species with conservation status be considered in MSP?

    In the second pillar of the Habitats Directive, animal species listed on Annex IV(a) present a further aspect for consideration, particularly as this includes the majority of mobile species (all marine mammals and many seabird species). Where possible, the areas of high sensitivity for such species should be represented spatially for inclusion within MSP mapping processes; for example, migratory bird routes or marine mammal foraging areas. However, data is often limited in being able to specifically define these, hence MSP processes would need to consider the potential for these to occur and enable subsequent planning to account for them.

    Given the migratory nature and extensive range of these species, trans-boundary co-operation is necessary to manage issues at an appropriate scale in order to understand effects at a population level (a key determinant in evaluating the ‘significance’ of particular effects under the Habitats Directive). In this context, initiatives such as the Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan, reviewed through the ARTWEI project, addressing transboundary policy and management of the Wadden Sea are a fundamental starting point, since they enable development of a shared vision for a healthy environment and set the basis for co-operation in addressing shared ecological challenges.

  • How are activities within MPAs managed? Are activities excluded?

    MPAs generally do not mean exclusion of all marine activities. Depending on the features for which the sites are designated, the conservation status and conservation objectives for the site (i.e. are they in good condition? Is the aim to maintain condition or improve?), and the likely interactions between activities, the management measures for the MPAs will state what restrictions on particular activities are appropriate. This may include seasonal restrictions only (e.g. seal haul-out sites), or restrictions on certain activities (e.g. bottom-trawling in areas of sensitive seafloor habitats). The risk of adverse effect of proposed activities on a particular feature or site is therefore of critical interest, and will be location specific.

    Reference documents exist which support understanding around environmental implications of proposed activities in an MSP context, including through the PartiSEApate project, which hosted a number of cross-sectoral workshops between sea users, including addressing environmental issues.

    Given the likelihood of compatibility between marine activities and MPAs, a zoning approach to inclusion of MPAs in MSPs is therefore not always relevant (or at least not the only relevant one), as activities may overlap, in space and time, and innovative models of management may be appropriate, including seasonal controls on activities or promoting co-location of activities which promote and enhance environmental features, (e.g. sustainable tourism, artificial reefs at wind farm sites, etc.). Guidelines and regulation for the spatial and temporal management of marine activities must be therefore integral part of the MSP approach, in particular when dealing with MPAs,

  • How can conflicts with other sea uses be managed?

    Please note that this question is answered in detail on the following pages under MSP Sectors:

    As experienced within the PlanCoast project in the Wismar Bay case (Germany), conflicts between tourism and nature protection can be solved through a process of spatial and seasonal differentiation. In fact, zoning for spatial and seasonal differentiation allows for flexibility and can be coupled with other forms of resource management. This is particularly important where ecological resources are concerned. Reserve areas or human activities may need to be shifted, limited or adapted. Use demands from commercial sectors should be as focussed as possible, in order to limit the impacts caused by undifferentiated demands.

    Spatial and seasonal restrictions and other solutions to conflicts between nature conservation and commercial uses can be reached through voluntary agreements, a powerful tool that represent a practical, operational alternative to the formal process of creating a new protected site (very long and complex process). In the Greifswalder Bodden case - also within the PlanCoast project - the German WWF facilitated dialogue between nature conservation NGOs, the state Ministry for the Environment, and a wide range of local user groups and associations. Actual negotiations then took five years, with the last agreement signed in 2005.

  • How MPAs can be integrated into MSP?

    In the planning process for the Gulf of Gdańsk (Poland), separate planning of areas with a specific environmental protection need was adopted in order to link to MPAs issue. Since the plan covers environmentally valuable areas subject to many economic pressures, it was decided that the whole planned area should be divided into smaller sea areas (basins) in order to properly reflect their specificities. The maritime spatial plan covering West Part of the Gulf of Gdańsk (pilot plan) has to consider some MPAs located adjacent to the densely populated terrestrial areas and thus subject to numerous pressures. Ecological considerations strongly influenced the definition of objectives for the Plan. The inclusion of ecologically valuable areas into the plan was done in three steps. First, an inventory of ecological value was carried out. Second, the types of human activity that might pose a threat to that value were assessed. Third, this knowledge was translated into concrete provisions and solutions within the plan.

  • How can MPA zoning contribute to marine conservation?

    Zoning is a spatial management tool particularly relevant to MPAs as it divides MPAs in different sub-areas where different activities are allowed or restricted with the aim to reduce competition for space among users (IUCN, 2004). MPA zoning usually include an internal no-take zone, where only minimal human activities are permitted (e.g. diving and swimming), a second surrounded area where more activities are permitted (e.g. diving and swimming as well as sailing with small boats, etc.), and a third surrounded area, where also fishing activities are allowed (European Commission, 2018). MPA zoning can effectively provide benefits to fisheries since the establishment of a no-take area can improve size, diversity, and abundance of fish stock in the surrounding areas (Spillover effect). Nonetheless, it should be noted that the size of the no-take zone as well as the fish species targeted and their level of mobility are all factors that influence the benefits generated by the establishment of a restricted area (European Commission, 2018). MPA zoning, if done by taking into account the different uses and by involving stakeholders in the design processes can minimise conflicts between different users and benefit biodiversity and fisheries by restoring fish stocks (Makino et al., 2013). Hence, MPA zoning can be indented as a valuable tool for conservation purposes.


