On the European scale, over a dozen partitions can be found dividing up the waters of the NE Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea on oceanographic  or purely geometric  bases, or a combination of both  , as well as divisions based on national jurisdictions  (Table 1). Apart from these water and sea bottom divisions, there are also maritime territorial areas made up of administrative units or aggregated units on a subnational level, either belonging to the same State, or of an international nature.
Table 1 - Territorial Divisions of marine and coastal areas
|Remarks (Divisions concening EU member state jurisdictions)|
|FAO Fishing Areas||Fisheries Management||3||10.502.293||Extend beyond national jurisdiction|
|ICES Areas||Fisheries Management||46||249.706||Extend beyond national jurisdiction|
|IHO regional seas||Hydrographical||31||1.228.231||Extend beyond national jurisdiction|
|EEZs||Jurisdictional||22||286.903||France, United Kingdom, Ireland|
|PSSAs IMO||Environmental Protection||4||302.644||National jurisdictions|
|LME||Ecological Management||8||1.223.793||Basically match with national jurisdiction|
|Ecoregions WFD||Ecological Management||20||643.933||Extend beyond national jurisdiction|
|Ecoregions (MEOW)||Ecological Management||12||1.023.495||Basically match with jurisdiction|
|MSFD regions||Marine Policy||4||1.652.944||Directive 2008/56/EC (Art.4)|
|EU RACs||Fisheries Management||5||1.877.304||EC
Extend beyond national jurisdiction
|OSPAR areas||Fisheries Management||5||2.712.996||Extend beyond national jurisdiction|
|Fisheries Dependent Areas||Fisheries Policy||538||6.527||Regional Socio-economic studies on employment
and levels of dependency on fishing are statistically
based on NUTS 4-5.
Groupings are made at NUTS 1-2.
|Political Administration||127||19.143||In Europe NUTS 2 match with different political entities:
Provinces, autonomous Communities, Regions Groups of Counties,etc.
Many of these divisions have the word ‘region' in their official names and could form the area of ‘regional' management that is talked about so profusely in the documents that are drawn up in the formulation of the European Integrated Maritime Policy. Said regions do represent quite complex geographical realities as far as their use in the exercise of marine governance is concerned and, more specifically, for spatial marine planning to be implemented.
A superficial look at these divisions' geographical and jurisdictional features (Table 2) immediately reveals the great differences in scale in the strictly marine divisions and the coastal area terrestrial administrative unit-based land divisions (the average surface area for coastal regions is some 18,000 sq.km. compared to approximately 2 million sq.km. for the large divisions, or marine regions). In the first instance, this huge difference can be attributed to the unequal distribution of emerged land and marine masses and, basically, to the politico-territorial organisation of maritime space whose historical past does not go back very far, whereby structuring or spatial organisation is practically limited to the jurisdictional units laid down in international law. In the EU, Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) marine regions and sub-regions are a step forward in the spatial organisation process for administrative ends. The size of the area to be managed is 7 million sq.km., of which 14% corresponds to Spain, although the country's jurisdictional share of the Mediterranean rises to 36%. In general terms, the large divisions of maritime space account for waters and marine bottoms under national jurisdiction and the high seas and the Area, although they are unevenly sized: whereas the FAO and ICES divisions include parts of the high seas, most of the marine ecoregions (LME, WFD ecoregions, MEOW) tend to greatly coincide with areas under national jurisdiction as they are based on continental shelves, which facilitates ecosystem-based management (Table 3).
