Evaluation of Marine Spatial Planning
As our seas become busier and interactions between human activities more complex, marine planning or maritime spatial planning (MSP) is proposed as a framework for managing these interactions, safeguarding the marine environment, managing cumulative impacts and encouraging sustainable growth. MSP is recognised as a way to meet multiple objectives- ecological, economic, and social- helping to reduce conflict by co-ordinating the numerous activities taking place and competing for space.
MSP is a relatively new concept; worldwide approximately 60 marine spatial plans have now been produced. Marine spatial plans (or marine plans) are intended to inform and guide marine users and regulators in sustainably managing developments and industries, alongside protection of the marine environment. At an EU level, there is an EU directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning MSP. In the UK, the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 established the legal basis for marine planning. The UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS) provides the policy framework for the marine planning system. It provides the context for marine plans.
MSP processes are not intended to lead to a one-time plan; MSP is intended to be continuous, iterative and adaptive. Therefore an important component of MSP processes is evaluation. Evaluation is intended to assess MSP against objectives and determined criteria for success and can aid the process of including new knowledge in revisions of the marine plans. Evaluation of MSP is an emerging field with relative few critical evaluations of MSP in the academic or practical literature and no evidence to suggest evaluation is currently influencing marine planning . Up to this point, most studies and practical experience has focused on how to do MSP, yet evaluation is a critical part of MSP and as countries are now moving past implementation, evaluation is gaining more attention.
As part of the SIMCelt project, we are examining approaches towards the evaluation of MSP by marine planning authorities working in the Celtic Seas. Our work has included a review of MSP evaluation research, examining existing approaches to the evaluation of MSP, evaluation criteria and indicators, and challenges and requirements specific to the Celtic Seas marine area. We have looked in detail at previous frameworks for marine planning evaluation such as: the UNESCO guide to evaluating MSP, the TPEA Project and work by Baltic SCOPE.
Marine planning authorities within the Celtic Seas area are at different stages of the planning process, and as such are at different stages in developing evaluation approaches. We have been working with marine planning authorities to develop the approaches to evaluation and the underpinning criteria and indicators.
This work package builds on our review of existing evaluation projects, tailoring them to the needs of the selected Member States for this component of work.
The overall aims of marine planning are to improve decision-making, ensure we are working within the concept of sustainability and using an ecosystem approach. We are now at the stage where we need to evaluate whether we are meeting these key aims through marine planning.