    European Commission (2018) Study on the Economic Benefits of MPAs and SPMs. Written by ICF Consulting Services Limited. Publications Office of the European Union: Luxemburg. https://www.msp-platform.eu/sites/default/files/ea0318223enn.en__0.pdf
    IUCN (2004) Managing Marine Protected Areas: A TOOLKIT for the Western Indian Ocean. IUCN Eastern African Regional Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, xii + 172pp. https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/import/downloads/mpa_toolkit_wio.pdf
    Makino A, Klein CJ, Beger M, Jupiter SD, Possingham HP (2013) Incorporating Conservation Zone Effectiveness for Protecting Biodiversity in Marine Planning. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78986. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078986

Stakeholder involvement

  • How can the general public be engaged in MSP?

    As noted, the broadly used term ‘stakeholders’ in fact represents a complex mixture of different actors, with differing levels of interest, influence, capacity / willingness to engage, etc. The general public, i.e. citizens, represent an important group to be engaged, to address their needs and concerns, and ensure legitimacy of the process. A range of formal and informal practices exist in engaging the public; almost all MSP initiatives will be required to implement formal public engagement to fulfil various requirements, particularly those set out in the Aarhus Convention Formal processes have the advantage of being required by law (in cases such as the UK) hence practices such as development of a “Statement of Public Participation” provide a publically documented process of engagement throughout the MSP process, and to which planning authorities can be held account. Other public statements of engagement include the “Issues and Opportunities Report” produced by the Irish Sea Maritime Forum. More general recommendations and learning regarding the processes and mechanisms of engagement of the public in MSP are numerous, and include for example the development of the Municipal spatial structure plan-Strunjan (Shape) for the pilot plan in Slovenia, and guidelines produced by the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group.

    The ‘Handbook on How to Develop Visions in MSP’ provides suggestions on tools and practices that can be used for engagement of wide range of stakeholders, including general public. For example, tools such as micro-site, an interactive online platform with discussion pages, have been emphasized as helpful for reaching wider public and capturing input. For example, the Celtic Seas Partnership future trends used an interactive online platform to present their scenarios, while the MEDTRENDS project also uses an interactive online platform to show an in depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in four main marine economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts.

  • What insights and recommendations engaging sector stakeholders in MSP are available from experience so far?

    As the principal subjects of MSP and whose activities will likely be influenced by the developed plans, effectively involving the maritime industry and sector representatives in MSP processes is crucial. Early engagement is particularly important, and working with sectors to understand their future ambitions and development trends can ensure a MSP process that facilitates sustainable sector growth. Experience in this regard was drawn from the workshops undertaken through the PartiSEApate project, which developed an understanding of sector perspectives as a basis for contribution to a pan-Baltic MSP dialogue. Industry are involved in most marine planning efforts across the EU and lessons learned through these have been evaluated and translated into guidance and recommendations in some cases, for example the BaltSeaPlan and through the Coexist project.

    ‘Sectors’ are generally multi-faceted and complex in their composition, and it may be appropriate to engage at different levels, including via industry groups or designated officials who represent that sectors interest and are closely involved in the planning process. As part of strategic planning for offshore wind in the UK, fisheries representatives were nominated to engage directly with the development process, to voice their concerns, to negotiate areas of common ground and smooth planning processes. 

    Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Guide: How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships? was developed by the the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI), of Wageningen University & Research proposes a clear four phase process model, a set of seven core principles, key ideas for facilitation and 60 participatory tools for analysis, planning and decision making. The guide has been developed for any type of the Multi-Stakeholder partnership, for those directly involved in it - as a stakeholder, leader, facilitator or funder. It provides both the conceptual foundations and practical tools that underpin successful partnerships. 

  • What innovative methods exist for developing capacity of stakeholders in MSP?


    An MSP process usually considers participation of a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public with varying levels of familiarity with MSP. Practices are emerging which take a more creative approach to developing the capacity of individuals and groups to understand and engage with the MSP process. For example, “Become a Maritime Spatialist in 10 minutes

    cartoon developed by WWF Germany, uses a comic approach to depict the objectives and possible benefits of an MSP process. The fact that the movie is available in multiple languages facilitated its dissemination across Europe and across the globe. Moreover, its visuals are often used in numerous publications and presentations.

    Another example of an innovative method for developing capacity is the Dutch-developed MSP Challenge Simulation Game 2050. The game comes as a board game or a computer-supported simulation-game that gives actors insight in the diverse challenges of sustainable planning of human activities in the marine and coastal ecosystem. Apart from informing about the MSP process, such experience can serve to ensure shared understanding of challenges to be addressed by an MSP process and allows for exchange of possible management solutions. 

  • Do examples exist of transboundary stakeholder engagement in MSP?

