The emerging intersection between marine spatial planning and ocean accounting: A global review and case studies

Marine Policy, Volume 140


Ocean planning and management is often tasked with balancing multiple policy priorities, such as the growth of ocean-related sectors, conserving ecosystem health and biodiversity, and considerations of equity and inclusivity. Over the last two decades, aligning and operationalising such priorities has increasingly been addressed through Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which analyses and allocates human activities within the marine domain. In parallel, Ocean Accounting (OA) is an emergent framework that extends existing international accounting standards to better measure the contribution of the ocean to society and the economy. Both frameworks are ‘integrative’, combining knowledge from multiple domains, to support decision-making towards ocean policy objectives. Here, we present the first analysis of the intersection between MSP and OA, to identify operational opportunities and barriers for co-development. We present a global review of OA- and MSP-related activities and perform a SWOT analysis of their implementation within five case countries (Australia, Canada, Portugal, South Africa, and Thailand). We identified 26 countries that have completed, or progressing, OA and MSP, of which only two countries demonstrated an overlap between frameworks. Within countries with completed MSP, there were no clear links between the policy use-cases of both frameworks (i.e., focus on the ocean economy or ecosystem conservation). In-depth analyses of five countries identified both opportunities and barriers through similar policy drivers, data sharing and shared implementing institutions. As high-level policy intent and investment drives the increasing use of both frameworks, an understanding of their co-development advances integrated and evidence-based ocean governance.

Sea Basin(s): 
June 2022
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Economic aspects
Ecosystem-based approach
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Main Outputs / Results:

  • Twenty-six countries were identified to conduct marine spatial planning and ocean accounting activities.
  • Alignment in policy-use cases, in either conservation or economic growth, for both frameworks was unclear.
  • Opportunities for co-development are driven by shared policies and institutions.
  • Barriers included data-sharing and challenges with institutional coordination.
  • Operational synergies further an integrated approach to ocean governance.

Contact person:

Jordan Gacutan:



Access to this full article is subject to subscription or fees. If you have difficulties accessing the scientific literature, please contact your institution or the author(s) listed above.