Top 15 Publications on Marine Spatial Planning

As ranked by Charles Ehler, President, Ocean Visions Consulting

1. Ehler, Charles, and Fanny Douvere, 2009. Marine Spatial Planning: a step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Man and the Biosphere Programme. IOC Manual and Guides No. 53, ICAM Dossier No. 6. Paris: UNESCO. 99 p.

The most widely distributed and used operational guide to marine spatial planning available—over 8,000 copies distributed or downloaded since publication in 2009 and already translated into six languages and counting. The guide clearly describes a ten-step process to implement marine spatial planning and management as a step in the right direction toward ecosystem-based management. The ten steps are illustrated with examples from MSP practice.

2. Douvere, Fanny, and Charles Ehler (eds.), 2008. Special Issue on Marine Spatial Planning. Marine Policy. Vol. 32, No. 5. September. pp. 759-843.

An important collection of papers based on the first international conference on marine spatial planning held at UNESCO in November 2006. Excellent papers on marine law and MSP (Maes), marine science and MSP (Crowder & Norse), the MSP planning process (Gilliland & Laffoley), stakeholder engagement (Pomeroy & Douvere), human communities at-sea and MSP (St. Martin & Arbor), implementation of MSP (Plasman), monitoring and evaluation (Day), and MSP in the high seas (Ardron et al.). The papers and the conference report are downloadable at

3. Douvere, Fanny, 2008. The importance of marine spatial planning in advancing ecosystem-based sea use management. Marine Policy. Vol. 32, No. 5. September. pp. 762-771.

This article, from a special issue on MSP, describes why MSP is an essential step in achieving ecosystem-based sea use management, how it can be defined, and what its core objectives are. The article concludes with an analysis of the use and achievements of MSP worldwide, with particular focus on new approaches in Europe. The publication deserves special recognition since it has been among the top 10 of all downloaded peer-reviewed publications of Marine Policy over the past four years. Downloadable at

4. Maes, Frank et al., 2005. A Flood of Space: Towards a spatial structure plan for the sustainable management of the North Sea. Brussels: Belgian Science Policy Office. 208 p.

A clearly written, graphics-rich report on the “Gaufre” project of the University of Ghent, Belgium — one of the first European initiatives to document a systematic approach to MSP, including an innovative method of developing marine spatial scenarios. Downloadable at:

5. Olsen, Erik, Harald Gjøsæter, Ingolf Røttingen, Are Dommasnes, Petter Fossum, and Per Sandberg, 2007. The Norwegian ecosystem-based management plan for the Barents Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science. Vol. 64, No. 4. pp. 599-602.

A summary of the integrated management plan of the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea—one of the few marine spatial plans to integrate and implement fisheries management measures with those for oil and gas, marine transport, and nature conservation. The plan was revised in 2010. The entire 2006 Barents Sea Integrated Management plan (in English) can be downloaded at

6. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, 2009. Massachusetts Ocean Plan. 126 p. Volume 1 and Volume 2.

The best American example of an integrated marine spatial plan. It was developed and implemented in only 18 months. Given the timeframe for planning, stakeholder participation in the planning process was extensive and effective. Although the fisheries sector was excluded from the plan under state law, planners found creative ways to integrate an important dimension of fisheries management — i.e., habitat protection — into the plan. Downloadable at

7. Douvere, Fanny, and Charles Ehler, 2010. The importance of monitoring and evaluation in adaptive maritime spatial planning. Journal of Coastal Conservation. Vol. 15, No. 2. pp. 305-311.

An adaptive approach to MSP involves exploring alternative ways to meet management objectives, assessing the outcomes of alternative management measures, implementing selected management measures, monitoring to learn about their effectiveness, and then using the results to update knowledge and adjust management actions. This publication focuses on the need for performance monitoring and assessment to implement adaptive MSP.

8. White, Crow, Ben Halpern, and Carrie Kappel, 2012. Ecosystem service analysis reveals the value of marine spatial planning for multiple ocean uses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America. Published online before print on 5 March.

