The implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive is gathering momentum. Seas At Risk brought NGOs from across Europe together for a two day workshop to examine how maritime spatial planning can help deliver the EU objective of achieving good environmental status of seas and oceans by 2020. The participants investigated good practice principles for maritime spatial planning and discussed possible joint actions to ensure effective involvement of NGOs in the upcoming public consultation processes.

This is an important year for our seas and oceans. Under the EU Marine Directive, the Member States have to implement programmes of measures with the objective to deliver good environmental status of European marine waters by 2020. In parallel, the implementation of the Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is also gathering momentum: countries have to submit their maritime spatial plans by 2021 at the latest. The workshop aimed to look for synergies and opportunities between these processes.

An impressive presentation by the Welsh Marine Conservation Society showed how MSP can proactively contribute towards achieving the targets for the Marine Directive and support networks of marine protected areas as well. The key to success is for planners to use the environmental targets set under the Marine Directive as a framework for an ecosystem-based approach to planning. Also integration with other environmental regulations, such as the Habitats and Birds Directives and the Water Framework Directive, needs to be ensured. Strategic environmental assessment should help ensure maritime spatial plans are indeed aligned to all agreed environmental objectives.

The strong link between MSP and the Marine Directive also entails an inherent weakness, however, given that countries have till now taken a very low ambitious approach to implementing the latter (see our preliminary evaluation of some programmes of measures). This means that MSP risks to be built on a weak environmental foundation. Enhancing the second cycle of the Marine Directive implementation – starting in 2018 - is therefore seen as a top priority by NGOs.

Active involvement of NGOs and other stakeholders throughout the planning process – as well as during the implementation of the marine directive – is equally important. For several NGOs limits of staff and funding imposes a hurdle to this. With countries at very different stages of development as regards MSP, NGOs’ expertise also differs vastly. This can be overcome by sharing existing guidance and experiences, something Seas At Risk will help to ensure.

To round off the day, participants joined with enthusiasm in the ‘MSP Challenge’ game, which gave everyone a good taste of what maritime spatial planning entails in terms of sector negotiations and cross-border cooperation.

As a follow up to the workshop, Seas At Risk aims to ensure existing guidance documents and good practices are shared among NGOs, develop recommendations on the ecosystem based approach to planning, link the NGO community to the Member State Expert Group on MSP, and develop a strategic joint NGO vision for the next cycle of implementation of the Marine Directive. We will work together with our members and other European NGOs (WWF and BirdLife Europe) to make this happen.

 

Presentations can be downloaded here:

 

Alec Taylor - WWF UK

Clare Reed - Marine Conservation Society

Juan Ronco Zapatero - DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Matjaz Malgaj - DG Environment

Rhona Fairgrieve - Scottish Coastal Forum

Tereza Fonseca - Quercus

 

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