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Assessing the Balance Between Nature and People in the European Seas: Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic

World Wildlife Fund


Taking a sustainable and ecosystem-based approach (EBA) to planning and managing the use of the world’s ocean has long resided at the core of WWF’s mission. This approach is critical for both ensuring biodiversity protection and securing the ecosystem services that people rely upon. Therefore, supporting the development of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) based on an EBA in the European Union (EU) has been a clear choice for WWF organizations globally, and especially in Europe.

WWF has taken the initiative to assess nine maritime spatial plans from around the Baltic Sea, developed by eight different EU countries and one autonomous region, to measure and compare the degree to which they comply with the principles of ecosystem-based management. This assessment report provides a snapshot (from end of March to end of November 2021) of the current situation of MSP in the Baltic Sea region concerning how well it aligns with an ecosystem-based approach, with special emphasis on the performance of ecosystem-based planning aspects.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • Which indicators can be used in the framework of an ecosystem-based management assessment of MSPs?
  • What is the degree of compliance of Baltic MSPs with ecosystem-based management?
  • How can ecosystem-based MSP be Improved in the Baltic Sea?

Implementation Context:

The WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme has supported the European Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning of 2014, and supports an Ecosystem based management implementation of the Directive.

Aspects / Objectives:

This paper aims to assess nine Baltic Maritime Spatial Plans developed by eight EU countries and one autonomous region, from an Ecosystem Based Management Perspective.


The countries assessed in this paper are Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden – and the autonomous region of Åland. The compliance of MSP with ecosystem-based management was assessed through a set of 33 indicators developed by the WWF. Four categories were defined: inclusion of nature, socio-economic considerations, good ocean governance, comprehensiveness of the complete MSP process. In total, nine maritime spatial plans were assessed based on publicly available information in the Baltic Sea.

Main Outputs / Results:

This paper provides a snapshot of the situation in the Baltic Sea region from March to November 2021, focusing on the alignment of MSPs with Ecosystem Based Management principles.


This paper focuses on the Baltic Sea region, but the indicators and categories defined by the WWF could be implemented for a similar assessment of MSP in other sea basins.

Responsible Entity:

WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme

Costs / Funding Source:

WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme

Contact person:

Valerie de Liedekerke de Pailhe: (valerie[dot]deliedekerke[at]wwf[dot]se)

Hannah Griffiths-Berggren: (hannah[dot]griffiths[dot]berggren[at]wwf[dot]se)