Topic outline

  • General


    "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German philosopher (1749-1832)

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." John Ruskin, English social thinker, artist and poet (1819-1900)

    Who should take this course?
    This course is primarily intended for decision makers and professionals responsible for the planning and management of marine areas and their resources. It is especially targeted to situations in which time, finances, information and other resources are Iimited. If you encounter one or more of the issues listed in the checklist below, this course might be what you need to get started.

    The course provides an introductory, but comprehensive, overview of MSP. It focuses on describing a logical sequence of 10 steps that are all required to achieve desired goals and objectives for marine areas. It does not focus on the technical details of any one of the steps, e.g., it is not intended to be a course that will help to develop a marine geographic information system or implement a performance monitoring system. When available, references to existing technical guides, handbooks, and websites are suggested in the course materials.

    This course can help professionals at the international, regional, national, and sub-national levels who want to know more about the promise and potential of MSP as a way to achieve multiple goals and objectives, including sustainable economic development and biodiversity conservation within a specified marine area.

    How can this course be useful to you?
    The course should be useful if you want to know more about some of these issues:
    • Understanding what marine spatial planning is about, what benefits it can have, and what results you can expect;
    • Insight in the logical steps and tasks of setting up a successful MSP program;
    • Awareness of what has worked and what has not in MSP practice around the world;
    • Do you have (or expect) human activities that adversely affect important natural areas of your marine area?
    • Do you have (or expect) incompatible human activities that conflict with one another in your marine area?
    • Do you need to streamline policies and licensing procedures affecting the marine environment?
    • Do you need to decide on what space is most suitable for the development of new human activities such as renewable energy facilities or offshore aquaculture?
    • Do you need a vision of what your marine area could or should look like in another 10, 20, 30 years from now?

    Why is this course needed?
    Most professionals responsible for the planning and management of marine areas and their resources often have scientific or technical training in areas such as ecology, biology, oceanography or engineering. Few have been trained as professional planners and managers. Many new marine managers wind up “learning on the job”—a sometimes effective, but often expensive, way to do business.

    This course fills this gap by using a step-by-step approach for developing and implementing MSP. It provides an understanding of the different tasks, skills and expertise you need to develop and sustain your efforts. It also discusses issues such as obtaining financial resources or organizing stakeholders that are important, often neglected, steps of the MSP process.

    Lecturer: Charles Ehler

    Invited Lecturer: Roger Longhorn

    Dates: 31 May - 1 June 2011


    Course Agenda, Presentations and Videos:

    Agenda Topics Presentations Videos
    • Why is Marine Spatial Planning Needed?
    • What is MSP?
    • A Brief History of MSP and ITS Roots
    • MSP, Integrated Coastal Management & Water Quality Management
    • Step 1: establishing Authority
    • Step 2: Obtaining Financial Support
    • Step 3: Stakeholder Participation
    • Step 4: Organizing the Process
    • Step 5: Analysing Current Conditions - introduction
    • Generic Briefing Day 1

    Video Day 1 Session 1

    Video Day 1 Session 2

    Video Day 1 Session 3

    Video Day 1 Session 4

    • Step 5: Analysing Current Conditions – GIS and GeoTools (invited lecturer Roger Longhorn)
    • Step 6: Defining Future Conditions – ScenarioBuilding
    • Step 7: Preparing the Management Plan 
    • Step 8: Implementation, Compliance & Enforcement
    • Step 9: Performance Monitoring & Evaluation
    • Step 10: Adaptation
    • Generic Briefing Day 2 GIS Systems and Capabilities Overview dor DSS
    • Generic Briefing Day 2

    Video Day 2 Session 1

    Video Day 2 Session 3

    Video Day 2 Session 4

    • Case Studies (Europe)
    • Case Studies (Canada & USA)
    • Generic Briefing Day 3

  • Topic 1


    "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo, French poet and novelist (1802-1885)

    Purpose of the course
    During recent years, marine spatial planning (MSP) has been the focus of considerable interest throughout the world, particularly in heavily used marine areas. MSP offers countries an operational framework to maintain the value of their marine biodiversity while at the same time allowing sustainable use of the economic potential of their oceans. Essentially, MSP is an approach that can make key components of ecosystem-based management of marine areas a reality.

    Numerous attempts have been made to define both the scope and nature of MSP, but relatively few have discussed how to put it into practice. This course aims at answering your questions about how to make MSP operational in such a way that can move your initiative toward successful results.

    In this course, we use a clear, straightforward step-by-step approach to show you how you can set up and apply MSP. Most steps are illustrated with relevant examples from the real world. To make sure you have the information you need, throughout the course we will refer you to more detailed sources, including the UNESCO website on MSP (ioc3. that can further help you make good decisions about MSP.