    There is strong experience in the Baltic with stakeholder processes; through many cross-border processes as well as transnational MSP projects. The Baltic SCOPE project brought together national authorities with a planning mandate to collaborate in transboundary MSP, with the aim of identifying cross-border issues and solutions. In the Southwest Baltic case, stakeholder involvement took place at the national level through thematic meetings and workshops, followed by a transnational stakeholder conference that focused on transboundary issues. The participants were assigned to thematic working groups, divided according to their expertise and were asked to reflect on topic papers ahead of the conference. These topic papers also included key questions and draft recommendations, to be discussed during the working groups at the conference.

    The report ‘Southwest Baltic Case Stakeholder Meeting’ provides a more in-depth description of the stakeholder meetings along with the presentations and photos of the group discussions’ inputs and outcomes, and also specifically includes the issues and questions that were discussed. In addition, the practice description ‘Matrix of Interests for Coherent Cross-border MSP for the Southwest Baltic Sea‘ describes the use of a ‘Matrix of Stakeholder Interests’, which was used as a tool to map present and future interests in case study focus areas, including priorities and potential conflicts.  

    The PartiSEApate project organised several stakeholder workshops in order to stimulate a dialogue on MSP at pan-Baltic level between sectors and planners. Through these workshops, stakeholders gained an understanding of what MSP means to them and why it is important to treat certain topics on a transnational level. The ‘Handbook on Multi-level Consultations in MSP’ provides an insightful checklist of tasks that MSP organizers should perform at different stages of the process together with stakeholders at multiple levels. In particular, the Transnational MSP Stakeholder Dialogue practice describes the setup of stakeholder workshops and how they explored questions regarding the issues stakeholders want considered in transnational MSP; what the relations are between sectors in terms of conflicts and synergies; and which other stakeholders they would like to consult with.

    Outside of the Baltic, the project Celtic Seas Partnership also focused on the topic of stakeholder engagement, focusing specifically on stakeholders around the Celtic Seas. Their website now features a dedicated page with tips for involving people in regional marine policy. Topics include workshop design, creating a communications strategy, partnership design and project structure, among several others. The TPEA project also focused on stakeholder engagement and produced a 'Good Practice Guide', which discusses how effective communication between stakeholders in different jurisdictions can be established. In addition, the project also produced the TPEA Evaluation Report, which describes the lessons learned from a series of three workshops held in each pilot area as the primary means of stakeholder engagement. In the Mediterranean, the AdriPlan project aimed to deliver a commonly-agreed approach to cross-border MSP, and focused on how stakeholder engagement and consultation can be framed as cross-cutting activities for the MSP process.

  • Do examples exist of stakeholder analysis and mapping exercises?

    Also in the Baltic, many examples exist of stakeholder analysis and mapping exercises that were undertaken in transboundary MSP processes. In the Baltic LINes project, a stakeholder mapping exercise was undertaken in Latvia, which included methods for characterising stakeholders who were ‘cross-checked’ through self-assessment. The practice ‘Stakeholder Involvement in Long-term MSP: Latvian Case’ describes the exercise, which used scenario analysis to develop spatial solutions for the energy and shipping sectors based on stakeholder consultation. In the Baltic SCOPE project, a report was also produced with regard to the national Latvian stakeholder process; described in the ‘Stakeholder consultation in the Latvian MSP process’ practice description.

    The PartiSEApate project also included stakeholder analysis, with outputs and methods detailed in the reports from stakeholder workshops, here. In particular, the Transnational MSP Stakeholder Dialogue practice describes the setup of stakeholder workshops and how they explored questions regarding the issues stakeholders want considered in transnational MSP; what the relations are between sectors in terms of conflicts and synergies; and which other stakeholders they would like to consult with. The ‘MSP Governance Framework Report’ also describes the organised stakeholder workshops and specifically explains the use of a stakeholder questionnaire (Annex B.1-4 p.80-93). In the Baltic Sea basin, the HELCOM-VASAB Guidelines on transboundary consultations, public participation and co-operation describe principles for transboundary cooperation, and make reference to how transboundary stakeholder consultation may be organised. The practice ‘Stakeholders in Swedish Marine Planning’ describes how one of the project partners assessed stakeholders according to their source and strength of legitimacy, as well as according to their level of activity.

    Lastly, the BaltSpace project delved deeper into the difficulties of integrating stakeholder input into MSP processes, as described here. The project developed recommendations on stakeholder integration in a Policy Brief, including the recommendation that MSP seek to engage a broad range of stakeholders on a continuous basis with clear aims. Other recommendations include informal consultations, using an open and inclusive approach, and ensuring that stakeholders have resources and capacity to participate effectively.

Scientific Research

  • What type of sea areas are reserved to research?

