Marine Spatial Planning (MSP): Stakeholders Wanted!

Pomeroy, Robert and Douvere, Fanny. 2008. The engagement of stakeholders in the marine spatial planning process. Marine Policy 32: 816-822.


For effective management of marine ecosystems, we must view them as a combination of both natural and human elements that must be mutually benefitted and sustained. Marine spatial planning (MSP) as defined by Ehler and Douvere (2007)[1] involves a process of developing management strategies that take into account all the living organisms in the marine environment and promotes consistent decision making among all sectors in a particular area. For this reason, identifying the stakeholders involved in marine-related activities and their active participation in MSP is essential for its success. Stakeholders are considered key players for resource management planning and can help to better understand the human impact on ecosystems and the complexities of these systems. They may also help to identify and resolve underlying conflicts and develop goals that are beneficial to several sectors for the sustainable, long-term availability of marine resources.

Pomeroy and Fanny (2008) propose four key stages in which stakeholders and the public sector should be active participants in order to achieve successful MSP: (1) planning, (2) evaluation, (3) implementation, and (4) post-implementation phases. In the planning phase, stakeholders must contribute to the needs, priorities, and goals of the MSP. During the evaluation phase, these issues are subsequently evaluated by the stakeholders and the various options are assessed based on their interest areas as proposed in the MSP. In the implementation phase, the MSP is applied and measures for management of marine resources are encouraged and enforced throughout the local community. An evaluation of the overall effectiveness in fulfilling the goals and objectives of the MSP is performed during the post-implementation phase.

Although there is a consensus among scientists and resource managers that stakeholders are essential for effective ecosystem-based management, there is no clear process of how to identify and involve these stakeholders in the MSP. For this reason, the authors suggest a comprehensive method of stakeholder analysis and mapping that will acknowledge and empower the stakeholders (with information and skills) in the MSP. Several steps that should be taken as part of this analysis are (1) adequately defining who is a stakeholder, (2) identifying the group/interest/networks that they are associated with and their importance/relevance in that group, and (3) their position on conservation measures of natural resources. Stakeholders can also be categorized as primary, secondary, and tertiary depending on their level of interest, involvement, and impact on the community and the resource. Socio-economic assessments (SEAs) should also be considered important for MSP in order to learn about the various aspects (political, social, economical, and cultural) that constitute (form) a community and the stakeholders that belong to that particular area. Interviews in the form of a core group are efficient in obtaining information from stakeholders, scientists, and resource managers that are willing to share their knowledge and contribute to the development of an effective MSP. Essential components of the MSP process are the sharing of information, community outreach and education of marine resources, capacity building, and communication among stakeholders from private and public sectors to bring about successful ecosystem-based management.

[1] Ehler C, Douvere F. Visions for a sea change. Report of the first international workshop on marine spatial planning. Intergovernmental oceanographic commission and man and the biosphere programme. IOC manual and guides no. 48, IOCAM Dossier no. 4. Paris: UNESCO; 2007.

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CRA’s Comment

Identifying stakeholders is a major component of UPRSG’s Caribbean-wide assessment of research priorities and needs of marine resource managers, users, and scientists. As recommended by Pomeroy and Douvere (2008), engaging stakeholders in marine resource management planning is crucial for its effective and practical implementation. The interview process is a useful tool and one of the most important methods of acquiring information on the human impact/factors and intricacy of marine ecosystems. Group discussions are also encouraged by the authors, which help to assemble stakeholders with particular interests in the use of marine resources. UPRSG applied this method by hosting a discussion (scoping) session at the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 61st Annual Meeting at Le Gosier, Guadeloupe on November 13, 2008. Approximately 80 scientists, experts, and resource managers mainly involved in fisheries management from the Caribbean and adjacent countries participated in the session. General questions were presented that focused on short- and long-term research needed for fisheries management, information that can be used by resource managers to become better decision-makers, and obstacles that are presently hindering research/assessments that can help improve fisheries management. In this particular group discussion, mostly resource managers and scientists provided information concerning these issues on a regional level, specifically to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. However, other important stakeholders, such as local fishermen, were not well represented in this meeting. This particular detail of misrepresentation must be addressed when seeking an extensive assessment that incorporates all parties involved in marine resource use and management.

Contributed by J. Seda

UNESCO’s Guide on MSP

Featured Article in, Sea Grant-PR’s Environmental Magazine (Spanish): Xplorah – A tool for future planning in the present

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