    A copy of the UNESCO/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commmission's Guide to "Marine Spatial Planning: A step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management" can be downloaded by clicking the icon below.

    Further Reading:

  • Topic 2


    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "It means just what I choose it to mean - neither more or less."
    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
    From: "Through the Looking Glass": Lewis Carroll, English author and amateur mathematician (1832-1898)


    Marine spatial planning (MSP) or maritime spatial planning (within the countries of the European Union) is a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to acheive ecological, economic, and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process.

    It is important to remember that we can only plan and manage human activities in marine areas, not marine ecosystems or components of ecosystems. We can allocate human activities to specific marine areas by objective, e.g., development or preservation areas, or by specific uses, e.g., wind farms, offshore aquaculture, sand and gravel mining, or a marine protected area.

    MSP does not lead to a one-time plan. It is a continuing, iterative process that learns and adapts over time. The development and implementation of MSP involves a number of steps, including:
    (1) Identifying need and establishing authority;
    (2) Obtaining financial support;
    (3) Organizing the MSP process through pre-planning;
    (4) Organizing stakeholder participation;
    (5) Defining and analyzing existing conditions;
    (6) Defining and analyzing future conditions;
    (7) Preparing and approving the spatial management plan;
    (8) Implementing and enforcing the spatial management plan;
    (9) Monitoring and evaluating performance; and
    (10) Adapting the marine spatial management process.

    MSP provides an integrated framework for marine management that provides a guide for, but does not replace, single-sector planning. For example, MSP can provide important contextual information for marine protected area management or for fisheries management, but cannot replace the detailed planning of single-secotr management. [more on this later in the course].

    10 Steps of MSP

    • Topic 3


      "It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law." Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher (1588-1679)

      Once you decide to embark on marine spatial planning (MSP), two points in particular need consideration before you get underway:
      (1) Define clearly why you want to develop MSP. This will enable you to stay on track throughout the process; and
      (2) Define whether you have appropriate authority to develop and implement MSP. If not, your efforts might be wasted if implementation is not possible later on.

      Identifying Why You Need Marine Spatial Planning
      The best way to start MSP is to define why you need it. Do you have (or expect) incompatible uses or uses that adversely affect biologically or ecologically important areas? If not, you may not need MSP.

      Most countries that have successfully embarked on MSP have done so out of a need to tackle particular conflicts or problems, either existing or anticipated. These issues may be related to economic development (e.g., where to allow new offshore renewable energy installations or aquaculture facilities) or to environmental conservation (e.g., which biologically and ecologically important areas need to be protected). For example, Belgium and Germany initiated MSP following questions raised about the location of new offshore wind energy facilities. MSP was seen as a way to enable adaptive decision-making in response to possible conflicts over the safety of maritime transport and the protection of fisheries and important natural areas. Thirty years earlier, MSP in Australia started out of public concern that oil drilling and limestone mining would conflict with the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

      Specifying problems or conflicts you want to tackle through MSP will keep your efforts focused throughout the process. Otherwise you may risk losing sight of why you engaged in the process in the first place. Doing this is also the first step toward selecting your goals and objectives for MSP (as discussed in Step 3, organizing the process through pre-planning).

      Estasblishing Appropriate Authority for Marine Spatial Planning
      A second consideration concerns the kind of authority you need to undertake MSP. While planning without implementation is sterile, implementation without planning is a recipe for failure. Therefore, the development of MSP requires two types of authority:
      (1) Authority to plan for MSP; and
      (2) Authority to implement MSP.

      Both types of authority are equally important. They could be combined in one organization, but in most MSP initiatives around the world, new authority is often established for marine spatial planning, while implementation is carried out through existing authorities and institutions.

      Further Reading:

    • Topic 4


      "Money isn't everything--but it's a long way ahead of what comes next." Sir Edmund Stockdale, Lord Mayor of London (1903-1989)


      Marine spatial planning (MSP) is not possible without adequate financial resources or funding. Although MSP is inherently a governmental responsibility, a common problem occurs when funding, which may be available for research, is not available for other MSP activities.
      Most governments that undertake MSP have to rely on direct allocations to their budgets from general tax revenues. Agencies are often given responsibilities to undertake MSP activities without receiving additional funds, so-called “unfunded mandates”. Reprogramming of resources within agencies or across government agencies will sometimes be required, but often with difficulty at best.