    Research and monitoring activities (in situ observing systems) can consist of surface moorings measuring a wide variety of sub-surface variables including temperature, salinity, and currents over long periods of time (e.g. Mongoos network in the Mediterranean, NOOS in the North Sea). Offshore installations equipped for oceanographic multidisciplinary research should also be considered (e.g. FINO1 in Germany, Piattaforma Acqua Alta in Italy). Long-Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) areas are another example of scientific research demanding space at sea. Through research and monitoring, LTER seeks to improve knowledge of the structure and functions of ecosystems and their long-term response to environmental, societal and economic drivers."Traditional" LTER-Sites are relatively small (about 1-10 km²), comprising mainly one habitat type and one form of use. At present about 30 marine LTER sites are established across European seas, including habitats such as Polar Seas, Coastal lagoons & River deltas, Coastal wetlands, Estuaries, Temperate shelf and sea. Examples of sites are: Scheldt estuary (BE), Black Sea (BU), Western Gulf of Finland (FI), German Bight (DE), Northern Adriatic Sea, Gulf of Naples, Marine ecosystems of Sardinia (IT), Ria de Aveiro (ES), Dutch Wadden Sea (NL).

    Ensuring long term durability is the key concept underpinning all these type of research activities. Spatial needs of scientific research and monitoring at sea should therefore be taken into account in maritime spatial plans, considering the areas where they are carried out and avoiding conflicts with other maritime activities.

    Areas at sea are also needed, permanently or on the long term, to test new technologies, including floating wind turbines (e.g. in France-Britain), wave energy generators (e.g. Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site, Ireland-County Mayo), aquaculture plants testing new technologies (e.g. SINTEF Aquaculture Engineering, Norway-Trondheim; AZTI Offshore marine aquaculture experimentation area, Spain-Basque coast).

  • What examples of synergies are available between research and other sea uses?

    The European Marine Energy Centre EMEC established since 2003 in Orkney (Scotland, UK) provides developers of wave and tidal energy converters with a base for testing, benefiting from an oceanic wave regime, strong tidal currents, grid connection and sheltered harbour facilities. The site represents a combination of research activities and environmental monitoring. EMEC and individual developers testing at the sites collect data for the purpose of environmental monitoring/baseline characterisation, or as a requirement of Marine Licence conditions.  EMEC runs also a Wildlife Observation Programme Data to provide information about marine species presence and behaviour at each testing site..

    Scientific research and monitoring have been considered as possible co-uses with offshore platforms dedicated to O&G extraction or wind energy production. For example, collaborating closely with key players in the oil and gas industry, the SERPENT project has arranged regular visits for scientists to offshore oil and gas installations for oceanographic data collection and scientific production. Scientific research and monitoring are also recommended by the Ocean Multi-Use Action Plan developed by the MUSES project as one of the possible uses of the platforms being decommissioned especially in the North Sea and Adriatic Sea).

  • How can be space for research accounted for in MSP?

    Strategic maritime sectors and their spatial requirements at national level are normally included in maritime spatial plans. This can include scientific research activities. Marine research, survey and educational activities are indicated among the sectors considered by the Portuguese National Ocean Strategy 2013-2020. Research actions are identified, aimed to study the ocean and the processes that occur therein. Technologically based initiatives for monitoring of the marine environment or that lead to an improvement of the conditions of the different productivity sectors within a framework of sustainable economic exploitation are also encompassed. The Maritime Spatial Plan for the Territorial Sea of Mecklenburg - Vorpommern also considers the identification of locations for education, culture and research. In the Polish Maritime Spatial plan, only maritime research requiring permanent occupation (closure to other sea uses) of the sea space is regulated. In principle, research is possible almost everywhere with exception of sea areas with a priority navigation function. In coastal zones, research is restricted to forms that do not negatively influence coastal dynamics.

  • How can spatial needs for monitoring according to MSFD be taken into account within MSP?

    Monitoring the marine environment according to the requirements of MSFD is a key task for MSs and dedicated monitoring programs have been established in the EU countries. These programs rely on networks of fixed and periodically sampled monitoring stations and surveys. These monitoring activities require their own space, and conflicts with other maritime activities should be prevented by considering their needs in the MSP process. Coordination of MSFD monitoring activities at regional sea level and development of a common monitoring strategy can substantially contribute to this aim and also provide support to MSP.

    In this regard, HELCOM has developed a joint Monitoring and Assessment Strategy,  based on agreed visions, goals and ecological objectives, and jointly developed quantitative targets and associated indicators through the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. The key principles behind the strategy are: i) National monitoring programmes use the principles of the Joint Monitoring System to achieve a high degree of coordination, cooperation, sharing and harmonization; ii) the Joint Monitoring System feeds a Data Pool that is the basis for the Assessment System; iii) this system produces assessments of the health of the Baltic Sea that can be used by HELCOM countries as well as EU, observers, stakeholders, etc.

    Decision-making tools for integrated environmental monitoring for the MSFD, to support management of human activities and their effects in EU marine waters are available from the results of the IRIS-SES project. DeCyDe-4-IRIS tools; these consist of a GIS planning tool and a decision-making tool. The latter was developed to support the decision on the parameters to be monitored, the methods and the infrastructure needed for each MFSD descriptor.

Socio-economic aspects

  • Which tools and studies are available, showing the spatial allocation of costs and benefits of marine sectors across a country?

