Marine Spatial Planning cross-border cooperation in the ‘European Macaronesia Ocean’: A participatory approach

Marine Policy, volume 132


Increasing interests in marine areas has led to conflicts, and planning of present and future uses is required to achieve sustainable management. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is dealt at a national level, but generally it includes ecological, physical processes and administrative jurisdictions of multiple countries. The transboundary cooperation on MSP is a complex challenge, that could be better addressed with a participatory process, to achieve coherent planning processes in shared marine socio-ecological systems. This paper focuses on the process followed to reach consensus on cross-border MSP in archipelagic remote regions with no visible and distant maritime borders. Among the results obtained is the design of a European Macaronesia (Canary Islands, Madeira & Azores) Ocean Pilot Program. This would allow to strengthen marine governance, create synergies between different MSP plans, and comply with EU regulations. A joint position of the European Macaronesia could also be an opportunity for maritime interests in national, European, and international forums. Both the participatory process and the results obtained can serve as a model for application in other transboundary marine areas of the world. 

Sea Basin(s): 
October 2021
Application in MSP: 
Applied in a related process
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Cross-border cooperation
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • How can participatory approaches in MSP governance help to achieve a coherent planning process?
  • How can MSP governance be developed in an archipelagic context?
  • How can a shared vision for MSP be created in an archipelagic context?

Implementation Context:

This work was, in part, a result of the EU project ‘Macaronesia Maritime Spatial Planning (MarSP)’.

Aspects / Objectives:

This article aims to highlight the process of governance and the consensus reached in cross border MSP based on the Azores, Madera and Canary Island case study.  


This work was divided into three stages, (i) the identification of the main issues of interest, (ii) the identification of pilot projects’ proposals for MSP, and (iii) proposing a cross-border MSP pilot programme for the European Macaronesia.

Main Outputs / Results:

The study highlights lessons learned from the cross-border MSP initiative developed in the Macaronesia archipelagos. It provides insights on the implementation of cross-border cooperation in archipelagic regions with no visible maritime borders.


The participatory process and the results obtained can be transferable in other transboundary marine areas.

Responsible Entity:

MarSP Project

Costs / Funding Source:

This research was supported by MarSP Project ( led by Regional Fund for Science and Technology (Fundo Regional para a Cicencia e Tecnologia or FRCT) from the Government of the Azores, Portugal. It received funding from the European Union Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) by the GA EASME/EMFF/2016/ It was also partially granted by Social Sustainable Development Research Institute (Instituto para el Desarrollo Social Sostenible or INDESS), University of Cadiz, Spain.

Contact person:

J. García-Sanabria