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Marine spatial planning: Coordinating divergent marine interests


Globally, ecosystem-based marine spatial planning has become a useful instrument to coordinate the planning of different authorities. This, for balancing different requirements when managing marine areas and space. In the planning process, ecology is setting limits to which human activities are acceptable to the society. The use of the marine environment can be planned similarly as the land environment. We argue that there are several aspects which must be taken into consideration. Marine activities have traditionally been planned and managed in a sectoral way. Today, it has become obvious that a more holistic, multi-sectoral and coordinated approach is needed in future successful marine planning and management. The increased awareness of the importance of the oceans and seas challenges the traditional sector division and geographical limits in marine policy and calls for better coordinated and coherent marine policies.

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • How are divergent marine interests coordinated in the MSP process?

Aspects / Objectives:

The purpose of this paper is to examine the development and practical use of MSP as a tool for coordinating different marine activities. This should balance the use and protection of marine areas with their resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services.


The study has been developed using a review of older and newer literature on spatial planning, as well as scientific journals, public planning publications from around the world and various databases. The personal experience of Kjell Grip at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, as well as experience of other institutions, was also used.

Main Outputs / Results:

The major characteristics of an overall ecosystem-based MSP process in support of coastal and marine decision-making are provided and summarised as follows:

  • "It is a multi-sectoral and overall planning process, concerned with managing the use and protection of coastal/marine resources and ecosystem services;
  • It is a planning process in accordance with an MSP law, relevant sectoral laws and international conventions and agreements;
  • It is a planning process responsible for granting of permits and other controls exercised by central and/or local government authorities;
  • It is a planning process in which central and sometimes regional and local government bodies have been given a wide range of responsibilities for the implementation and control of decisions made by governmental agencies or the Government;
  • It involves a continuous dialogue between different authorities at central, regional and local level in response to the requirements of different interests related to the use and protection of coastal and marine areas and space;
  • It involves the coordination of different sectoral interests and their respective jurisdictions;
  • It involves the participation of stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations’, in the planning process;
  • It leads to an overall plan, with maps and regulations with guidelines, to ensure that coastal and marine resources are to be used in a manner commensurate with their carrying capacity. Also, taking into account the specific location of each resource and the requirements of the public;
  • It includes the development of scientific knowledge about the ecosystem effects of activities related to the use of coastal and marine resources and ecosystem services, about the qualities and values of these resources and services, as well as the different claims on them;
  • It aims for a consensus between coordinated interests (bodies). If consensus cannot be reached, the government, or an agency mandated by it, is responsible for the coordination of competing activities. This mandate also involves the responsibility for the final decision on how the water area and space should be used; and finally
  • Once the decision is taken, the sectoral bodies are responsible for its implementation, enforcement and control, in accordance with the decided plan."


This study presents the MSP process as a tool to ease the coexistance of activities at sea, the results of this study can be used in all MSP processes.

Costs / Funding Source:

Open Access funding provided by Stockholm University.

Contact person:

Kjell Grip

Present address:  Mandelblomsgatan 11, 745 36, Enköping, Sweden

Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 106 91, Stockholm, Sweden

Kjell Grip & Sven Blomqvist

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kjell Grip