    The Spatial Economic Benefit Analysis tool provides first approaches for the offshore wind and shipping sectors, analysing and mapping the geographical distribution of benefitting companies and industries throughout the whole country and beyond. The tool is based on a value-chain approach. The collected data is presented in the form of easy to read maps. These maps reveal the share of benefitting enterprises located in the coastal region as well as the geographical scope of the maritime economy.

  • Which tools and studies are available, showing the socioeconomic impacts of marine sectors on coastal regions?

    The BEA-APP project analyses the offshore wind power in Sölvesborg (Sweden) with regard to its regional creation of jobs. The approach differentiates between jobs created in the context of construction versus jobs related to operation and maintenance. Furthermore, the approach calculates for each year of the Sölvesborg wind park the number of new and total jobs created.

    First approaches for the offshore wind and the shipping sector have been tested by the Spatial Economic Benefit Analysis tool, which is based on a value-chain. It analyses and maps the geographical distribution of benefitting companies and industries throughout the whole country and beyond. 

    The Plan4Blue project deals with indicators to be used to assess the current effect and potential for Blue Economy in coastal areas on the regional and municipal level. The analysis includes indicators such as population and employment, industry turnover and number of employees, productivity, company locations and density, R&D and high technology investments as well as maritime patents. The regional focus of this study is on the Gulf of Finland as well as the Archipelago Sea. 

    In a separate but related effort, the Plan4Blue project is using descriptive statistics to analyse productivity and efficiency of blue sectors in coastal regions. Six financial indicators are used for an input-output analysis. The results allow for a benchmarking of different Finnish and Estonian coastal regions in terms of productivity and efficiency in blue economy. 

    The study, Maximising the socio-economic benefits of marine planning for English coastal communities, developed by England’s Marine Management Organisation is an analysis of the social and economic processes at work in coastal communities. It identifies how different marine activities can affect coastal socio-economic performance and further develops a typology of coastal communities. It identifies issues and recommendations regarding the planning process, including how the effects of the marine planning process can be measured and which gaps in the evidence need to be addressed. 

    When Scottish Power Renewables were considering the development of the offshore wind farm - the Argyll Array, 5km off the coast of Tiree - a number of partners came together to consider the socio-economic implications of the development; how negative impacts could be mitigated and how the economic benefits could be realised for local communities. 




  • Which tools and studies are available to assess the value of marine sectors?

    The study economic valorization of Polish sea space in relation to fishing and its implication for the Polish MSP combines economic and spatial data. It includes the fishing effort, the variable and total costs as well of the number of vessels fishing in the same segment. Data is collected per sea square and afterwards used within a mathematical formula to calculate the fishing intensity. This result has then transformed in easy to read maps to show the spatial distribution of fishing intensity within the polish coastal waters. 

    The BEA-APP project analyses the offshore wind power in Sölvesborg (Sweden) with a focus on its regional creation of jobs. The approach calculates inter alia for each year of the wind park project the number of new and total jobs created.

    The Ecorys study on how to measure maritime economic activities (MEAs) deals first of all with the question of how to define and isolate maritime activities from non-maritime activities. To be able to use official statistics, based on a sectoral approach, the blue value chains or activities need to be assigned to the appropriate statistical codes. However, not all MEA’s perfectly fit into statistical categories. Therefore alternative approaches using field research are necessary.

    methodology developed at the University of Naples allows for the estimation of the monetary value of marine space related to various maritime activities occurring in a specific area. Its results can help marine planners to recognize zones with higher socio-economic importance and consequently adapt the zonation process in order to fulfil conservation objectives. 

    Within the Blue Hub project, a tool was developed to allow for a detailed exploration of the intensity of fishing activity within all EU waters. After the selection of a high intensity fishing area, the tool shows the coastal communities that relate to that area. For confidentiality reasons, all information is aggregated from the individual vessel to the level of ports. Figures of dependency are only presented for ports with more than five vessels in the AIS data set.

    Within the SmartSea project, the economic, social and environmental impacts of the growth of blue economies are analysed. Both statistical databases of the current and past activities, and the current economic state and potential (i.e. turnover and employment) of different blue business sectors in the Gulf of Bothnia have been assessed. Furthermore, the legislation and strategies, which are guiding Blue Growth, but also might act as a hindrance to its growth in the region, have been considered. 

    A joint study, conducted by the Whitaker Institute (NUI Galway) and the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, focuses on the ecosystem service benefits that society receives from Ireland’s marine environment. Marine ecosystem services are provided by the processes, functions and structure of the marine environment that directly or indirectly contribute to societal welfare, health and economic activities. These services are vital to ensuring blue growth in the ocean economy. Within the study a method is applied to valorise the blue ecosystem services in Ireland.




  • What are some examples of developing future Blue Growth scenarios for the MSP process?

    The following cases describe examples of scenarios developed to support Blue Growth in MSP. More information about tools and methods to develop scenarios are available under the FAQ MSP Options and Scenarios.

