Topic outline

  • Introduction


    Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a practical way to create and establish a more rational organization of the use of marine space and the interactions between its uses, to balance demands for development with the need to protect marine ecosystems, and to achieve social and economic objectives in an open and planned way.

    One of the most important aspects of the MSP is the integration of the information on maps, digital o physical. Those maps will serve as the reference for the design of the areas of interest, zoning a Marine Protected Area (MPA) or as a base for a Decision Support System (like an Atlas for example). On those maps, the stakeholders could visualize the information and propose different areas that, in principle, will meet the requirements of the MSP objectives.


    The exercise will use some of the principles, specifically the steps 4 to 7, of the MSP in a hands-on approach, in order to define an hypothetical marine protected area under several conflicts of use. In particular, we want:

    1. To demonstrate the use of a GIS as a tool for visualizing geographical information in the context of a Marine Spatial Planning process.
    2. To use OBIS, the Ocean Biogeographic information System to extract marine biodiversity data relevant for the MSP process
    3. To engage the group in a role game, in which each participant will assume the position of the different stakeholders, and to promote the discussion of the different existing conflicts on the use of the marine resources.
    4. To encourage participants to make justified trade-offs in order to configure the shape of a hypothetical Marine Managed Area (MMA), always retaining the actual use of the marine resources and preserving the marine biodiversity  .
    5. To encourage participants to define a set of management actions to support long term conservation and sustainable development of marine biodiversity in the area, in particular taking into account Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
    • Marine Spatial Planning: Some principles

      The Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a framework for designing a way to use the marine space. One can immediately think about the collection of protected areas for the conservation of marine biodiversity, but MSP could be use with different objectives or even multiple objectives. For example, it could be used for the optimal use of the marine space for the production of wind generated energy, or the best way to distribute the maritime traffic constrained by the conservation of marine mammals.But the MSP process does not replace the single-sector planning.

      The MSP is

      • Ecosystem-based, balancing ecological, economic, and social goals and objectives toward sustainable development
      • Integrated, across sectors and agencies, and among levels of government
      • Place-based or area-based
      • Adaptive, capable of learning from experience
      • Strategic and anticipatory, focused on the long-term
      • Participatory, stakeholders actively involved in the process

      The development and implementation of MSP involve a number of steps, including:

      1. Identifying need and establishing authority
      2. Obtaining financial support
      3. Organizing the 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
      10. Adapting the marine spatial management process

      The process of a MSP is well sumarized in the following figure (Form IOC handbook on MSP)

      MSP Schema

      This is a dynamic process, in which many actors are involved in the formulation of the plan, although not all of them are responsible for making the decisions. However, the decisions, whatever they will be, must be well educated, with the best information available, and is in the process of gathering, summarizing and presenting the information where the stakeholders with a well trained group of professionals have a primary role in the MSP.

      You can explore several courses related to the MSP process in the OTGA platform:

    • OBIS: the global reference of marine biodiversity records

      The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) provides a portal or gateway to many datasets containing information on where and when marine species have been recorded. More than 2000 datasets are integrated so you can search them all seamlessly by species name, higher taxonomic level, geographic area, depth, and time; and then map and find environmental data related to the locations.

      The database grows with new data coming from OBIS nodes and data providers and is distributed completely free without any restrictions. As October 2016, OBIS has more than 47 million records from almost 600 contributing institutions. You can reach OBIS at

      On the web page you can find information about the system, how to collaborate with data and summary statistics of different biodiversity records by species, countries and many other filters.

      OBIS new protal


      The summary statistics are useful to have a global look to the data OBIS has. For example, the distribution of record of the Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis):

      Balaenoptera borealis 1

      Balaenoptera borealis distribution

      In addition to species summaries, you can produce a country summary of all species records that exist in OBIS. As the system integrates many dataset from different institutions you will probably found many additional records that your country institutions doesn't have. And all figures and data can be downloaded!

      French Polynesia summary

      French Polynesia summary 2

      As the system integrates many dataset from different institutions you will probably found many additional records that your country institutions doesn't have. And all figures and data can be downloaded!

      French Polynesia summary data providers

      OBIS provides not only graphical and tabular summaries of species records, it also has a very powerful API (Application program interface) that can be used to build your own web applications, analyze the data (using the dedicated R package) or integrate OBIS data into many popular GIS tools. You can also use the OBIS mapper to perform on-line detailed searches. It is highly recommended to take a look at the OBIS manual to explore all the possibilities the system can provide to you.

    • Designing a Marine Managed Area: the exercise

      “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.”
      ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

      An hypothetical example is presented for an area in the southern Caribbean, for which, real information is given in a GIS configuration. The exercise was designed with open and free GIS software (QuantumGIS ), and the software and all layers are available for all participants. Also, a set of printed maps and a overlay transparencies will be also available. This is particularly important because is possible that some of the stakeholders workshop will be held in areas were no Internet or even no computers are available for the group. In this case, printed maps will serve as the "static GIS" for the occasion. 

