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Basque Country Continental Shelf


The MESMA framework  is a stepwise approach to systematically monitor, evaluate and develop spatial management plans in different marine areas. Moreover a 'user manual' was developed which facilitates the application of the framework.

In 2007 a spatial management plan was approved by the Basque Government Council. This plan was selected and will serve as laboratory for testing the framework and form the basis of a governance analysis across Europe through the application of the MESMA framework.The plan aims to become a decisive instrument, not only to protect and manage Basque sea, but the Basque coast as a whole, by optimizing the coordination of planning actions on the coastal and terrestrial environment so that to maximize the efficiency to preserve the environment.

The Basque Country shows some specific characteristics in terms of biodiversity and marine resources, but also shares common human activities with other European regions. Human activity is intense and diverse, characterized by holding some specific economic activities such as red seaweed extraction. Wave energy converters, wind farms and aquaculture are being foreseen for the area. This leads to conflicts between key uses and activities in the Basque continental shelf.


Application in MSP:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  1. What are the governance approaches and incentives being adopted in the Basque spatial plan and how effective are the incentives and governance approaches in that particular context in achieving a particular priority objective? 
  2. What are the potential incentives and governance approaches that could be implemented to improve effectiveness in achieving the specific objective of the Basque spatial management plan and addressing related conflicts?
  3. How do wider issues, such as top‐down/bottom‐up balance, inter‐sectoral integration and power, cross‐border issues, justice and different levels of knowledge, affect the effectiveness of the Basque spatial management plan?

Implementation Context

The MESMA project focuses on marine spatial management and aims to produce integrated management tools (concepts, models and guidelines) for monitoring, evaluation and implementation of spatially managed areas (SMAs). The project results will support integrated management plans for designated or proposed sites with assessment methods based on European collaboration.

The challenge for marine spatial management is to find an optimal combination of economic use, ecologic development and conservation of nature and historic values. Marine spatial management is place or area based and can provide a practical approach to long-term ecosystem-based management. The planning efforts should be comprehensive, adaptive and participatory, resolve conflicts and support benefits among multiple uses and the ecosystem. This can only be reached with a sound scientific base of knowledge about the ecology and resilience of species and marine habitats, the impacts of human activity and the variability in time and space of ecological, natural and historical values.

The tools, concepts and guidelines developed in this project help to develop standardised, scientifically-sound and acceptable methods for an integrated management and assessment of SMAs. The project as a whole will support the spatial component of the management of resources in the marine environment.

Nine case studies (WP3) have been selected and will serve as laboratories for testing the framework and form the basis of a governance analysis across Europe. The case studies are the southern North Sea, Penland Firth and Orkney Waters, Barents Sea and Lofoten area, Celtic Sea, Basque country continental shelf (southeastern Bay of Biscay), Strait of Sicily, Inner Ionian Archipelago and adjacent gulfs, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. The selection of the case study sites was done by guaranteeing certain diversity in size, policies and conflicts, while at the same time, a certain overlap in e.g. pressures is ensured to allow for comparison of (phases in) management between regions. Furthermore, the case studies represent the different geographical regions of the European Union (EU) marine waters and some areas include multiple countries in order to be able to analyse cross-border issues. The comparison of the different case studies will provide a better insight in the full scope of the methodologies that are required to enhance good EU-policy instruments for the monitoring and evaluation of the spatially managed areas.

Aspects / Objectives


  • Designing an integrated management plan proposal. The ongoing management plans are sectoral
  • Getting a general view of present uses and activities´ spatial and temporal distribution
  • Definition of the Ecosystem Components and information required for an appropriate management
  • Stakeholders identification and analysis
  • Governance analysis
  • New activities scenarios definition
  • During the run of the framework for the new activities, conflicts and data gaps will be highlighted which could be helpful for decision making for managers.
  • Will be useful if it is distributed among stakeholders in order to generate new links between them and stimulate a management plan
  • The framework will be developed together with the requirements of the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in the Basque continental shelf.



  • To help developing a management plan for the case study
  • General view of stakeholders and governance which could be helpful for coordinated management.
  • Identification/"quantification" of conflicts between activities ‐ development of indicators
  • Identification and quantification of conflicts between present activities and stakeholders and new potential activities: wave energy, aquaculture, etc.
  • To propose a marine spatial planning for the case study
  • The outcomes of the framework will be used in the implementation of the MSFD and the design a management plan guaranteeing the economic activities and the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the seas.


This image shows the Method used Basque Country Continental Shelf

Main Outputs / Results

The output is a guide with the MESMA’s framework which helped to monitor and evaluate the performance of the plan.

This image shows the Basque Country Continental Shelf first page

It includes specific actions that should be undertaken for successful completion of the evaluation. the framework can help to identify issues to be taken into account as part of the planning process . The framework is part of an integrated toolbox, comprising technical tools, metadata and a structured approach to analysing governance, which guided the Basque Country Authorities through evaluation of an existing or proposed management plan. The MESMA framework comprises a series of steps that can be completed to a greater or lesser extent and used to present the outcomes of the assessment.

The manual provided clear and user friendly instructions on how to complete each step of the framework, along with specific instructions on when to proceed to the next step. It includes specific actions that should be undertaken for successful completion of the evaluation.  


MESMA will supply innovative methods and integrated strategies for national governments, but also local authorities and other managerial bodies for evaluation of the processes of planning and decision making at different local, national and European scales. The MESMA products will support the dialogue between politicians, stakeholders and the public in general, required in the difficult (inter)national decision making process for the sustainable exploitation of the marine environment.

Contact Person

Ibon Galparsoro (author) (igalparsoro[at]azti[dot]es)

Responsible Entity

IMARES, IJmuiden, the Netherlands

Costs / Funding Source

The practice was elaborated under the MESMA project co financed by the EU 7th Framework Programme. Direct costs of its elaboration are unknown.