    The Plan4Blue project develops sustainable Blue Growth scenarios for selected blue economy sectors in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea. The analysis is based on a participatory approach including Delphi panels and scenario workshops. The development comprises a sector analysis, including sector strategies and trends, a network analysis including mapping exercises as well as an input-output modelling of maritime industries in Estonia and Finland. 

    The BalticLINes project deals with the development of spatial shipping scenarios in the Baltic Sea. To develop these scenarios, multiple activities have been undertaken, such as a statistical scenario analysis and activities involving stakeholders, the elaboration of questionnaires filled in by key stakeholders and the hosting of a 2-day MSP Challenge workshop. Based on the findings, the report provides recommendations on the shipping sector for MSP authorities. 

    The MEDTRENDS project illustrates and maps the main scenarios of maritime economic activities for the EU Mediterranean countries in the next 20 years. It shows an in-depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in 10 of the main maritime economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts.

    Strategic scenarios for the use of the sea have been developed in Latvia. Four scenarios were developed in order to arrive at an optimal allowed sea use solution satisfactory to stakeholders and society. The narrative story lines of the scenarios are presented in four maps and a short document respectively.

    Scottish stakeholders of the offshore wind farming sector considered how negative impacts could be mitigated and how the economic benefits could be realised for local communities. 

    Spatial Demands and Scenarios for Maritime Sectors and Marine Conservation is a study conducted within the SIMCelt project.The aim is to investigate current and potential future spatial demands of key maritime sectors within the Celtic seas with reference to cross-border issues.



  • Which tools and studies are available, exploring the linkages between marine sectors and the rest of the national economy?

    The Plan4blue project uses input-output tables to explore the linkages and production effects of the Estonian and Finnish maritime sectors. The study includes both an analysis of cross-border linkages as well as cross-sectoral linkages between maritime sectors and the overall national economy.


  • What is the benefit of cross-border cooperation and networks in terms of socioeconomic aspects?

    The Plan4blue project analyses economic and social networks in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea area to find out which networks exist and estimate their maritime value. The study is based on an online survey, face-to-face interviews and a social network analysis. The results show that cross-border cooperation is experienced as very important and should thus been improved. 

    HELCOM as Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission has established an expert network on economic and social analyses to acknowledge the strong inter-linkage of socioeconomic and environmental aspects and to learn more about the contribution of the use of marine waters to the economy in the Baltic Sea region per year. In parallel, the 2nd holistic assessment of ecosystem health, initiated in 2017, investigates the costs of degradation caused by human activities in the marine area to find comprehensive answers.

    Understanding and Applying Ecosystem Services in Transboundary Maritime Spatial Planning is one part of the SIMCelt project. In this context a tool was developed as part of a case study to understand the concept and application of Ecosystem Services for MSP in a transboundary context by using existing and readily available datasets. The tool seeks to help marine planners understand and apply Ecosystem Services in a practical way. It therefore uses three types of data sets to map ecosystem services including provision, regulatory and cultural services in a transboundary context (Celtic Seas). It also illustrates how different data sets can be used to map ecosystem services for decision making in transboundary MSP. 

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

  • What examples exist of SEA reports prepared for MSPs, and what are the key variations in application of SEA?

    There are few examples of existing SEA reports for maritime spatial plans, including Germany, UK, Lithuania, Malta and the Netherlands, which are listed here. In Poland, a pilot SEA project was undertaken through BaltSeaPlan (the Pilot SEA for the Western Gulf of Gdansk) which considered how to prepare the SEA report for maritime spatial plans including consideration of impacts on Natura 2000 sites. SEA has also been undertaken for the Estonian Pärnu Bay Plan, which is legally binding and will inform MSP.

    The BaltSeaPlan report offers comparison how the SEA has been carried out in terms of ecological concerns in two different MSP areas, the German EEZ of the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Gdansk. It provides lessons to be learned on SEA for MSP through showing differences on how to approach SEA and providing general recommendations. This includes developing agreed definitions of ‘significance’ in relation to impacts, and the importance of thorough and iterative stakeholder engagement throughout the process, including the use of tools (particularly matrices) to clearly communicate impacts to stakeholders, public and interested parties. Ensuring that the accompanying appropriate assessment process is informed with detailed information on the conservation objectives of Natura 2000 sites and species was also recommended to avoid difficulties in this aspect of assessment.

    Approaches to SEA differ greatly due to the different interpretation of requirements across member states and other context-specific factors. For example, variation can be seen in terms of:

    • The extent to which SEA is integrated into the MSP process. In some cases, the entire SEA process runs parallel to the MSP process, providing input on potential environmental impact continuously on the Maritime Spatial Planning process. In other cases, the SEA is one-time assessment, conducted during a certain planning stage. The choice of the method is also related to whether the MSP authority is also responsible for the SEA.
    • Whether it addresses ecological aspects only, or integrates social and economic factors (as is required to accompany SEA through the Sustainability Appraisal process of the United Kingdom and Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of Estonia)
    • The extent of stakeholder involvement and consultation 
    • Resources available, including institutional capacity for delivering SEA, particularly data gathering and analysis, and stakeholder engagement which is particularly resource-intensive.

