Ocean Planning’s Impact - An economic, environmental, and social retrospective

Ocean Planning’s Impact - An economic, environmental, and social retrospective

This webinar originally aired on 4 December 2014.

Existing studies have helped define what good ocean planning (also known as Maritime or Marine Spatial Planning) looks like, the possible conservation and community benefits, and how it theoretically could cut costs and create economic value. However, little evidence has been compiled previously to show the actual results of ocean plans.

This webinar previewed the results of a new empirical study of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of five established ocean plans: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Norway’s Barents Sea, and Belgium. The study shows that on net, all of these plans resulted in broadly shared benefits. Economically, they delivered on average US$60 million per year in economic value from new industries (primarily wind) and retained value in existing industries. Environmentally, plans increased marine protection, ensured industry avoids sensitive habitat, cut carbon, and reduced the risk of oil spills. Socially, the plans encouraged constructive engagement, broad participation, and marine research, transcending the plans themselves. This webinar walked through the detailed results, including the benefits and costs of the ocean plans.

This webinar was cosponsored by the EBM Tools Network, and it was presented by Jason Blau and Lee Green of Redstone Strategy Group.


I thought the webinar, if not the study was rather vague and disappointing. Please show us how you came up with economic facts and figures. We don't seem to have the funding to do that for one plan in New England, how have they done it, after the fact for all these plans. Still not a single wind turbine on the water in the U.S., and I'm sure years from being profitable on their own. Yet I'm sure they'll show up millions to the plus side compared to the traditional industries that support whole communities along the coast here in Maine. What about all the concerns raised in the MESMA project studies that were presented in Open Channels a short while ago.

Thanks, Richard, for joining the webinar and for the response. As you say, it is difficult to get across too much detail in a 20 minute presentation, so we will try to clarify here.

On the general methodology, we only assessed the direct economic impacts of ocean industries, things like landings from fisheries or the electricity produced from wind turbines. You are correct that building these out with indirect effects into full economic studies would greatly enhance the completeness of the results, but would also be extremely difficult. You are also correct that unlike Belgium, there are not yet turbines in the water in Rhode Island, so those are estimates of economic benefits to come, rather than realized to date. The study itself, which we plan to share publicly soon, explains more.

As to MESMA, we think it is worth noting that the scope of our project is a bit different. Most importantly, our goal was to assess the economic, environmental, and social impacts resulting from ocean plans, whereas MESMA was more focused on the comprehensiveness of the planning process itself. In addition, the MESMA study focused exclusively on Europe, but cast a broad net among European plans, while our study covered ocean plans from around the world, but was restricted plans that have been in place long enough and with enough regulatory force that we could comment on the impacts. The resulting findings are therefore quite different.  


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