In a recent article, an ecosystem-services framework is used to assess potential conflicts among offshore wind energy, commercial fishing, and whale-watching sectors in Massachusetts and identify and quantify the value from choosing wind farm designs that minimize conflicts among these sectors. Importantly the authors show that using MSP over conventional planning could prevent more than US $1 million dollars in losses to the incumbent fishery and whale-watching sectors and could generate >$10 billion in extra value to the energy sector. Downloadable at

9. Lamp, Jochem, and Michele Stoltz, 2010. Become a Maritime Spatialist in 10 Minutes. Frankfurt: WWF-Germany. 28 p.

A hugely successful, widely read effort to communicate the complexities of MSP to the general public in simple terms through cartoons. Originally directed toward a Baltic Sea audience, the booklet uses original cartoons to communicate the essentials of MSP. It is downloadable at

10. Douvere, Fanny, et al., 2007. The role of marine spatial planning in sea use management: the Belgian case. Marine Policy. Vol. 31. pp. 182-191.

This publication discusses the Belgian experiences with MSP—the only peer-reviewed publication on Belgium available. It provides a short historical overview based on legal developments and reviews the implementation process of a ‘Master Plan’ as a spatial management policy for the Belgian Part of the North Sea. Additionally, this article reflects on the research that was done in Belgium to apply a land-use planning approach to the marine environment. Downloadable at

11. Qinhua, Fang, Ran Zhang, Luoping Zhang, and Huasheng Hong, 2011. Marine functional zoning in China: experience and prospects. Coastal Management. Vol. 39. pp. 656-667.

This publication is one of the very few accessible in English about an initiative to plan and zone the territorial sea of China since it was first proposed by the government in 1998 and authorized through a 2001 Law on the Management of Sea Use. Through exploring the problems and deficiencies of existing marine functional zoning (MFZ) from both technical and administrative perspectives, the principles and ways to improve MFZ in China were proposed in the context of international MSP practice before a new cycle of revision in 2009.

12. Crowder, Larry B., et al., 2006. Resolving mismatches in U.S. ocean governance. Science. Vol. 313. 4 August. pp. 617-618.

A short summary of the conclusions of the Marine Zoning Working Group of the National Center for Ecosystem Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara. It was the first paper to mention the concept of MSP in a premier American scientific journal. Downloadable at

13. Agardy, Tundi. Ocean Zoning: Making Marine Management More Effective. Rutledge. 240 p.

This book discusses the use of ocean zoning to improve marine management, including MSP. It reviews the benefits of ocean zoning in theory, reviews progress made in zoning around the world through a range of case studies, and derives lessons learned to recommend a process by which future zoning can be more effective and efficient.

14. Jay, Stephen, 2010. Built at sea: marine management and the construction of marine spatial planning. Town Planning Review. Vol. 18, No. 2. pp. 173-191.

A well-documented publication of the short history of MSP from a UK academic perspective and its development by the marine community rather than the terrestrial spatial planning community—a fact that the author laments to be a shortcoming of MSP.

15. Katsanevakis, Stelios et al., 2011. Ecosystem-based marine spatial management: review of concepts, policies, tools, and critical issues. Ocean and Coastal Management Journal. Vol. 54, No. 11. pp. 807-820.

A thorough review of the recent literature of ecosystem-based marine spatial management (EB-MSM). The publication provides a comprehensive insight about the nature and scope of EB-MSM and its related challenges. The main questions it tries to answer are: What is EB-MSM and what are its benefits? What are the recent developments in EB-MSM and its related objectives? What are the most important tools for EB-MSM and their essential characteristics? How can critical issues for marine management such as climate change and geohazard risks be effectively tackled within EB-MSM frameworks? What are the gaps and research needs for effective EB-MSM?

Note: Charles “Bud” Ehler is president of Ocean Visions Consulting and a senior consultant on marine spatial planning to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in Paris, France.

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