    While consistency is neither achievable nor desirable, awareness of the differences is useful when communicating on SEA, and when considering how approaches in a particular case may be slightly amended based on experience elsewhere. A certain level of coherence is being pursued through some initiatives in order to facilitate transboundary consultation and SEA in relation to trans-national infrastructure (please see the related FAQ below "Are recommendations available on how to carry out trans-boundary consultation as part of an SEA process?").

  • How are ‘alternatives’ considered in SEA of MSP?

    The SEA process requires consideration of the effects of ‘alternatives to the plan’ which is presented in the environmental report. Interpretation of ‘alternatives’ varies across different contexts; in some processes the alternative is defined as ‘no plan’, and the options are simply therefore the proposed plan, or considering the implications of not implementing the plan. This approach was taken in the SEA of the German MSP, leading to conclusions that the MSP will have overall positive effects on the marine environment, because of the measures included within the plan (including marine protected areas and other spatial management), and that without the plan, proposed activities would take place in any case but without the protection measures outlined within the MSP.

    It is also possible to use the requirement of SEA to assess plan alternatives to consider different scenarios for an MSP, varying the scale of development, location, etc., to explore the relative ecological effects. Realistic alternatives may be difficult to set out, since the components of the MSP are often driven by specific policy drivers (such as a requirement for a certain level of offshore renewable energy), but there may be potential to consider other options within these boundaries, such as configurations of development, relative composition of different renewable energy technologies, etc. 

    In Estonia, alternatives to the plan are not looked at in an ‘either’ / ‘or’ approach, but the plan is continually refined based on iterative rounds of consultation, so that a preferred development scenario within the plan is agreed. 

  • How does SEA relate to other planning processes such as Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment?

    SEA forms part of a hierarchy of environmental assessment which informs decision making from the strategic level (policies and programmes), and relates to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken at the project level. 

    SEA is mandatory for plans and programmes implementation of which are likely to have significant effects on the environment, which include MSP. 

    EIA is mandatory in relation to specific proposed activities i.e. public and private projects, which are listed in Annexes I and II of the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC). 

    The SEA environmental report includes information that may reasonably be required, taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, and the content and level of detail in the MSP. It will highlight which activities are more appropriately assessed at the more detailed EIA stage, which is often required for the licensing of specific projects after a Maritime Spatial Plan has entered into force.A SEA has an important role in guiding EIAs, since the challenges in reconciling some issues at the EIA scale require a more strategic approach, for example addressing impacts to mobile species such as marine mammals and birds.

    Key differences between SEA and EIA are presented in Table 1.

    There is often understandable confusion regarding the difference in the level of detail between SEA and EIA, given that both are intended to reach conclusions on whether potential impacts are significant or not. Quantifying impacts and defining thresholds of what is significant in terms of risk of impact on ecological features is arbitrary at the strategic scale. Even where guiding thresholds may exist (such as in relation to sensitive bird populations in a region), it will not be possible to accurately predict the risk posed by a yet to be developed multi-sector MSP. However, as identified in the analysis of the Polish experience of SEA in relation to MSP through the BaltSeaPlan report, it is necessary to communicate in the SEA what criteria has been used to conclude whether the potential ecological effects are acceptable or not. Such issues need to be clarified in each context in order to manage expectations of the level of detail presented through an SEA.

    In Natura 2000 sites, appropriate assessments (AA) have to be carried out when plans and / or projects have potential to affect the integrity of a site. This means that the Competent Authority would undertake AA for MSP before they can be adopted, and for specific projects following EIA.

    The Adaptive Marine Policy (AMP) Toolbox was developed to assist policymakers, including local, national, and regional authorities, to address the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and GES (Good Environmental Status) of coastal and marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. 

  • What role can cumulative impact assessment tools play in SEA for MSP?

    Cumulative impacts are a key aspect of SEA for MSP, given the broad scale and diversity of proposed development and the need to conclude at a strategic level on the risk of significant ecological effects. A report describing several cumulative impact tools for MSP, shared during an from an expert roundtable organised by the EU MSP Platform, can be found here. Examples includes the Symphony tool developed in Sweden, which provides an analytical tool to estimate the cumulative environmental impact during the planning process on national level. 

    The Adriplan Cumulative Impact Tool is the main methodological tool used in ADRIPLAN to evaluate the potential impact of maritime activities on the environment in current and future scenarios. This tool provides an example of how to understanding cumulative impacts, as a key aspect of developing maritime spatial plans using an Ecosystem Based Approach (EBA).

    Cumulative impact assessment tools are highly dependent on the quality of data used and care is needed in interpreting the results. A critical perspective is needed in order to understand and communicate the uncertainties involved in such complex, model-based assessments. Applying different tools and comparing results provides a method of testing the predictions made. 

    Further information on cumulative impact tools for MSP can be found under the question "Are there practices available to find out more about the application of cumulative impact methodologies?" on the Ecosystem-based Approach FAQ page.

