Indicators for describing coastal development processes


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Comparative analysis of three coastal regions from Poland, Lithuania and Russia with regard to ICZM indicators and evaluation of the usefulness of the indicators for proper detection of important socio-economic processes at the land-sea interface.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Applied in an MSP process
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Cross-border cooperation
Economic aspects
Environment aspects
Land-sea interactions
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Key words: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How shall Maritime Spatial Plans integrate with land-use plans?
  • What are the most relevant spatial data to be considered at a macro-regional (sea-basin) scale for MSP?
  • What is the difference between maritime spatial planning (MSP) and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM)?

Implementation Context

Polish experience shows that for preparing MSP, information from land is essential. This allows for proper integration with terrestrial spatial planning and assessment of the demand for the sea space coming from land. For the three regions located in the Baltic Sea Region (Pomorskie in Poland, Klaipeda region in Lithuania and Kaliningrad region in the Russian Federation) – Fig.1, a comprehensive testing exercise was conducted on the availability of information for the coastal areas. The results of this test have been presented in the report entitled “State of the coast of the South East Baltic: An indicators-based approach to evaluating sustainable development in the coastal zone of the South East Baltic Sea”. (Gilbert 2008). It was framed in the context of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) approach and it showed results of screening available information basis at sub regional level. In parallel to the aforesaid analysis of availability and meaning of terrestrial information characterising, coastal areas first attempts were done  in Poland to test MSP as well. Thus information collected for the ICZM purposes occurred to be very relevant and necessary as contextual  information for the pilot maritime spatial plan covering the West Part of the Gulf of Gdańsk. This shows close interrelation between ICZM and MSP. Both MSP and ICZM are “essentially about bringing together all those who have an interest in coastal issues – national and local authorities, ports and shipping interests, tourism and recreation organisations, landscape and nature conservationists, coastal communities, and so on – to share their knowledge about coastal and marine issues so that more effective policies can be devised and implemented”. (Gilbert 2008). However, MSP is a planning process whereas ICZM is more related to the management sphere (planning is only one part of the management process).

Aspects / Objectives

Although ICZM indicators might vary, from the MSP point of view their primary purpose (objective) is to enhance public and professional (expert driven) discussions by better informing stakeholders and decision-makers about what is happening at the coast or near the sea shore and thus improving the quality of decision-making. Indicators should bring together different disciplines and professions, helping to cross their boundaries and enhance knowledge integration. They allow representatives  of different fields (administration, stakeholders, general public) to work together in order to develop or implement novel conceptual frameworks such as Maritime Spatial Planning. In short this is frequently summarized as a power of graphical or visual planning materials. Such materials should be comprehensive and sharp enough to stimulate discussion and provide feasible planning options.

As claimed by the authors of the report, “when repeated at regular intervals (e.g. every 5 years)”, the indicators collected  in  the State of the Coast Report seem to “be a valuable tool for assessing the effectiveness of coastal zone management and for complex decision making on the road to sustainable development, both at local and larger national or regional scale”. They are suitable to all levels of governance from local and regional self-government to national authorities concerned with all aspects of coastal zone management, business and also general public (especially in the coastal regions), since all of them need such a knowledge.” (Gilbert 2008).


The methodology chosen in the indicator based assessment of the  coast of Pomorskie, Kaliningrad and Klaipeda regions was a vehicle  “to assemble the wide array of information needed by coastal and marine stakeholders to make sense of coastal processes. The indicators chosen in this report have been, in fact, those drawn up by the European Union ICZM Working Group on Indicators and Data in 2004. They were recommended subsequently to each coastal Member State as a way of benchmarking its coast so that any changes in the future could be monitored and trends described.” (Gilbert 2008). Data collection was done at the lowest possible level. If possible, the LAU2 level was applied and in other cases the LAU 1 level. More on that is presented in Figure 2. When collecting data necessary for compilation of the 27 indicators as suggested by the European Union ICZM Working Group, the authors encountered serious problems. They are presented in an explanatory note shown in Figure 3.

For each indicator explanations are provided on:

  1. what is monitored by a given indicator,
  2. what is the source of data,
  3. what is the interpretation of the findings,
  4. what are the implications for coastal planning and management (unfortunately not directly for MSP),
  5. what further work is necessary

Main Outputs / Results

A key result are maps showing the spatial distribution of different phenomena that are important from an MSP point of view for the coasts of the Pomorskie, Kaliningrad and Klaipeda regions. Each map is furnished with a textual part assessing the main trends and presenting key findings/messages. A few examples are provided below (Fig.4-7). They concern such indicators as built up land, recreational boating, protected areas and intensity of tourism.

