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Sociocultural Dimension of Land–Sea Interactions in Maritime Spatial Planning: Three Case Studies in the Baltic Sea Region

Frontiers of Maritime Spatial Planning and Management


Spatial planning faces challenges in addressing interactions between land and sea. This paper elaborates on land–sea interfaces, which can integrate certain socio-cultural values and related tensions into maritime spatial planning (MSP). In this article, three regional case studies from Estonia, Latvia, and Poland analysed important intersections between the formations of cultural values and spatial dynamics within MSP processes. These cases make it possible to address current challenges, contested boundaries, and spatial planning possibilities to embrace the vibrant and complex ways the sea becomes connected to societal change. The study indicates the multiplicity of land–sea interfaces, which should be involved in MSP through situated places of terraqueous interactions, means of public participation, and meaningful boundaries within mobilised co-existence. The actual and possible tensions in allocating new functions of maritime spaces indicate the importance of coastal landscapes and communities. Thus, MSP practice can employ the land–sea interfaces to advance regional planning through participatory engagements, which reveal sociocultural linkages between society and environment on coastal areas.

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 can the involvement of coastal communities and local Blue Economy stakeholders improve the MSP process?

Implementation Context:

MSP involves the consideration of the complex land-sea interactions and consequently needs to integrate socio-cultural values and related tensions that can emerge during the MSP process. MSP practice can employ these factors to advance regional planning through participatory engagement, revealing sociocultural linkages between coastal communities and their environment.

Aspects / Objectives:

The aim of the paper is to elaborate on the socio-cultural dimension of maritime spaces by focusing on land–sea interfaces in maritime spatial planning. By presenting these cases, this study addresses current challenges and potentials in MSP for embracing vibrant and complex ways that connect the sea  to the daily life of coastal communities and their relative societal changes.


Three coastal cases were analysed: 1) Estonia, 2) Latvia, and 3) Poland.

  • The Estonian case looked at how recent national MSP relates to regional sociocultural aspects of maritime spaces with a focus on coastal tourism and mobility. Relevant statistical information, spatial data, policy, planning documents, and public protocols of MSP discussions were analysed. Focus groups were run in municipalities to get a sense of perspectives on current initiatives and governance processes in coastal planning. In-depth interviews were run with managers of small-craft harbours and coastal village community members active in developing tourism focused on values, practices, and tensions related to living with the sea. From these analyses and interviews, four explanatory scenarios were created through participatory engagement and tested with local communities and Blue Economy stakeholders.
  • The Latvian case used an ecosystem services approach to explore trade-offs and possible solutions for balancing national interest for offshore wind park development with local interests in promoting coastal tourism. The study of ecosystem services included the biophysical mapping of land/sea-scape areas, stakeholder engagement in coastal development, target-seeking scenario building workshop, nationwide public survey, and elaboration of optimal spatial solutions for offshore wind energy production and coastal tourism development.
  • The Polish case focused on the participatory assessment of cultural values, barriers, and solutions on how to develop a more environmentally and culturally oriented tourism. The process included stakeholder involvement by way of workshops and semi-structural interviews. Results obtained summarise the current level of cultural values in the Polish MSP based on 1. Resolutions of the MSP for all Polish marine areas, 2. Remarks submitted by various stakeholders concerning three MSPs and 3. Interactive workshop on cultural values run with maritime planners and marine experts.

Main Outputs / Results:

This study contributed to understanding the sociocultural dimensions of Maritime Space by focusing on the multiplicity of land-sea interface in MSP. The three case studies indicate that land-sea interfaces in MSP are related to the situation of land-sea Interactions, means of public participation and meaningful boundaries within a mobilised co-existence with the sea. This perspective provides tools to address land-sea interactions in long-term MSP. The MSP processes should be linked to the complex and emotional ways of living with the sea.  This approach requires an empowerment and involvement of coastal stakeholders, aiming to facilitate the MSP process and ultimately alleviate tensions with a better appreciation of changes resulting from MSP implementation.


This approach can be applied to other sea basins with lively coastal communities which are part of the coastal land(sea)scape to enhance the efficiency and acceptability of MSP process through stakeholders’ consultation.

Responsible Entity:

Centre for Landscape and Culture, School of Humanities, Tallinn University

Costs / Funding Source:

Centre for Landscape and Culture, School of Humanities, Tallinn University

Contact person:;
Centre for Landscape and Culture, School of Humanities, Tallinn University