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Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture


Greece has adopted in 2011 a Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture in order to provide guidelines, rules and criteria for the spatial structure, organization and development of aquaculture in the Greek territorial waters. These guidelines aim to spatially organize aquaculture management areas, both at sea and inland waters[1], and at spatially organize aquaculture activities by type (species of marine aquaculture, shellfish, freshwater species, fish farming in lagoons). The ultimate aim is promotion of economic and sustainable rural development through synergy of sectoral policies, conflict resolution with other activities and diversification of production in each region. The adopted approach is based on a zoning principle: the areas identified for aquaculture development are coastal marine areas that have been proved suitable for the development of aquaculture with favourable characteristics. These areas are divided in different categories and managed by special agencies of various legal forms. New aquaculture units can be assigned to these areas as well as existing units can be relocated in the same areas. Specific prescriptions about the location of aquaculture units and the proximity to other marine activities are also given.

[1] It should be noted that, even though the framework is clearly relevant to all forms of aquaculture, including inland water aquaculture, the final map of the plan does not include any aquaculture development areas within inland water bodies (lakes, reservoirs and rivers) but only focus on aquaculture development in coastal and brackish water bodies.

Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Habitats and Birds Directive
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can aquaculture sector plans contribute to MSP?
  • Can examples of environmental and socio-economic criteria for the allocation of aquaculture areas be provided?

Implementation Context

In Greece, a multilevel management of spatial planning and sustainable development exists, through the General Spatial and Sustainable Development Plan at National Level (2008), the Special Frameworks for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development (among them Renewable Energy, Industry, Tourism and Aquaculture are included) and the Regional Frameworks for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development (2003, 2004). The Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture supports aquaculture activity, stresses its peculiarities in term of development of coastal and sea regions and sets guidelines for the sustainable management of sea natural resources.

In the last 25 years, aquaculture has become one of the most important productive sectors in the country with around 930 marine units (336 fish units, 595 shellfish units) and 78 freshwater units. Annual mariculture production showed a slight fall between 2008 (~130,000 t) and 2015 (~110,000 t). Today (2016) the annual mariculture production is about 100,000 t and consists mainly of European sea bass and Gilthead sea bream[1]. With this production Greece has more than 60% of the European market share and exports around 85-90,000 t mainly to EU Member States. The estimated value of the production is presently around 590 million euros (2015[2]). In the Ionian (Epirus, Western Greece, and Ionian Islands Regions) there is more than 35% of the total production with significant number of farms in Aitoloakarnania, Kefalonia, Thesprotia and Amvrakikos areas (117 farms). In relation to shellfish culture, Thesaloniki, Pieria and Imathia regions are main producers (67% of total national production[3). The Greek national aquaculture sector offers around 12,000 employment positions (direct and indirect) from which 85% is offered by the marine aquaculture segment.

Aspects / Objectives

The primary objective of the Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture is to adopt a specific and detailed national zoning plan for the installation and operation of marine aquaculture units, based on carrying capacity criteria. This strategic framework is expected to enable the reduction of conflicting interactions between aquaculture and the environment, promote economic development through the synergy of sectoral policies and other related economic activities (tourism, etc.), resolve conflicts between different activities, establish the possibility to increase the national aquaculture production, promote production diversification of each region to become an asset for the sustainable development of the sector, and promote the establishment of a monitoring system for the implementation and efficiency of the Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture and the various EU regulations.


The Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture provides guidelines, rules and criteria for spatial organization of the aquaculture management areas and units both at sea and inland waters and for spatial organization of the aquaculture activity by type (species of marine aquaculture, shellfish, freshwater species, fish farming in lagoons etc.). The Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture prescribes a zoning system for locating aquaculture activities. Specific areas are defined for the development of aquaculture by evaluating spatial, environmental, social and development aspects as well as carrying capacity criteria. These designed aquaculture zones are defined as Suitable Areas of Aquaculture Development (ΠΑΥ). The areas identified for aquaculture development are primarily broader coastal marine and brackish water areas, roughly defined that form areas with uniform characteristics. They are divided in five different categories according to environmental and socioeconomic factors such as the vulnerability of the environment, the intensity and density of aquaculture activity, the neighbouring competitive uses and the proximity with urban areas.

Main Outputs / Results

Marine aquaculture activities develop in wider sea areas (ΠΑΥ), which on spatial terms constitute broader areas for aquaculture farm installation and operation (designated aquaculture areas). Within ΠΑΥs, organized aquaculture management zones named Areas of Organised Aquaculture Development (ΠΟΑΥ) will be located. These zones are precisely defined areas, studied and approved under a specific legislative procedure. They are managed by a special agency constituted for each specific area. Within ΠΑΥ there is also the possibility to establish individual aquaculture units with the same licensing procedure.

Outside ΠΑΥ, the installation of single units is permitted only for pilot units, or for units of small capacity, combined with touristic facilities in the context of other forms of tourism, or for units close to uninhabited islands mainly close to the borders and in remote areas.

A ΠΟΑΥ is allowed to be established when more than five aquaculture units are installed in an area larger than 100,000 m2. Clusters of small installations (Areas of Atypical Aquaculture Units Concentration - ΠΑΣΜ) can also be installed within ΠΑΥ, with the prerequisite that less than five aquaculture units are installed, occupying a surface less than 100,000 m2 and having a distance of 500 m to 2 km between them.

Specific criteria for marine aquaculture units (ΠΟΑΥ) location are defined: minimum depth of the sea, distance between units, maximum percentage for coverage of the sea area and local current velocity. Marine aquaculture units cannot be established in areas where the sea bed is covered by protected and endangered species (e.g. meadows of Posidonia oceanica, Cymodocea nodosa, etc.) or species under restriction defined by EU and national legislation and specifically managed areas such as sea navigation routes, channels, underwater cables, military exercise areas and pipelines.

In relation to interferences of/with other activities the following criteria have been defined: (i) wind farms should be avoided within ΠOΑΥ (Areas of Organised Aquaculture Development) and ΠΑΣΜ (Areas of Atypical Aquaculture Units Concentration); (ii) in case of single aquaculture units wind farms should be at a distance of 500 meters; (ii) energy production from renewable energy sources for the needs of aquaculture units is encouraged; (iv) a distance of 50 m from professional fishing activities, with the exception of an agreement between the two parties, should be respected.


Guidelines and approaches applied to define this Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture can be applied and adjusted for other spatial planning of aquaculture activities in other countries. The nested approach applied can be extended to other sectors. Sectoral spatial plans should be considered when preparing MSP. Some aspects of this practice constitute good example of how sectoral spatial plans should consider MSP issues at large (e.g. considering interferences with other uses).


This practice was prepared by using the original text of the Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture and its annexes and freely on-line available materials. The authors of those materials did not review the present text, which is completely under responsibility of the EU MSP Platform.

Contact Person

Anestis Gourgiotis
Dr Spatial-Urban Planner

Hellenic Republic
Ministry of Environment and Energy

Department of Spatial Planning
Amaliados str. 17
11523 Athens
Tel. (0030) 213 1515349
Fax. (0030) 213 1515621
e mail:

Responsible Entity

Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy

[1] Federation of Greek Mariculture, 2016. Greek Aquaculture 2016. Publication of the Federation of Greek Mariculture, pp. 76 (in Greek)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.