Key messages

• The latest data available is for the year 2000. Clearly this is unsatisfactory. Up-to-date information about the pace and extent of development is a prime prerequisite for the effective planning and management of the coastal zone. In particular, it would be advantageous to know whether the 2002 Coastal Strip law which prohibits certain kinds of development at the Lithuanian coast is having the desired effects.

• What can be said is that at the turn of the twentyfirst century, the proportion of built-up land in coastal districts of the South East Baltic was greater than in non-coastal districts by a factor of almost six in Pomorskie and by two and a half in Klaipeda.

• Growth in terms of urban development was negligible in the coastal zone of both Klaipeda County and Pomorskie region between the early 1990s and 2000. There was almost no expansion in an area lying within one kilometre of the shoreline. What growth did occur was limited to an outer area within ten kilometres of the shoreline.

• Incipient low level urban sprawl may be occurring in a number of locations associated especially with informal tourism and recreation – in the municipality of Wladyslawowo in Pomorskie, for example, and around Palanga in Lithuania.

Key messages

• Recreational sailing and boating has a long history in the South East Baltic but the construction of purpose-built marinas is a comparatively recent phenomenon. The number of berths and moorings and the amount of dry rack storage space, has increased in both Pomorskie region and Klaipeda County, perhaps by as much as one fifth since 1995. It is probable that the number of moorings has grown also in Kaliningrad Oblast but confirmatory figures are not available.

• In Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast the greatest amount of activity takes place within the lagoons and adjacent river systems. Only in Poland do a significant number of boats sail from ports and harbours located on the open coast.

• The potential for a major expansion in boating activity is considerable. Indeed, a number of locations have already outlined plans for an increase in both berths and moorings. Rather like traffic on shore, an integrated strategy for guiding maritime development throughout the South East Baltic is desirable.

• Four marinas on the South East Baltic coast held a Blue Flag in 2007 indicating their adherence to strict environmental, service and safety criteria. However, all four lost their Blue Flag status in 2008.

Key messages

• The importance of the South East Baltic coast for its landscape and cultural features and associated habitats and species is demonstrated by the fact that 45 percent of the Lithuanian coast is protected by statutory designations compared to 26 percent of the remainder of Klaipeda County and 15.3 percent for Lithuania as a whole. In Poland, the figures are 55 percent of the Pomorskie coastal zone, 39 percent of the remainder of the voivodeship and 35 percent for the whole of Poland.

• The proportion of the coastal zone designated under Natura 2000 legislation in Poland is second only to Slovenia among all European Union coastal Member States.

• Both Poland and Lithuania saw a significant increase in the area under protection following accession to the EU in 2004 and the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

• Two protected areas in the South East Baltic – the Vistula and Curonian spits – are transboundary, that is; they are divided by national frontiers and hence require joint management arrangements.

• There are no marine protected areas in Kaliningrad Oblast whereas in both Klaipeda County and Pomorskie Voivodeship there are several areas of sea protected by Natura 2000 regulations.

Key messages

The number of overnight stays in tourist accommodation in the South East Baltic region is increasing year-on-year although there are significant sub-regional differences. For example, between 2000 and 2007, the number of overnight stays in holiday campsites increased by 74 percent in Lithuania but by just 1 percent in Pomorskie. Poland as a whole, however, recorded a 40 percent loss.

• Whereas over 40 percent of overnight stays in Poland in 2006 were made by non-residents, in Pomorskie the comparable figure was less than one quarter. By contrast, 31 percent of overnight stays were made by residents and non-residents alike in both Klaipeda County and Lithuania.

• Domestic tourists visit coastal areas predominantly for their main holiday and to enjoy beaches, the sea and outdoor activities. Non-domestic tourists are more likely to spend up to six days sightseeing, shopping, accessing cultural activities and enjoying city life.

• There appears to be little difference between the relative performance of coastal and non-coastal districts in terms of the proportion of overnight stays.

• Bed place occupancy has improved throughout the South East Baltic region since 2000; nevertheless, the tourist season in many coastal areas barely lasts more than three months in summer.


This practice is applicable in any country in which MSP should be conducted.

Responsible Entity

Maritime Institute in Gdańsk

Costs / Funding Source

SDI4SEB  funded by Neighbouring Programme of Lithuania Poland and Kaliningrad Region of Russian Federation


Contact Person

Magda Matczak