What Is Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)?
People and marine life use the ocean in many different ways. Energy development, aquaculture pens, commercial fishing, recreational uses, and shipping lanes all compete for space in the ocean. Whales, sea turtles, seabirds, fish, and the habitats they need for survival also require places in this increasingly crowded marine environment.
Coordinating Where Activities Occur in the Ocean
To meet current and future demands on the ocean, it is essential to look comprehensively at an ocean area, consider the many different stakeholders who use it, and find ways to sustain the complex diversity of life that depends on it. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a coordinated approach to designating where human activities occur in the ocean to minimize conflicts among stakeholders, maximize the benefits that people receive from the ocean, and help maintain healthy marine habitats.
MSP: A Tool for Ecosystem-Based Management
Both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy called for ecosystem-based management (EBM) of marine systems. Marine spatial planning is an important tool to achieve EBM because it provides a practical decision-making process for implementing many of EBM's core elements. MSP creates a blueprint for ocean use and conservation by:
- bringing together diverse ocean users
- creating a comprehensive picture of the ocean
- providing a forum for proactive discussion and informed decision-making
- providing a coordinated way to allocate marine spaces to simultaneously achieve ecological, economic, and social goals
- increasing transparency and accountability by giving all ocean users a seat at the table and common access to tools and information
Definition from U.S. Ocean Policy Task Force
The Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning defines coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) as
…a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas. CMSP identifies areas most suitable for various types or classes of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security, and social objectives. In practical terms, CMSP provides a public policy process for society to better determine how the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes are sustainably used and protected now and for future generations.