      There are, however, other financing mechanisms available that can generate substantial increases in funding for MSP. Alternative financing can include, for example, grants and donations from international and multinational organizations, grants from foundations, partnerships with non-governmental organizations, funds from the private sector, and user fees, among others.
      Each of these alternative financial mechanisms has its pros and cons. In some cases, it might not always be effective to choose a particular financial mechanism for a number of reasons. For this reason, obtaining financial support will usually entail two tasks:
      (1) Identifying possible alternative financing mechanisms for MSP tasks; and
      (2) Defining the feasibility of alternative funding mechanisms.

      Further Reading:

    • Topic 5


      "I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I ought to do, but I don't know where to begin." Stephen F. Bayne, Jr., American Anglican bishop (1908-1974)

      Marine spatial planning (MSP) is likely to be most successful in achieving expected or desired outcomes/results when conducted on the basis of an “objective-based approach” or a "results-based approach". An objective-based approach to MSP is organized around a hierarchy of goals, objectives, and indicators that evaluate the performance of management measures in achieving those goals and objectives. Ideally, the goals and objectives will be derived from particular problems or conflicts you encounter in your marine area (see Step 1, Identifying need and establishing authority), and will reflect a set of MSP principles (see Task 4 of this Step) that guide the process.

      An objective-based approach to MSP implies that analysis conducted during the planning phases (see Steps 5, 6, and 7 of this guide) is related to the MSP goals and objectives. Also the identification of specific management measures during the management plan development phase (Step 7, Preparing and approving the spatial management plan) and a strategy for implementing such measures (Step 8, Implementing and enforcing the spatial management plan) are all carried out to achieve the goals and objectives.

      This step organizes the process for objective-based MSP. It is referred to as “pre-planning” since it sets the stage for the actual planning phases (Step 5, “Defining and analyzing existing conditions” and Step 6, “Defining and analyzing future conditions”). To fulfill this function, pre- planning should develop:
      (1) A marine spatial planning team;
      (2) A work plan (including schedule);
      (3) The boundaries and time-frame for planning;
      (4) A set of principles;
      (5) A set of general goals;
      (6) A set of clear and measurable objectives; and
      (7) An assessment of the risks of what might go wrong during the planning process and possible contingencies.

      Regardless of the context, pre-planning is a necessary and critical part of any MSP process.

      Further Reading:

       Digital Library: MSP Pre-PlanningDigital Library

    • Topic 6


      Involving key stakeholders in the development of marine spatial planning (MSP) is essential for a number of reasons. Of these, the most important is because MSP aims to achieve multiple objectives (social, economic and ecological) and should therefore reflect as many expectations, opportunities or conflicts occurring in the MSP area.

      The scope and extent of stakeholder involvement differs greatly from country to country and is often culturally influenced. The level of stakeholder involvement will largely depend on the political or legal requirements for participation that already exist in your country.

      Generally speaking, all individuals, groups or organizations that are in one way or another affected, involved or interested in MSP can be considered stakeholders. However, involving too many stakeholders at the wrong moment or in the wrong form can be very time consuming and can distract you from the expected or anticipated result. To involve stakeholders effectively (e.g., leading toward expected results) and efficiently (e.g., producing expected results at least-cost), you need to consider three important questions:

      Task 1. Who should be involved?
      Task 2. When should stakeholders be involved?
      Task 3: How should stakeholders be involved?

      Who, when and how stakeholders are involved in your MSP initiative will ultimately be closely linked and influenced by two questions:
      (a) Who decides what during planning and implementing steps of the MSP process? and
      (b) Who is responsible for MSP planning and development?

      For example, there might already be a legal obligation to share decision-making about long-term offshore investments with certain stakeholders or groups of stakeholders (e.g., indigenous people) or there might be a legal obligation to consult the general public about the spatial plan prior to its implementation.

      Where no legal obligations exist, it is important to define what type of stakeholder participation will be most suitable for a successful result. For instance, involving indigenous people in your MSP efforts may not be a legal requirement, but they could however be greatly affected (positively or negatively) by your MSP measures, and should therefore participate.

      Further Reading:
      Useful references to stakeholder participation can be seen by clicking the links below.

      Digital Library: Stakeholder Participation Marine Spatial Planning

    • Topic 7


      "The perfect is the enemy of the good." Voltaire, French writer and philosopher (1694-1778)

      "The necessity to decide is larger than the possibility to understand." Immanuel Kant, German philosopher (1724-1804)

      Compiling and mapping data are expensive undertakings that can take large amounts of time, money, and human resources. Not all the data you collect will be useful for marine spatial planning and so careful selection will be needed. A general rule is that data should be spatially explicit, up-to-date, objective, reliable, relevant and comparable.

