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The “mapping out” approach: effectiveness of MSP options in European coastal waters


The main goal of this practice is to introduce an evaluation framework applicable to marine management in European countries. 

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How to assess future possibilities for use or no use of marine areas?
  • How to link this with appropriate management measures?

Implementation Context

This practice has been developed in the framework of the COEXIST project. Funded by the European fund FP7, COEXIST took place between 2010 and 2013 and aimed to provide a roadmap for better integration, sustainability and synergies across the diverse activities taking place in the European coastal zone.

Aspects / Objectives

The main goal of this article is to introduce an evaluation framework applicable to marine management in European countries. This so- called COEXIST framework maps out different types of relevant knowledge to assess future possibilities for use or no-use of marine areas and links this with appropriate management measures. The COEXIST framework is based on the principles of ensuring transparent treatment of different types of information as well as appropriate stakeholder representation, which can ensure legitimacy. Hence, the main intention of the COEXIST framework introduced in this article is to provide an overview of different types of information, including interests, values, and facts, to allow reflections about what is actually needed for informed MSP processes in support of the proposed MSP Directive.


This practice is divided into five sections. In the first section, six European case study locations are introduced where the COEXIST framework was tested. After that, the CoExist framework is presented, before some lessons learned from case study applications are provided. In the following section, some main reasons why this COEXIST framework could benefit ongoing European marine planning processes are introduced. Finally, concluding remarks are provided.

Main Outputs / Results

The COEXIST framework is specified into a total of eight steps, which are presented in the figure 2 below.

The COEXIST framework for effectiveness analyses of marine spatial measures in European coastal waters, step by step

This framework presents multiple advantages that this study points out.

  • First, because of the structure, the COEXIST framework allows to consider many different forms of relevant knowledge in terms of interests, values, and facts. A multidisciplinary approach is ensured by the participatory approaches that typically stem from the social and the political fields of sciences combined with multicriteria analysis, which originate from, among others, the mathematical, the economic, the social, or the psychological fields of expertise, depending on which MCA approach is considered.
  • Second, transparency is important to information management particularly in instances of participation, to make visible how different types of knowledge are elucidated and integrated during the processes, how decision outcomes are considered, and how uncertainty and complexity are taken into account.
  • Third, the COEXIST framework can be seen as a tool useful for identifying which information actually is needed to address the specific circumstances. For instance, in the coastal North Sea case study, it can be argued that policy options may fail if basing decisions on economic impacts only, as ecological and social-cultural objectives were seen more important to most stakeholders.
  • Fourth, the COEXIST framework can assist throughout a decision- making process aiming at accomplishing social acceptance.
  • Fifth, as it is neither possible nor intended to involve every single person, a central question is related to how the different views should be represented during the processes and by whom.
  • Sixth, the COEXIST framework in its present format is intended for mapping out different relevant types of information as a basis for further discussions, not necessarily for providing final policy recommendations.

The case study applications must be regarded as a try-out of a new methodological approach to European marine spatial management, implying that results cannot be used directly in policy-making at this stage. However, in one respect, the results might still be useful at this stage; a main lesson learned from this comprehensive exercise applying the framework in a total of six European case studies is the indication that social-cultural and ecological aspects are considered relatively a lot more important than economic aspects by many stakeholders.


This framework has been elaborated based on six case studies which are all very different with very heterogeneous marine planning priorities. Thus this framework aims at being used in very different cases.

Contact Person

Katrine Soma

Wageningen UR

Responsible Entity

Wageningen UR

Costs / Funding Source

This study has been partly financed by the European Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013).