  • How are the SEA and MSP processes integrated?

    SEA provides a way of incorporating consideration of ecological effects into the MSP process. SEA and MSP can be simultaneously, to ensure that SEA is informed by the most up to date plan. The understanding gained through assessment and consultation through SEA, can be used to refine the design of the MSP. However, the extent to which the processes are integrated varies according to the implementation within each country. In some countries the SEA process is a limited activity and only influences the MSP process at a certain stage, for example when the first draft MSP is being produced. For an overview of MSP per country and whether a SEA has been conducted, please see the country overview tables.

    Both processes are mutually informing, and pre-determined connection points between SEA and MSP (e.g. through the scoping stages, consultation, etc.) can support effective transfer of information. Co-ordination of consultation processes can also ensure rapid incorporation of the views of stakeholders and demonstrate coherence. Although the SEA process is more limited in scope and resources, there can be a need to align some of the required stakeholder engagement for SEA and MSP, which would address the challenges of overwhelming stakeholders with requests to input to different processes. 

    However, some separation between SEA and MSP is also appropriate, and there are advantages and disadvantages, for example, to both processes being led by the same authority. This can be mitigated to some extent through the use of external contractors (as is required by law in Latvia) who may provide a level of independence to the assessment and associated consultation processes. 


  • What is the relationship between the ESPOO convention and MSP?

    The Espoo Convention requires national authorities to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that might have adverse environmental impact across borders. The Convention entered into force in 1997 and is complemented by the global Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, or the ‘Kiev Protocol’ (Kiev, 2003). The Protocol requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their official draft plans and programmes by conducting Strategic environmental assessment (SEA). Such plans and programmes are detailed on Annex iii of the SEA Protocol and the criteria listed mean that maritime spatial plans are subject to SEA.

    The Kiev Protocol is transposed into EU legislation through the SEA Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC). This interaction between global and EU instruments under the auspices of the ESPOO Convention therefore provides a framework for the assessment of transboundary effects, including between EU and non-EU member states. For the essence of the SEA in relation to the Espoo Convention please see the video introducing the Kiev Protocol.

  • Are recommendations available on how to carry out trans-boundary consultation as part of an SEA process?

    Article 10 of the Kiev Protocol under the Espoo Convention sets out the requirements for trans-boundary consultations. It defines whether notification is needed, what it should contain, the procedure for entering into consultations, and necessary arrangements for consultations. In brief, notification is required when the implementation of a plan or programme is likely to have significant trans-boundary environmental effects. Notification should be as early as possible in plan development, via the country nominated Points of Contact (listed on the Convention website). The detail of the notification varies depending on the scope, extent and foreseen effects of the plan or programme in question, but in general the responsible authority should provide the details of the draft plan or programme, the environmental report and information regarding the decision-making procedure, including an indication of a reasonable time schedule for the transmission of comments. Other information, such as public information materials and other background documents may also be required. 

    So far there are only few examples of the SEA trans-boundary procedures related to MSP plans. For instance the trans-boundary MSP pilot in the Bothnian Sea reflects in chapter V on impact assessments required for an SEA and its requirements when preparing for certain sectors. It also provides information when setting the framework for the consent of future development projects listed in annexes to the EIA directive. In Germany SEAs (SEA for the Baltic Sea, SEA for the North Sea) have been elaborated for the two EEZs as obligatory part of the MSP process. 

    SEA was conducted in relation to the Estonian Pärnu county development plan, which is legally binding. The SEA process was carried out as a trans-boundary process with Latvia. At the very beginning of the process, Latvia was informed of the planning process and the SEA. The SEA results and the plan were presented to Latvia after the planning proposal was drafted. 

    There is potential for overlap between transboundary consultation for SEA and cross-border consultation through MSP, and co-ordination between the processes could be efficient and effective, for delivery of the plans and to make effective use of stakeholder resources (as they need to be consulted on MSP, SEA, MSFD, etc. and may not understand the relationship between each). 

  • Are there recommendations available for how to carry out a trans-boundary SEA process with regard to offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing?

    Proposed infrastructure projects such as trans-national electricity transmission and cabling which affect many countries present challenges for SEA. Due to limited experience the recommendations how to carry out a trans-boundary SEA process for offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing are scarce.

    This is being addressed through projects such as the SEANSE project, which aims to develop a coherent approach to SEA for cross-border energy projects in the North Sea. Currently, member states take different approaches to SEA, which makes integration across borders challenging. This project to develop a coherent approach will support the development and effective implementation of MSPs in the region. This will include the SEA undertaken in Germany for the German Spatial Offshore Grid Plan, which set out an overarching plan for strategic transmission infrastructure, to which subsequent offshore windfarms would connect. 

    Progress towards coherence and integration can also be expected from the on-going INTERREG projects: Baltic-Integrid (Integrated Baltic Offshore Wind Electricity Grid). Guidance produced by  the Seanergy 2020 project, including the Recommendations for Adaptation and Development of Existing and Potentially New International MSP Instruments, may also help in scoping the SEA reports for cross-border energy projects.