Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that have been specified through a political process.

MSP is not an end in itself but a practical way to create and establish a more rational use of marine space and the interactions among its uses, to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment, and to deliver social and economic outcomes in an open and planned way.


Our work on Marine Spatial Planning

Since organizing the first International Workshop on MSP in 2006, the IOC has become a leading institution promoting science-based, integrated, adaptive, strategic and participatory concepts worldwide. Its first guide “Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management” (2009) became an internationally recognized standard that contributed to formulating the conceptual approach behind MSP.

In March 2017, following the second International Conference on MSP, the IOC adopted the “Joint Roadmap to accelerate MSP processes worldwide” (MSProadmap) with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), aiming to triple maritime areas under national jurisdictions benefiting from MSP by 2030. To support the first years of the roadmap implementation, the MSPglobal Initiative (2018 - 2021) – co-financed by the European Union – was designed with the main objective of developing the new “MSPglobal International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning”, which was published in 2021. With the support of national, regional and international partners, the IOC has provided technical assistance to several activities under the MSProadmap.

The IOC work on MSP also extends to other related initiatives, which it leads as the executing agency. Within the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded, UNDP/UNEP implemented GEF IW:LEARN Phase 5 (2022 - 2026), for example, IOC steers the capacity building activities related to MSP in collaboration with an extensive partner network. By bringing in the experience and results generated by MSPglobal in support of MSP as a tool for strengthening blue economy opportunities, the IOC plays a vital role in integrating MSP into the science to policy process of Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) projects funded by GEF.

In 2021, the IOC joined the new coalition Ocean Action 2030, dedicated to providing countries of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) with assistance to develop and implement Sustainable Ocean Plans. A Sustainable Ocean Plan is an ‘umbrella’ framework for ocean-related governance that aims to guide decision-makers and stakeholders on how to sustainably manage maritime areas under national jurisdiction. As an area-based plan, MSP is considered a key component of a Sustainable Ocean Plan.

Within UNESCO, the IOC has also fostered collaboration with the Man and Biosphere Programme and the World Heritage Marine Programme, demonstrating the value of MSP tools in developing marine conservation plans.

Useful links:

MSProadmap and MSPglobal Initiative

IOC work on Large Marine Ecosystems

Ocean Action 2030