New study by the European Commission addresses the integration of ecosystem-based approaches into Maritime Spatial Planning

The results of a “Study on the integration of ecosystem-based approaches into Maritime Spatial Planning(MSP), carried out by the European Commission in the framework of the Joint Roadmap to accelerate MSP processes worldwide (MSProadmap), were presented during a webinar co-organized with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) on 29 September 2021.

Opening the event, Mr. Julian Barbière, Head of Section for Marine Policy and Regional Coordination at the IOC-UNESCO, highlighted the role of MSP as a useful and effective vehicle for delivering an ecosystem-based approach (EBA) in the marine environment, recalling the first MSP guide published by the IOC in 2009 titled “Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management”. Strengthening multidisciplinary efforts for a better understanding of social, economic and environmental drivers will help countries better frame the MSP process in the EBA and move toward sustainable ocean planning. Mr. Barbière concluded by linking the content of this new study to the objectives of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), coordinated by IOC-UNESCO, and to the new MSPglobal International Guide on MSP that will be launched during the final conference of the project on 5 October 2021.

Mr. Felix Leinemann, Head of Unit for Blue Economy Sectors, Aquaculture and Maritime Spatial Planning at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), stated that 2021 marks the first year of the full implementation of the MSP Directive (2014) in the European Union, in which the EBA is embedded as a principle. He added that impacts and pressures on the marine environment are cumulative and do not stop at geographical borders, hence the need to continue exchanges on good practices and to learn and coordinate globally. At European scale, the new mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030” – launched on the same day of the webinar – will provide around €500 million in seed funding between 2021-2023 to achieve climate neutrality and restore nature, potentially acting as a complement to the Ocean Decade.

The new study on EBA is a toolbox based on European experience but also case studies from other parts of the world. It is the result of two years of research work, workshops and seminars with experts in the field, and will work as a complementary tool to the new MSPglobal International Guide on MSP.

The study was presented by members of the consortium responsible for its development: Dr. Gerjan Piet (Wageningen Marine Research), Mr. Pierre Strosser (ACTeon Environment) and Mr. Tony Zamparutti (Milieu Consulting).

According to a review conducted by the authors of the study, in order to integrate the EBA in the planning process it is necessary to:

  • Capture the integrity, functioning and dynamics of marine ecosystems;
  • Incorporate human activities and their socio-economic considerations; and
  • Organize the MSP process with regard to governance and management.

Indeed, the EBA is translated into actions and considerations throughout the whole MSP process, from initial definitions (i.e. setting the scene and designing the planning process) to following up implementation (i.e. monitoring, evaluation and adaptation).

The study also covered a review of existing tools (presented as factsheets) that can support the operationalization of the EBA. The speakers explained that the amount of information required, as well as the type of scientific disciplines considered, vary among the different tools assessed. However, the tool used in the MSP process needs to be selected based on the context of the planning area.

Concluding remarks from Mr. Leinemann and Mr. Barbière focused on the need to mainstream the EBA in other parts of the world, while highlighting the fact that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. A successful EBA implies to work beyond boundaries – within and outside countries. Existing regional mechanisms (Regional Seas Conventions, Large Marine Ecosystems) and global governance tools (BBNJ, Convention on Biological Diversity, UNFCCC) can provide platforms to promote and implement MSP as a climate-smart solution to relieve stressors on marine ecosystems. Additionally, it is necessary to build stronger science, better integrate data and knowledge, increase capacity and improve the science-policy interface.

More than 150 participants from 50 different countries attended the event.

The study was conducted by the European Commission as a contribution to Priority Action VI of the MSProadmap, and funded by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA).

Watch the speakers’ presentations below:

PDF presentation of the webinar
Poll results

International MSP Guidance


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