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Nature Conservation

Main issues

Ecosystem-based approach and sustainable development are key principles of MSP, and require appropriate consideration of ecological implications throughout the MSP process, to ensure sustainable expansion of marine sectors. The MSFD is intended to provide a mechanism of ensuring ecological protection at an ecosystem scale, and is seen as a complementary pillar to MSP, to reconcile growth in marine activities with minimal negative impact on the marine environment.

Although the environment is a key consideration throughout planning, special attention is also required to those ecological features which are afforded specific protection under conservation legislation, including primarily the Habitats and Birds Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The Habitats Directive requires the protection of key species and habitats through a 2-pillar approach of designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and specific measures addressing the species listed on Annex IV(a) of the Directive (see question “How are mobile species with conservation status considered in MSP?”).

As a defined spatial element of conservation, much emphasis is placed on the primary pillar, i.e. designation and inclusion of MPAs in planning processes in order to achieve conservation objectives. In most cases, MPAs have already been designated and are therefore incorporated into the MSP process when allocating areas for other activities (for example in Germany). Their status would not be expected to change through MSP, and the objectives of the MPA will be a consideration in planning activities which may interact with the site or its’ conservation features. Where MPAs are established MSP can support their designation and understanding of objectives in relation to other interests.  In any case, it is important to note the great variety of types of different MPAs as recognised by IUCN’s 7 different categories [1] of protection, and that all may need to be considered within developing MSP. In fact, different synergies can be identified between the various MPA categories and the other maritime sectors.

[1] Dudley, N. (Editor) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp. WITH Stolton, S., P. Shadie and N. Dudley (2013). IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guidance on Recognising Protected Areas and Assigning Management Categories and Governance Types, Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 21, Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Available at…

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

Blue Corridors


This set of practical information introduces blue corridors and provides some examples and recommendations on how to work with Blue Corridors in practical marine spatial planning.

  • Jan 2006

Mapping the marine landscape


This report summaries the work related to marine landscape and habitat mapping published in 17 independent BALANCE Interim Reports. The BALANCE mapping efforts has operated at two scales:

1) the...

  • Jan 2008


FishMPABlue 2

This document describes the results of the testing and proposing the operational measures for SSF governance and management in any MPAs located in the northern shore of the Mediterranean region...

  • Dec 2018