Coming to the table: Early stakeholder engagement in marine spatial planning
From 2009 to 2011, marine spatial planning (MSP) rapidly gained visibility in the United States as a promising ocean management tool. A few small-scale planning efforts were completed in state waters, and the Obama Administration proposed a framework for large-scale regional MSP throughout the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. During that same time period, the authors engaged a variety of U.S ocean stakeholders in a series of dialogs with several goals: to share information about what MSP is or could be, to hear stakeholder views and concerns about MSP, and to foster better understanding between those who depend on ocean resources for their livelihood and ocean conservation advocates. The stakeholder meetings were supplemented with several rounds of in-depth interviews and a survey. Despite some predictable areas of conflict, project participants agreed on a number of issues related to stakeholder engagement in MSP: all felt strongly that government planners need to engage outsiders earlier, more often, more meaningfully, and through an open and transparent process. Equally important, the project affirmed the value of bringing unlike parties together at the earliest opportunity to learn, talk, and listen to others with whom they rarely engage.
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