Strengthening the role of Blue Fishing Ports in Marine Spatial Planning: IOC-UNESCO and FAO joint efforts

Through its Sustainable Development Goal 17, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on its agencies, governments and stakeholders to build and enhance partnerships to achieve the 2030 global goals. Walking the talk, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have organized dedicated capacity building activities on Marine Spatial Planning for stakeholders from fishing ports.

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a marine policy that aims to organize and distribute human activities along the coast and ocean spaces, in a sustainable way meant to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. MSP is a participatory process and to be successfully implemented, it depends on the compliance of all maritime sectors, which should design or adapt sectoral plans and strategies in line with marine spatial plans.

Increasing participation and uptake within the maritime sectors requires building capacities and exchanging knowledge between actors and institutions. This is the objective of a series of regional workshops organized by UNESCO’s IOC and the FAO, entitled “Engaging Blue Ports in Marine Spatial Planning”. The workshops assembled around 100 participants from 26 countries.

For the Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC, Mr. Vladimir Ryabinin, the workshop series had a clear objective of connecting IOC’s and FAO’s networks, and promoting the new International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning among fisheries stakeholders. “The division of labor between organizations of the United Nations system that are involved in ocean matters is continuously becoming more harmonious, and our collaborative efforts in support of the 2030 Agenda maximize the benefit of operational integration of fisheries into ecosystem-based management.

This collaboration also contributes to the objectives of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which is a common framework to deliver the ocean science needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The regional workshops were organized throughout October and early November focused on Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and East Asia and Pacific. The workshops formally presented the concepts of Marine Spatial Planning and Blue Ports, and gave regional experts on MSP the opportunity to present inspiring case studies about “good practices on how MSP processes addressed fishing ports” and “port strategies aligned with multisectoral spatial approach”. This series is the result of complementary activities within the context of two initiatives: MSProadmap (IOC) and the Blue Ports Initiative (FAO).

The MSProadmap is a ‘Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning processes worldwide’ adopted by IOC-UNESCO and the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission (DG MARE). In the last three years, the priority actions of this roadmap (such as the sustainable blue economy) were implemented through the project MSPglobal Initiative, which ended in October 2021 with the publication of the new flagship MSP guide mentioned above. This document was the key reference used in the workshops, which also invited MSP experts – some of them authors and contributors to the new guide – to present and comment the status of MSP in each region.

FAO’s Blue Ports Initiative intends to leverage the strategic position of fishing ports – considered development hubs due to its capacity of influencing their hinterland – in the promotion of a sustainable blue economy. The initiative aims to contribute to poverty alleviation and food security by food quality reinforcement, natural resources conservation through effective marine policies, value chain reinforcement, labor rights compliance and gender equality within maritime sectors.

In order to allow ports to reach their potential and have a positive impact on their surrounding areas, policies and tools aimed at managing marine and coastal zones are needed. MSP is one of the ways for ports to ensure their viability by considering the different uses of the coastal and maritime zones, as well as their interactions. IOC-UNESCO is doing a great work to transfer and strengthen such capacities to implement MSP in a strategic and operational implementation process to all coastal stakeholders, ports being one of the key actors,” said Mr. Audun Lem, Deputy Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, in the opening session of the workshops.

The workshops also included interactive sessions to co-design guidelines on MSP for Blue Ports, in which all participants shared their best practices and lessons learned.

The series of regional workshops “Engaging Blue Ports in Marine Spatial Planning” was co-funded by the Government of Sweden.

Click here to access the key findings of the workshops.

MSPglobal International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning
Blue Ports Initiative


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