Marine Spatial Planning in Reality

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A special section of the journal Marine Policy (outline) has just been published that explores the realities of how marine spatial planning is actually implemented, through 12 case studies around Europe, employing a structured qualitative empirical approach. This represents a novel approach to research on marine spatial planning based on realities, rather than the theoretical and conceptual approaches taken by many such studies.

The special section includes nine papers on these case studies, listed below, along with an introductory and discussion paper (Jones et al. 2016, Open Access). The key overall conclusion is "that the realities of how marine spatial planning is working contrast with widely recognised concepts and ideals as to how marine spatial planning should work, as integrated-use marine spatial planning based on political expedience and blue growth priorities is diverging from and potentially competing with ecosystem-based marine spatial planning, including marine protected area networks, based on Good Environmental Status priorities". There are several other key points that this critical analysis paper highlights:

  • Marine spatial planning is often focused on achieving specific sectoral objectives, related to nationally important strategic priorities, and might better be termed ‘strategic sectoral planning
  • Marine spatial planning processes tend to be complex, fragmented and emergent on an ad hoc basis, rather than cyclical, adaptive and prescribed on an a priori basis.
  • Top-down processes tend to dominate, more participative platforms tending to be ‘disconnected by design’ from executive decision-making.
  • Blue growth is the dominant overall priority, often aligned with strategic sectoral priorities, despite growing indications that the Marine Strategy Framework Directive target for Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020 is unlikely to be met. This is consistent with growing concerns about the tensions between the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Directive Establishing a Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning.

Overall, it is argued that a more critical empirical approach to marine spatial planning research is needed, whereby conceptual approaches which integrate sustainable blue growth and environmental conservation co-evolve with marine spatial planning practices, through critical analyses of whether the realities of marine spatial planning are consistent with these concepts, i.e. theories and concepts about how marine spatial planning should or could work should be critically evaluated through actual case studies, so that both the practice of marine spatial planning and the theories and concepts to support such practices can co-evolve. Such a critical empirical research approach will enable the growing divide between the realities and theories of marine spatial planning to be bridged.

Jones P.J.S, Lieberknecht L.M. and Qiu W. (2016) Marine Spatial Planning in reality: introduction to case studies and discussion of findings. Marine Policy 71, 256-264, Open Access doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.04.026.

Eight case study papers in this special section

Pecceu E, Hostens K and Maes F (2016) Governance analysis of MPAs in the Belgian Part of the North Sea. Marine Policy 71, 265-274. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.12.017

Lieberknecht LM and Jones PJS. (2016) From stormy seas to the doldrums: The challenges of navigating towards an ecologically coherent MPA network through England’s Marine Conservation Zone process. Marine Policy 71, 275-284. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.05.023

Johnson KR, Kerr SA and Side JC (2016). The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters and Scotland - planning Europe’s Atlantic gateway. Marine Policy 71, 285-292. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.12.006

Olsen E, Holen S, Buhl-Mortensen L and Røttingen I (2016) How Integrated Ocean governance in the Barents Sea was created by a drive for increased oil production. Marine Policy 71, 293-300. Open Access, doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.12.005

D’Anna G, Fernández TV, Pipitone C, Garofalo G and Badalamenti F (2016). Governance analysis in the Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area: a Mediterranean case study. Marine Policy 71, 301-309. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.12.009

Piwowarczyk J and Wróbel B (2016) Determinants of legitimate governance of marine Natura 2000 sites in a post-transition European Union country: a case study of Puck Bay, Poland. Marine Policy 71, 310-317. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.01.019

Sørensen TK and Kindt-Larsen L (2016) Uncovering governance mechanisms surrounding harbour porpoise conservation in the Danish Skagerrak Sea. Marine Policy 71, 318-324. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.01.017

Slob AFL, Geerdink TRA, Röckmann C and Vöge S (2016) Governance of the Wadden Sea. Marine Policy 71, 325-333. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.04.043