      An inventory is a means of gathering information on the current status of the coastal and marine environment. Its purpose is to bring together a wide range of baseline information. An inventory should also take account any obvious trends and developments to be able to assess spatial pressures at a later stage of the planning process. The purpose of this step is to answer the seemingly simple question: Where are we now?

      An inventory can be completed both at any spatial and temporal level and also at various levels of detail. Although an inventory should try to be as comprehensive as possible, collating all the necessary information is likely to be an incremental process. Initially, an inventory is used simply to gather information, providing the necessary background information for MSP. It should be refined during the MSP process to reflect modified objectives and new sources of data.

      At least three general categories of spatial and temporal information are relevant: (1) biological and ecological distributions including areas of known importance for a particular species or biological community at different times of the year; (2) spatial and temporalinformation about human activities; and (3) oceanographic and other physical environmental features (bathymetry, currents, sediments) which, in the absence of comprehensive biological data, can be especially important for identifying different habitats and important processes, e.g., upwelling areas. The mapping of jurisdictional and administrative boundaries will also be relevant when institutional arrangements are considered (Step 7, Preparing and approving the marine spatial management plan).

      Collecting and collating spatially-explicit databases is usually the most time consuming aspect of planning and management activities. In conducting a review of available data, you should look for spatial information that covers most of the marine area. It is often unproductive to spend time collecting fine-scale data sets for small sub-areas of the management area because, when taken together, they are frequently not comparable.

      Data can be collected from many sources including: (1) scientific literature; (2) expert scientific opinion or advice; (3) government sources; (4) local knowledge; and (5) direct field measurement. Most spatial planning efforts rely heavily on the first three sources of data, although local knowledge is increasingly recognized as a valuable source of information for spatial planning. New direct field measurements are expensive and time-consuming, and should be kept to a minimum, especially in the initial round of planning. Later, after important knowledge gaps have been identified, some field work may be undertaken. Most initial data collection and mapping can be done through specialized inter-agency working groups and by consulting experts on various topics.

      Further Reading:

    • Topic 8


      "Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to do in the right direction...." John Paul Kotter, Harvard University business school professor (1947- )

      The previous step concentrated on analyzing existing conditions within the marine management area. Its main purpose was to gain understanding of the existing distribution of important ecological and economic areas in the marine environment and the nature and scope of its human uses. Essentially, it provides an inventory of what exists today in the management area. The purpose of this phase of the planning process is to answer another seemingly simple question: Where do we want to be? The answer takes the form of alternative spatial sea use scenarios and the selection of a preferred scenario.

      A spatial sea use scenario provides a vision that projects the future use of marine space based on a core set of goals, objectives, and assumptions about the future.

      MSP is a future-oriented activity. Its purpose is to help envision and create a desirable future and enable proactive decision-making in the short run to move toward what is desired. Consequently, planning should not be limited to defining and analyzing only existing con- ditions and maintaining the status quo, but should reveal possible alternative futures of how the area could look like in another 10, 15, or 20 years.

      Defining and analyzing future conditions involves the following tasks:
      (1) Projecting current trends in the spatial and temporal needs of existing human uses;
      (2) Estimating spatial and temporal requirements for new demands of ocean space;
      (3) Identifying possible alternative future scenarios for the planning area; and
      (4) Selecting the preferred spatial sea use scenario
      • Topic 9


        "Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now." Alan Lakein, American management consultant

        Once a preferred scenario or alternative future is decided (Step 6, Defining and analyzing future conditions), then this final phase of planning answers the question: How do we get there? A marine spatial management plan should be developed to identify specific management measures that will produce the desired future through explicit decisions about the location and timing of human activities. The marine spatial management plan is not an end in itself but a beginning toward the implementation of desired goals and objectives.

        The marine spatial management plan should be a statement of policy from the responsible management authority or authorities, in partnership with other key agencies and authorities that are responsible for single sectors. It should present an integrated vision of the spatial and temporal aspects of their sectoral policies in the areas of economic development, marine transport, environmental protection, energy, fisheries, and tourism. The marine spatial management plan should be closely integrated with public investment programs, should highlight the spatial dimension of integrated management, and should show where marine policies fit together and where they do not.

        A spatial management plan is a comprehensive, strategic document that provides the framework and direction for marine spatial management decisions. It should identify when, where, and how goals and objectives will be met.

        The spatial management plan guides the ecological, social, and economic development of the marine management area, including its airspace, surface area, water column, and submerged lands.

        Preparing and approving the spatial management plan includes the following tasks:
        (1) Identifying alternative spatial and temporal management measures;
        (2) Specifying criteria for selecting marine spatial management measures;
        (3) Developing a zoning plan;
        (4) Evaluating the spatial management plan; and
        (5) Approving the spatial management plan.

