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Managing competing ocean uses and activities to promote the health of our ecosystem and sustainable blue development 

Realising the potential of our ocean

Maritime spatial planning (MSP) is an effective instrument to sustainably manage our ocean resources. MSP enables us to harness the vast potential of the ocean and create benefits for society. A comprehensive approach to resource management, MSP integrates stakeholders and scientific knowledge from marine conservation, climate change, and regional development into the planning and decision-making process on how we use our ocean. 

SUBMARINER has been a leading force in advocating for MSP to include Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and innovative activities such as aquaculture and multi-use in its frameworks. To date, Maritime Spatial Plans have been implemented in countless countries across Europe.  

Discover our MSP projects

Our projects support the integration of innovative ocean uses within MSP by facilitating stakeholder engagement and promoting knowledge exchange

Adapting MSP to be ready for the future

Although maritime spatial planning has been implemented in most EU Member States, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed. These include improving monitoring and revision processes, enhancing the integration of climate change and marine protection into the planning frameworks, and finding ways to ensure that MSP remains adaptable to incorporate new concepts like ocean multi-use and emerging innovative activities such as artificial islands, offshore terminals, new types of aquaculture, renewables, and transnational hybrid interconnections. 

MSP resources hub

Our specialists have put together a collection of publications, additional relevant projects, tools, and resources on the topic of maritime spatial planning

Mainstreaming biodiversity into national sectoral policies – why is it difficult?
Mainstreaming biodiversity into national sectoral policies – why is it difficult? 
Biodiversity loss is a pressing global crisis. Unsustainable human activities...
Blue Horizons Newsletter - Edition 2
MPAs, MSP & Ocean Conservation news
Blue Horizons Newsletter: Edition 1
MPAs, MSP & Ocean Conservation news
MSP4BIO’s Data Compilation App Now Availabl
MSP4BIO’s Data Compilation App Now Available 
Access to good-quality ecological, environmental, and socio-economic data is...
Ocean Multi Use Toolkit
Ocean Multi-Use Toolkit
The Ocean Multi-Use Toolkit is a comprehensive resource designed to support...
MSP4BIO Informational Poster
MSP4BIO Informational Poster
Improved Science-Based Maritime Spatial Planning to Safeguard and Restore Biodiversity...

Latest MSP news

Still have questions? We have answers

Marine Spatial Planning is the ‘public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process’. (Ehler and Douvere 2009)

In Europe, MSP is part of the overarching Integrated Maritime Policy of the EU which has, as its objective, to ‘support the sustainable development of seas and oceans and to develop coordinated, coherent and transparent decision-making in relation to the European Union’s sectoral policies affecting the oceans, seas, islands, coastal and outermost regions and maritime sector..’. (European MSP Platform)

The EU Directive on MSP defines MSP as: 

“a process by which the relevant Member State’s authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives.” (EU MSP Directive)


More info:

An MSP process is expected to apply an “ecosystem-based approach (EBA).” This approach refers to ”a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources including humans and their institutions in a way that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way”.

MSP is intended to inform the spatial distribution of maritime uses and activities in a sustainable manner that recognises and operationalises the following EBA elements (UNEP 2011):

1. aligning with ecosystem boundaries;

2. managing for multiple objectives/benefits;

3. considering cumulative impacts;

4. using best-available science and information;

5. applying the precautionary approach to deal with uncertainty; and

6. managing adaptively.


Read more:

Different studies show that MSP needs to integrate better biodiversity at both policy and implementation levels, in particular in the light of recent adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. MSP4BIO project is addressing better biodiversity consideration in MSP, by developing an integrated flexible Ecological-Socio-Economic management framework and validating its concrete applicability in its 6 test sites in across the Europe. The project will build on the ongoing MSP and MPA processes at different scales from local, regional, national to sea basin level, and support effective management of future protected areas through improving and validating the criteria for MPA prioritization, integrating trade-off scenario analysis, improving the knowledge base for reviewing and evaluating existing maritime spatial plans, and providing recommendations on how to improve sectoral policies to better mainstream biodiversity considerations at EU/sea-basin/national level.

More information: SUBMARINER Network’s project – MSP4BIO

30×30 and 10×30 targets reference: European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 – Bringing nature back into our lives, Publications Office of the European Union, 2021,

Want to know more?

Reach out to our expert

Ivana Lukic, Multi-Use, MSP and MPA Team Lead

Stay up to date on the latest developments in maritime spatial planning