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Posted: January 17th, 2024

Comparing Approaches to Maritime Spatial Planning Across National Exclusive Economic Zones

Comparing Approaches to Maritime Spatial Planning Across National Exclusive Economic Zones

Maritime spatial planning (MSP) is a process that aims to balance the competing demands for the use of marine resources and space, while ensuring the conservation and sustainable development of the marine environment. MSP is increasingly recognized as a key tool for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, as well as other international and regional commitments related to ocean governance.

However, MSP is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different countries and regions have adopted different approaches to MSP, depending on their legal frameworks, institutional arrangements, socio-economic contexts, and environmental challenges. This blog post compares and contrasts some of the main features of MSP across national exclusive economic zones (EEZs), which are the areas of ocean under the jurisdiction of coastal states.

Legal Basis and Objectives

One of the first aspects to consider when comparing MSP approaches is the legal basis and objectives of the planning process. Some countries have enacted specific legislation on MSP, such as Belgium, Germany, Portugal, and China. Others have integrated MSP into existing laws or policies on environmental management, coastal zone management, or ocean affairs, such as Australia, Canada, France, and the United States. The legal basis of MSP can influence the scope, authority, and accountability of the planning process, as well as the degree of integration and coordination among different sectors and levels of government.

Another aspect to consider is the objectives of MSP. While most countries share some common objectives, such as promoting sustainable development, enhancing ecosystem protection, and reducing conflicts among users, some countries may emphasize specific objectives that reflect their national priorities or challenges. For example, Norway has a strong focus on facilitating offshore renewable energy development, while Indonesia has a priority on improving food security and poverty alleviation. The objectives of MSP can influence the criteria, indicators, and trade-offs used to evaluate different planning alternatives and scenarios.

Stakeholder Participation and Public Engagement

A second aspect to compare when looking at MSP approaches is the level and mode of stakeholder participation and public engagement. Stakeholders are those who have an interest or stake in the planning process or its outcomes, such as government agencies, industry sectors, civil society groups, indigenous peoples, local communities, and scientific experts. Public engagement refers to the communication and consultation with the general public or specific segments of society that may be affected by or interested in the planning process.

Stakeholder participation and public engagement are essential for ensuring the legitimacy, transparency, and effectiveness of MSP. However, different countries may adopt different methods and mechanisms for involving stakeholders and engaging the public in the planning process. Some countries may rely on formal structures or platforms for stakeholder representation and consultation, such as advisory committees or working groups. Others may use more informal or flexible methods for stakeholder input and feedback, such as workshops, surveys, or online platforms. The level and mode of stakeholder participation and public engagement can influence the quality and diversity of information, perspectives, and preferences that inform the planning process.

Spatial Data and Information Management

A third aspect to compare when examining MSP approaches is the availability and use of spatial data and information for planning purposes. Spatial data refers to any data that has a geographic component or location attribute, such as maps, charts, images, or statistics. Information management refers to the collection, storage, analysis, dissemination, and sharing of data among different users and stakeholders.

Spatial data and information are crucial for supporting evidence-based decision making in MSP. However, different countries may face different challenges or opportunities in terms of data availability and quality, data standards and formats,
data accessibility and interoperability,
and data analysis and visualization tools. Some countries may have well-established spatial data infrastructures or platforms that facilitate data integration and sharing among different sectors and levels of government. Others may have limited or fragmented data sources or systems that hinder data exchange and collaboration. The availability and use of spatial data and information can influence the accuracy,
comprehensiveness,
and timeliness of the planning process.

Monitoring and Evaluation

A fourth aspect to compare when assessing MSP approaches is the design and implementation of monitoring
and evaluation systems.
Monitoring refers to the systematic collection
and analysis
of data
and indicators
to track
the progress
and performance
of the planning process
and its outcomes.
Evaluation refers to the periodic assessment
and review
of the effectiveness,
efficiency,
relevance,
and impact
of the planning process
and its outcomes.
Monitoring
and evaluation are important for ensuring
the adaptive management
and continuous improvement
of MSP.
However,
different countries may adopt different approaches
to monitoring
and evaluation,
depending on their goals,
criteria,
indicators,
methods,
and resources.
Some countries may have well-defined
and operational monitoring
and evaluation systems
that provide regular feedback
and learning opportunities
for planners,
stakeholders,
and decision-makers.
Others may have limited or ad hoc monitoring
and evaluation systems
that lack clear objectives,
indicators,
or mechanisms
for reporting
and learning.
The design
and implementation
of monitoring
and evaluation systems
can influence the accountability,
adaptability,
and sustainability
of MSP.

Conclusion

MSP is a diverse
and dynamic field
of practice
that reflects the complexity
and diversity
of the marine environment
and its users.
There is no single best way
to do MSP,
but rather a range of approaches
that can be adapted
and tailored
to different contexts
and circumstances.
By comparing
and contrasting different MSP approaches,
we can learn from each other’s experiences,
challenges,
and best practices,
and foster cross-national dialogue
and cooperation
on ocean governance.

References

Ehler, C., and Douvere, F. (2019). Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach Toward Ecosystem-Based Management. Paris: UNESCO.

Flannery, W., Ellis, G., Nursey-Bray, M., van Tatenhove, J.P.M., and Kelly, C. (2016). Exploring the winners and losers of marine environmental governance/Marine spatial planning: Cui bono?/“More than fishy business”: epistemology, integration and conflict in marine spatial planning/Marine spatial planning: power and scaping/Surely not all planning is evil? Ocean & Coastal Management, 134, 1-71.

Jay, S., Klenke, T., Ahlhorn, F., and Ritchie, H. (2016). The dynamics of conflict in marine spatial planning. In S. Kidd, A. Plater, and C. Frid (Eds.), The Ecosystem Approach to Marine Planning and Management (pp. 83-104). London: Routledge.

Maes, F., Schrijvers, J., and Vanhulle, A. (2005). A flood of space: Towards a spatial structure plan for sustainable management of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy Office.

Qiu, W., and Jones, P.J.S. (2013). The emerging policy landscape for marine spatial planning in Europe. Marine Policy, 39, 182-190.

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