        Further Reading:

      • Topic 10


        "Talk doesn't boil rice." Confucius, Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC)

        After the steps already discussed in this course have been completed, planning will be complete and the spatial management plan and the zoning plan should be ready for the next step: implementation, the action phase of management. The end of planning is the beginning of implementation.

        The focus of this course is on marine spatial planning (MSP) and so the next steps dealing with other marine spatial management steps will be described only briefly.

        Implementation is the process of converting MSP plans into actual operating programs.

        As part of the implementation process, designated governmental institutions or newly created bodies (e.g., inter-ministerial coordinating councils) will begin the new management actions set out in the approved management plan. Implementation is a critically important step of the MSP process. It is the action phase, and it continues throughout the existence of MSP programs. Effective implementation is integral to the success of any MSP program.

        Further Readng:

      • Topic 11


        "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein, German/American physicist and philosopher (1879-1955)

        Information on which to base evaluations of MSP performance can come from many sources, but monitoring has a particularly important contribution to make in providing the basic data that should underpin any evaluation.

        Monitoring is a continuous management activity that uses the systematic collection of data on selected indicators to provide managers and stakeholders with indications of the extent of progress toward the achievement of management goals and objectives.

        At least two types of monitoring are relevant to marine spatial planning:
        (1) assessing the "state of the system" or "state of the environment" monitoring, e.g., “What is the status of biodiversity in the marine management area?”; and
        (2) monitoring and measuring the performance of management measures, i.e., “Are the management actions we have taken producing the outcomes we desire?” These two types of monitoring are closely related.

        It is important not to overstate the usefulness of monitoring programs. The marine environment is complex and variable. Separating the effects of human activities from natural variability is difficult. This difficulty and others do not argue against monitoring performance of management measures, but they do make the case for realistic expectations, careful design, periodic evaluations, and a sustained commitment of resources.

        Monitoring is a critical and integral element of MSP. In a broader sense, a “monitoring system” includes a range of activities needed to provide information to marine spatial planning. These activities could include modeling, laboratory and field research, time-series measurements in the field, quality assurance, data analysis, synthesis, and interpretation. What distinguishes a monitoring system from any of these activities taken alone is that a monitoring system is integrated and coordinated with the specified goal of producing predefined spatial planning information; it is the sensory component of management.

        Monitoring and evaluation provide the link that enables planners and managers to learn from experience (See Step 10, Adapting the marine spatial management process) and helps governments and funding agencies at all levels to monitor the effectiveness of marine spatial management performance. Monitoring programs are often not designed to address public concerns directly or to provide information needed by management or public policy makers. Meaningful communication with, and participation of, the public and decision makers in the development of monitoring programs is rarely achieved. Results are often not reported at all; when they are, they may not be in a useful form.

        The costs of not monitoring—or of monitoring ineffectively—include failure to obtain the information needed to assess environmental conditions, to validate and verify predictive models, and to chronicle changes in the marine environment resulting from natural variation and management actions. In short, the cost of not adequately monitoring is a serious shortcoming in our efforts to plan and manage human uses of the marine environment.

        • Topic 12


          "Progress, far from consisting of change, depends on retentiveness. Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana, Spanish/American philosopher (1863-1952)

          The results from monitoring and evaluation should be used to adapt marine spatial planning and management so that its actions have their intended effects. Most, if not all, management plans need to be periodically reviewed and updated.

          Adaptive management is a systematic approach for improving management through learning by monitoring and evaluating management outcomes. Simply put, it is ‘learning by doing’ and adapting what one does based on what is learned.

          Adaptive management is rarely implemented, even though many planning and management documents call for it, and numerous resource managers refer to it. An adaptive approach involves ex- ploring alternative ways to meet MSP objectives, predicting the outcomes of alternatives based on the current state of knowledge, implementing one or more of these alternatives, monitoring them to learn about the effects of management measures, and last but not least, using the results to adjust management actions. Adaptive management focuses on learning how to create and maintain sustainable development in marine management areas.

          Are there any examples of successful adaptive management in marine places? If so, what lessons can we apply from them within the context of MSP? Only a few marine spatial management programs are currently mature enough to claim any practice of adaptive management. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australia), the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (USA), and The Netherlands Integrated Management Plan for the North Sea provide interesting examples for learning.
          • Topic 13

            Other Resources:

            Video of the presentation by C. Eheler on Marine Spatial Planning, presented at the IODE 50th Anniversary International Conference, Liege, Belgium, 21-22 March 2011.