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Locus of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) in Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP): A Data-Driven, Place-Based and Participatory Planning Perspective


During the last decade, the rising interest in the marine world has provided the planning discourse with new issues such as the protection and preservation, as well as sustainable and resilient exploitation, of marine resources. At the European level, Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) has come to the forefront in this respect, as part of the EU blue growth strategy and a powerful tool for serving the transition from traditional maritime sectoral approaches to an integrated, placed-based, data-driven, participatory and multi-dimensional new maritime planning rationale. Among the maritime resources concerned, Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) gains ground as a valuable asset in pursuing the local development objectives of coastal and insular communities. Towards this end, MSP endeavours need to successfully incorporate UCH management and make compromises with other sectoral uses in the sea. Along these lines, this paper aims to highlight the context of sustainable and resilient UCH management within the MSP realm, by structuring the conceptual framework to be easily understood and to introduce the key methodological steps for its implementation. The aforementioned context is parallelized to current UCH management reality in order to explore UCH handling within MSP already in practice; and illuminate successful UCH management of MSP approaches in selected countries/regions at the EU level.

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:

  • How is managed Underwater Cultural Heritage within the MSP realm?

Implementation Context:

Underwater Cultural heritage is threatened in multiple ways due to a growing interest in Blue Economy and competition for space. Hence, it becomes crucial to manage conflicting interests and regulate maritime uses. Thus, the European Union (EU) published the 2014/89/EU Directive, presenting Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as an efficient space management tool to handle conflicts among various sectoral interests while promoting coexistence and synergies between the various sectors.

Aspects / Objectives:

  • Emphasise the situation of sustainable and resilient UCH management within the MSP process realm by including and understanding the framework of the space where it occurs and promoting key methodologies for its implementation;

  • Detailing UCH handling process during MSP;

  • Highlight UCH management in MSP approaches.


The methodology delimits the conceptual framework for grasping UCH. Based on that, key methodological concerns for implementing UCH planning exercises in MSP studies are sketched and their practical implementation is explored;

  1. Presentation of MSP’s key principles and demarcation of methodological adjustments/guidance of related planning processes;

  2. Elaboration of two MSP examples (Finland and Estonia);

  3. Presentation of discussions held and conclusions made.

Main Outputs / Results:

UCH is often overlooked in MSP processes. Prevailing sectors in MSP remain, such as energy, maritime industry and logistics, fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and recreation. Nevertheless, the public's, policy makers' and academics' perception of UCH is noticeably growing. Hence, it becomes more important to manage it correctly as an important maritime resource in coherence with other activities and sectors. MSP presents a considerable chance to protect and manage UCH, shifting from managing conflicts and fostering synergies to include social and cultural concerns in the process of MSP and shift from a process of purely allocating maritime uses for managing conflicts and establishing synergies, to a more creative one, socially and culturally sensitive, including the cultural concerns for their activity.


The fact that MSP has a great potential for the support of UCH is a point to be considered in ongoing MSP processes and can promote the emerging and established blue economy sector's activity.                    

Responsible Entity:

Department of Geography and Regional Planning, School of Rural, Surveying and Geoinformatics Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Costs / Funding Source:

Department of Geography and Regional Planning, School of Rural, Surveying and Geoinformatics Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Contact person:

Dionisia Koutsi (Dionisia[dot]koutsi[at]culturepolis[dot]org)