Closing marine governance gaps? Sweden's marine spatial planning, the ecosystem approach to management and stakeholders' views
The expectations on marine spatial planning to improve environmental governance of the Baltic Sea are high, not least for helping to close the huge gaps between environmental objectives and the state of the marine environment. This article focuses on the on-going implementation of marine spatial planning in Sweden, well-known to be a forerunner in environmental policy. Aiming to identify governance recommendations, the study analyses how the first consultation document for the Baltic Sea may complement existing governance systems and promote gap closure. A particular focus is placed on the potential impact of the plan on the implementation of an ecosystem approach to management (EAM) and how these issues are regarded by involved stakeholders. It is shown that the planning process promotes participation, but that the studied plan as such most likely does not significantly help to close any larger environmental goal-state gaps. A number of recommendations on how to develop the plan are discussed, but significant improvements require broader governance reforms, in particular concerning coordination and integration in relation to legislation on other marine and water strategies, as well as policies and laws for fisheries, agriculture and industrial chemicals. Major policy development is thus needed in order to allow marine spatial planning in Sweden, and most likely in several other geographical areas as well, to significantly help closing goal-state gaps in the future.