Table 2 - Comparison between Marine Strategy Framework Directive Regions and Coastal Regions
|Marine Regions / MSFD||Area (Sq.km)||Countries (Nº)||EU Coastal Regions NUTS 2|
|Atlantic NE Ocean||4.673.125||10||78||969.932|
|Marine Subregions MSFD|
Western Mediterranean Sea
|Aegean Levantine Sea||418.819||2||11||118.574|
|Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast||821.374||3||14||357.071|
|Greater North Sea||1.359.539||7||47||447.833|
Table 3 - Regional Divisions and Ocean Governance
|Region||Scope||Rank Size||Political Administrative Level/Institution||Policy
|Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea,
Black Sea, Atlantic NE Ocean
|From thousands to 4.6 million sq.km.||Supranational
|Western Mediterranean Sea,
Ionian Sea, Aegean Levantine Sea, Adriatic Sea,
Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, Celtic Sea, Greater North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Atlantic Ocean
to 4.6 million sq.km.
Atlantic Arc/ Mediterranean/
|European Maritime Policy
envisages the possibility
of interregional policy
|Spain: Canary Is.,
|Thousands sq.km.||NUTS 0-1-2?||National/
There is no official initiative. These two "subdivisions" could be part of a total of six (four around the Peninsula and two around the archipelagos)
|Coastal Regions||NUTS 1-2-3||From hundreds to thousands sq.km.||NUTS 1-2-3||Regional Maritime Policies||Scotland and German Länder: have competences for maritime policy and ad hoc legislation for the territorial sea off their coasts.|
|NUTS 2||From to hundreds-166.000 sq.km.||NUTS2-
|Interregional Policies||European Maritime Policy
envisages the possibility
of interregional policy
Coast-based regions, that is, areas that correspond to coastal land areas, cover an order of scales that roughly goes from NUTS  1 to 3. But in the marine environment the term ‘region' is sufficiently flexible for both groupings of supranational administrative units  and subnational administrative units (NUTS 2) to be identified as maritime regions. There are 156  coastal regions (NUTS 2) in Europe with 22 coastal countries being members of the EU out of a total of 44 (including the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea). In some cases, such as Spain, there is a high degree of political autonomy at this administrative level (the Autonomous Communities) with administrative competences being on a similar level to that of the German Länder (NUTS 1). In some cases, coastal regional administrations have the power to create their own maritime policy and marine spatial planning instruments . Although restricted to the closest waters (internal waters and territorial sea), these are, nonetheless, the waters that record the highest density of usage and, consequently, of disputes that require spatial management.
Europe's geographical make-up, with three semi-enclosed seas and the semi-confined marine basin that is the North Sea (MSFD Greater North Sea subregion), thus leads to a great number of political entities coinciding around its coasts. This indicates that there are considerable numbers of national maritime policies that can operate within the framework of the European integrated maritime policy and that these national policies might derive in equally high numbers of ‘regional' policies which then, in turn, might correspond to the different concepts of ‘region', with a geographical size running from just a few square kilometres to over a million square kilometres (Table 4).
Table 4 - Marine ecosystems and Ocean Governance
|Marine ecoregions (WFD)||Thousands-millions sq.km.||National/Federal Governments, international bodies and agreements||
|Marine ecoregions (MEOW)||Thousands-millions sq.km.||National/Federal Governments, international bodies and agreements||
|Large Marine Ecosystems (NOAA)||Thousands-millions sq.km.||National/Federal Governments, international bodies and agreements||
|IHO marine regions||Thousands-millions sq.km.||National/Federal Governments, international bodies and agreements||
|Other coastal-marine ecosystems||Ten-thousands sq.km.||States/NUTS1-2-3-4-5||
This broad diversity of ecological features and size raises a problem for planning and management, as the first public management decisions are taken (by local, regional and national/federal authorities) in the smallest areas on the geographical scale (bays, estuaries, etc.), while marine governance can only be implemented in the large ecosystems by national governments and international organisations (with the support of international scientific bodies). In the great oceans, only governments -and perhaps not all of these- and large international maritime organisations have the power to manage. We are therefore faced with the "paradox of scale", since it is precisely the most local and smallest levels or geographical scales that involve the greatest number of management agents.
