From March 15-17 2017, the 2nd international conference on MSP organized by the European Commission (DG MARE) in cooperation with UNESCO-IOC and took place in Paris. The objectives of the conference were (a) to explore how MSP can be used to address global challenges, (b) to reflect on how to accelerate the processes of MSP worldwide, and (c) to spread knowledge on specific themes and the process itself.
In recent decades, Marine spatial planning (MSP) has become increasingly important due to the intensification of human activities in the coastal and marine realm. New developments, such as offshore aquaculture, renewable marine energy generation or extraction activities are getting in conflict with other uses such as shipping, fishing or tourism. The cumulative impact of these uncoordinated and overlapping activities on marine ecosystems and the services they provide leads to the degradation of natural habitats and resources. Hence, MSP is a tool to bring together different users to help them coordinate decision-making, minimize inter-sectoral conflicts and resource overexploitation, while maintaining the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems.
More than 350 experts from all over the world came together in Paris to take stock of existing MSP processes, reflect and exchange best practices, encourage cooperation among countries sharing coastal and marine waters, and establish priorities for the coming years.
The main topics discussed at the conference ranged from engaging stakeholder and institutional capacity development to cross-border cooperation and ocean planning beyond national jurisdiction. It was consensual that MSP is a must-have to shape the future and that there is a strong need for capacity development at individual, organizational and societal level to successfully implement MSP processes around the world. It was recognized that even though MSP is an continuous process and takes time, humankind needs to find a compromise because there is no time to wait.
One major objective for the future is to triple the surface of today´s 10% of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones benefiting from MSP by 2025. Towards this objective, the IOC of UNESCO and the DG-Mare of the European Commission will soon publish a road map developed during the conference to encourage spatial planning in all the seas and ocean basins of the world.