Guidance for Marine Spatial Planning

Guidance for Marine Spatial Planning

The IOC has a new flagship “MSPglobal International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning”, which draws on the technical, practical and conceptual expertise accumulated worldwide since its well-recognized 2009 guide on “Marine Spatial Planning: A step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management”.

Since it organized the first international workshop on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in 2006, the IOC has become a leading institution on the topic, documenting and sharing the international practice of MSP around the world, synthesizing lessons learned, updating technical guidance and building capacity for different groups of stakeholders.

Among its key publications, the most recent 2021 “MSPglobal International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning”, produced jointly by IOC and the European Commission, captures the evolution and lessons learned on MSP since the first IOC guide was published. Describing phases from ‘setting the scene’ and ‘designing the planning process’ to ‘implementation’ and ‘evaluation’ - but acknowledging that MSP has been developed in different ways rather than as a clear sequence of steps - the publication addresses new and emerging issues related to ecosystem-based management, such as the blue economy, climate change and transboundary MSP. This guide also includes several examples from around the world.


MSP guide


The 2009 IOC guide on “Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management” used a more straightforward step-by-step approach to provide: 1) An initial international understanding of what MSP is about; 2) Insight into the consecutive steps and tasks of setting up an MSP process; and 3) Awareness of what has worked and what has not in MSP practice by the time of its publication, when MSP initiatives were still limited to a few countries. This guide inspired several countries to set up their own MSP process.

In 2014, the IOC “Guide to Evaluating Marine Spatial Plans” was developed to assist marine planners and managers in integrating monitoring and evaluation into MSP. The guide emphasized the importance of measurable and specific objectives, clear management actions, relevant indicators and targets, and involvement of stakeholders throughout the MSP process. The new 2021 guide also advances the topic of monitoring and evaluation, describing specific but complementary approaches and methods to iteratively assess the different phases of the planning cycle.

Useful links:

IOC’s guides on Marine Spatial Planning