The mosaic of territorial and institutional pieces that can be shaped is ample and varied (perhaps no more marked than can be found on land) which in theory translates into greater opportunities for participation. In most cases, national maritime policies and spatial planning means areas of increased geographical size requiring the power and institutional means of management, as well as political changes related to the governance model that have to integrate and draft legal regulations and administrative procedures that go from international law to regional and local planning. A country like Spain goes from having to govern a territory of half a million square kilometres to one of 1.5 million. A marine subdivision created by Spain  according to the MSFD could exceed 200.000 sq.km., and would be connected to a NUTS 2 region of under 30.000 sq.km. There would be at least two States present in each of the MSFD subregions and a maximum of nine (Greater North Sea); on a regional scale, in the Greater North Sea there are 54 NUTS 2 subregions, an extreme case, although the average number of NUTS 2 for each MSFD subregion is 14 in the Mediterranean Sea. This territorial and institutional scenario raises the need for a multi-level governance system with a quite complex coordination system in which third countries can also participate (especially in the Mediterranean Sea). A governance structure with features like these is a challenge to the implementation of the principle of maritime policies integration while at the same time leaving the areas of competence for each politico-administrative level well-defined. In this respect, one of the issues to be resolved may be the construction of the complex institutional structure for marine governance, as for this institutions will have to be designed adapted to the jurisdictional, administrative and environmental peculiarities of the marine environment.
The following maps show the various divisions in the NE Atlantic whose waters are under national jurisdiction and correspond to European countries, for the most part European Union members. Spanish jurisdictional waters are highlighted on the maps for reference purposes in order that the relationship between the various marine divisions and the size of the waters under any single State's jurisdiction might be appreciated.
Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions
Large Marine Ecosystems (NOAA)
Marine Regions (MSFD) and Coastal Regions (NUTS2)
PSSAs and traffic flows
Regional Seas I.H.O (International Hydrographic Organization)
 Large Marine Ecosystems (LME), Ecoregions of Transitional and Coastal Waters (Water Framework Directive), Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW), GIWA Regions.
 ICES, FAO. For their part, EU Regional Fisheries Advisory Councils are based on the ICES divisions.
 Oceans and Seas according to the International Hydrographic Organization.
 EEZs, Marine Regions and Subregions of the EU Directive on Marine Strategy (2008/56/CE). From a jurisdictional point-of-view, the high seas and the Area should be considered as a different space, albeit created by exclusion (the waters and the seabed located outside jurisdiction according to UNCLOS) with a surface area of approximately 21.5 million sq.km.
 From the French "Nomenclature des Unités Territoriales Statistiques".
 Atlantic Arc Commission (26 NUTS 2 totalling 623,113 sq.km.), Intermediterranean Commission (38 NUTS 2 and 649,862 sq.km).
 These are countries included in the Eurostat database that contains NUTS 2 units.
 The German Länder of Mecklemburg - Vorpommern (2005), Lower Saxony (2006) and Schleswig - Holstein (in process) have devised marine spatial plans for the twelve square miles territorial sea adjacent to their coasts, a competence which is based on Art. 74 of the Constitution. Scotland similarly has the competence for devising its own maritime policy and spatial planning in the territorial sea that lies off its coasts.
 Spain could create marine "subdivisions" in Directive 2008/56/EC (Art. 4.2) regions and subregions in keeping with the peculiarities of its land and maritime territory. A subdivision that covers the jurisdictional waters of the NW part of the Spanish peninsula (Galicia), for example, or those around the Canary Islands. The former might cover as much as 240,000 sq.km. (depending on how legal disputes with France and Portugal are resolved); Galicia (NUTS 2) has a coastline 1,379 km long and a land surface area of 7,208 sq.km.; the surface area of water that it can generate with its islands could be as much as 450,000 sq.km. (also depending on how the legal dispute with France and Portugal is resolved regarding the use of the Selvagem Is. to create an Exclusive Economic Zone).
* This paper is based on the following projects: SEJ2007-66487/GEOG; PO-SEJ-25645. The European Project SPICOSA provided also economic support.
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