Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a process that brings together multiple users of the ocean - including energy, industry, government, conservation and recreation - to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably. MSP generally uses maps to create a more comprehensive picture of a marine area - identifying where and how an ocean area is being used and what natural resources and habitat exist. It is similar to land-use planning, but for marine waters (Source: Wikipedia).

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Currently, the management of marine spaces is mainly conducted sector of activity by sector of activity, with the consequence of overlapping uses and involving governance conflicts as well as an impact on the environment (loss of biodiversity, localised pollution, etc.) that could be avoided (Crowder and Norse 2008, Ehler and Douvere 2009). Considering and partitioning a basin as a whole, including its ecological functioning and the activities it supports, represents therefore a solution for coordinating decision-making and allocating the various identified areas to specific activities (Crowder and Norse 2008). This inclusive management method leads to a more profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly exploitation of the marine environment (European Commission 2016). For forty years, this process of marine spatial planning, (or Maritime Spatial Planning, MSP), has been recognized and used pretty much everywhere in the world. Asian states use it to achieve economic and environmental goals (Ehler and Douvere 2009). In 2017, no less than 67 countries around the globe had already initiated a planning process (Dupont et al. 2020).

These goals can help to achieve a better environmental status and economic returns. They thus reinforce the assurance that the area identified to support a certain activity is suitable for it. The managers and the users who gain in predictability, are able to consider projects that are more scalable in terms of spatial and temporal change, and overall societal acceptability is improved. In this way, decisions on the management of the marine space can be taken in a more transparent and pedagogue spirit (Commission Européenne 2016).

The multiplication of uses in European waters has highlighted the need to plan this area space with a view to managing it more efficiently and sustainably. In order to make this management possible at international level, the European Union established in 2014 a common framework for maritime spatial planning (Framework Directive for maritime spatial planning, DCPEM). This directive promotes cooperation between Member States whose waters are part of the same marine basin, and which would need to be managed as a unit rather than as a number of separate bodies of waters subject to the laws of their respective countries (European Parliament and Council of the European Union 2014).

The framework thus specifies recommendations, including the need to reflect on an ecosystem plan (i.e. the inclusion of all compartments of an ecosystem in its management plan), the cross-border sharing of data or the inclusion in the process of a consultation stage between all stakeholders and the public. However, each Member State is responsible for the content and format of the plans in question (Parlement Européen et Conseil de l'Union Européenne 2014).

Source: Jehanne RIVET, JR, (2020) "Régionalisation de l'espace maritime pour sa planification et gestion : le cas de la Baie de Seine" (Ifremer)