Identifying culturally significant areas for marine spatial planning
Despite the growing recognition of their importance, immaterial cultural values associated with the sea still tend to be neglected in marine spatial planning (MSP). This socio-cultural evidence gap is due to inherent difficulties in defining and eliciting cultural values, but also to difficulties in linking cultural values to specific places, thus enabling an area-based approach to management. This paper addresses three aspects that are important for including marine cultural values in MSP: Defining cultural values, identifying places of cultural importance, and establishing the relative significance of places of cultural importance. We argue that common classification schemes such as cultural ecosystem services can be a helpful starting point for identifying cultural values, but only go so far in capturing communities' cultural connections with the sea. A method is proposed for structuring a community-based narrative on cultural values and “spatialising” them for MSP purposes, using five criteria that can lead to the definition of “culturally significant areas”. A baseline of culturally significant areas is suggested as an aid to planners to pinpoint places where cultural connections to the sea are particularly strong. Throughout, we emphasise the need for participative processes.