Bringing the Ocean to Society
28 Mar 2017
Outcomes of the 2nd International Conference on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning
The event took place at UNESCO, Paris, on 15-17 March and was co-organised by IOC, a cooperating Eurocean member.

The conference organized jointly by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) brought together 300 Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) practitioners, consultants, environmental managers, policymakers, and social-economists. The participants discussed the lessons learnt in the MSP process, and looked ahead, re-confirming the critical role of MSP for a broad range of ocean-related issues, from environment to economy (international ocean governance, Agenda 2030, blue economy, climate).

Complexity and integration were the key words of the conference, as regards the diversity of data requirements and the governance bottlenecks in the MSP process. This applies to both sub-national governance (involving a better coherence among various national bodies with the authority over the coastal ocean), as well as regional and international governance. Charles Ehler, UNESCO’s MSP consultant and a renowned world expert, explained that even with an optimistic projection that 80 countries will have MSP in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) by 2030, 60% of the ocean space is beyond national jurisdiction.

UNESCO pioneered international discussions on the requirements for MSP with the 1st International Workshop on MSP in 2006, contributing to an integrated approach to MSP both in Europe and worldwide. In 2009, UNESCO published a set of MSP guidelines which has served as a reference document ever since. With its 2008 Integrated Maritime Strategy, the European Union identified MSP as a cross-cutting policy tool enabling public authorities and stakeholders to apply a coordinated, integrated and trans-boundary approach. In 2014, the EU adopted an MSP Directive, and further emphasised the need for MSP in its Ocean Governance Communication 2016.

MSP is critical for an effective management of marine activities and sustainable use of ocean resources, creating a framework for consistent, transparent, sustainable and evidence-based decision-making. Therefore, MSP requires a wide range of baseline marine information and data which should be up-to-date, objective, reliable, relevant and comparable. ‘This is a unique moment in oceanography’ concluded Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in his conference speech.