      A very large Marine Managed Area is initially proposed, inside of it many conflicts on the use of marine resources potentially exist.

      base GIS configuration

      The available layers for the exercise are:

      • Base layers: coastline, urban areas polygon, roads, small populated sites, submarine cables, hydrology, bathymetry, shaded relief of the terrain.
      • Oil industry: off shore bidding blocks polygons, off-shore production wells, off-shore exploration wells, underwater pipelines, oil refineries.
      • Wave and wind energy projects. Existing and proposed news areas
      • Maritime transport: main shipping routes, anchoring areas, ports, shipping density
      • Fisheries: Fish target species biomass estimates, 2014 fishing boat locations, summary of daily visits by quadrants, density model of fishing boats presence, fishers towns.
      • Aquaculture: location of existing and projected aquaculture farms, in land and in water.
      • Tourism: existing tourism facilities, areas for tourism development projects.
      • Biodiversity: declared protected areas polygons, priority areas for conservation of marine biodiversity, OBIS marine biodiversity records, biodiversity index, location and cover of mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, seagrass meadows, rocky shores, turtle feeding areas, marine crocodile habitat, cetaceans habitat, bird nesting and feeding areas, large and small pelagic fish habitat, soft bottom benthic communities, hard bottom benthic communities
      • Oceanography: seasonal maps of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll a concentration

      When not of all participants have sufficient expertise using GIS technologies, it is recommended to use a set of printed maps and transparencies to help them draw the frontier of the MMA in a collaborative way. Those maps are available in the "Resources" section below.

      For the exercise and depending on the number of participants, the group will be divided in several working teams. During the first session the participants will be grouped in order to represent one of the stakeholders present in the area:

      1. Oil industry
      2. Wave and wind energy sector
      3. Maritime transport sector
      4. Artisanal fishers
      5. Aquaculture sector
      6. Private tourism industry
      7. NGO for biodiversity conservation

      Every team will be allowed to study the available information and discuss the sector strategy for the best configuration of the MMA. Also they must evaluate all the possible trade-offs they are willing to accept during the negotiation with the other sectors. After, during the second session one or more participants of each sector will participate in a small round table discussion with the representatives of the others sectors. During those discussions, they will agree on the best configuration of the MMA and produce a document with the trade-offs and agreements made. Also, they will produce a document with a set of management actions that will guarantee the sustainability of the proposed MMA in the long term.

      The Rules

      There are some conditions that all groups should follow in the process of defining the final configuration of your MMA.

      1. Each of the stakeholders (biodiversity, fisheries, oil industry, maritime transport and ports, tourism) must make decisions that guarantee the continuity of its activities, but at the same time they should be prepared to make some trade-offs.

      2. Spatial plans for the broader area can utilize any types of management tools/approaches (e.g., MPAs, functional use zoning of marine waters/coastal lands, fishery reserves, reference areas for research and monitoring, EIAs, etc.).

      3. There must be at least one managed area with a higher level of protection than surrounding areas, in particular considering Aichi Target 11. Groups must decide the ideal shape and size of this managed area. Within this managed area, the following rules apply:

          • The maritime transit of commercial vessels will be allowed through the managed area, but no anchoring inside the area.
          • No activity related to the extraction, transport or transformation of oil or gas will be allowed inside the managed area.

          • Fishing activities inside the managed area will be allowed but it should be reduced to 25% of the fishing effort related to the actual effort (or 25% of the actual fishing grounds).

      4. Every decision made must be associated with one or more Aichi target or SDG (use the provided table to annotate the decisions)

    • The Data

      Description of the Data Layers

      The exercise setting comprises an area of 21,500 km², located in the Gulf of Venezuela, Southern Caribbean Sea. The data layers are real and obtained from several sources. The shape of the initial MMA (about 6.000 km²) is fictitious and there is no initiative from the official sector nor from any NGO to propose such area. However, in addition to one National Park, there are several areas that are considered important for conservation initiatives, specially of the marine biodiversity.

      You can see the description of the layers in the pages below:

    • Upload your results!

      So far you've been working on the proposed MPA in a way that the main objective (the conservation of marine biodiversity) is reached and your activity as stakeholder could continue with some trade-offs agreed with the other participants. If you'd used a GIS to workout the exercise, you can upload the shapefile of your solution. If not, please scan (or take a photo with your cell phone) and upload the resulted map. Also, we need to see which agreements you've made with the others sectors, so please upload a pdf file (or if you've write in a piece of paper, just take a photo of it and upload it). Those products will be the result of your exercise. At the end, you will discuss your results with the group. Please take note of the trade-offs the other groups had reached and see if your solution could be enhanced with the results of others. Remember: there will be probably many different solutions and probably all of them are correct!

    • Topic 7

      • Topic 8

        • Topic 9

          • Topic 10