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Institutional barriers to integrated marine spatial planning on the island of Ireland

Marine Policy - Volume 141 


Achieving sustainability goals in shared marine ecosystems is often undermined by different nation state marine governance systems, conflict over jurisdictional boundaries, and geopolitical differences. Moreover, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is politically charged in cross-border areas resulting in institutional fragmentation. Decision-making processes are embedded in different legislative approaches, cultures, fiscal, and administrative procedures which are unable to adequately consider the specificities of these areas. Greater integration is required to deliver sustainable outcomes. However, academic literature regarding integration in MSP fail to incorporate the co-evolution of institutions and this remains a wholly undeveloped area of MSP research. This paper contributes to the emerging MSP discourse by revisiting the understanding of institutional barriers to effective MSP implementation. The island of Ireland is selected as a case study to demonstrate how MSP legislation, policies and plans are emerging with limited coherence contrary to requirements under the EU MSP Directive 2014/89/EU and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Findings from series of interviews with key stakeholders on the island of Ireland are discussed. The analysis focuses on key barriers identified by utilising Ansong et al.’s ‘Wheel of Integration and Adaptation’ under the themes of structural alignment, community and self-action, decision making, collaborative learning, leading structured intervention, and collaborative capacity. The paper concludes by presenting different intervention pathways to addressing the management and planning of contested marine areas.

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

Main Outputs / Results:

  • Contested ownership of the cross-border Loughs has contributed to unlicensed oyster farming and environmental impacts.
  • Jurisdictional discussion about the cross-border Loughs is through diplomatic channels and content not in public domain.
  • Limited effective cross-border consultation and stakeholder engagement for MSP.
  • Lack of trust in the MSP system due to focus on marine industries and developers.
  • Intervention pathways: coastal partnerships, regional plans, ownership and management agreement.

Contact person:

Joseph Onwona Ansong



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