Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Multi-scalar approach to MSP

Main issues

Based on the characteristics of the sea space under national jurisdiction (e.g. dimensions, geographic features, intensity of uses, presence of vulnerable areas, synergies between uses, administrative issues) national MSP authorities may decide to adopt a multi-scalar approach to MSP and prepare distinct plans for different marine areas. These plans may in some cases differ in regard to detail as well as time horizons. The origin of the term ‘multi-scalar’ comes from different planning scales, as depicted in the figure below. In practice, however, it is not the scale that matters but rather the level of detail in various plans.

Nested approach of planning scales. Source: Fanning, Lucia & Mahon, Robin & McConney, Patrick. (2013). Applying the large marine ecosystem (LME) governance framework in the Wider Caribbean Region. Marine Policy. 42. 99–110. 10.1016/j.marpol.2013.02.008.

The multi-scalar approach includes a variety of situations: different areas can spatially overlap or not; different plans can be under the responsibility of the same or different authorities; and there can be a hierarchical relationship between plans. When a multi-scalar approach is applied to areas covered by plans at different levels (e.g. a national overarching plan for the entire sea space and sub-plans for some sub-areas included in this space), this is also referred to as a nested approach.

This topic was discussed at the workshop on "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018. The workshop's report contains several examples of how the multi-scalar approach has been applied in different MSP processes throughout Europe.

Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.

Frequently Asked Questions

BaltSeaPlan Web Application / BoundaryGIS


The web application for MSP developed in the framework of the BaltSeaPlan project and based on Boundary-GIS Geoportal is a supporting tool which should facilitate stakeholder involvement. The application allows...

  • Jan 2011