Maritime Spatial Planning (or Maritime strategic planning) is to the sea what land use planning is to the land: an approach for the organisation of activities aimed at limiting conflicts between actors and activities, promoting synergies and limiting cumulative environmental impacts.

A recent Approach

For a long time, maritime activities were not properly managed: the sea was considered to be infinite, its inexhaustible resources and its capacity to absorb unlimited waste. Faced with evidence of the increasing impacts of human activities on the marine environment (pollution, loss of biodiversity…) and on its resources (overfishing and pollution), sectoral management has gradually been developed (quotas for fishing, buoyage and traffic separation systems for navigation, standards for transport vessels…). However, each sector is developing its own planning, without undue concern for coherence with other sectors.

From now on, this sector-based management is no longer sufficient:

  • conflicts are multiplying, for the maritime space and/or the resources it contains
  • risks increase as a result of the increasing density of sea uses
  • synergies are insufficiently exploited
  • cumulative impacts become unacceptable.

Applying land use planning principles to the sea was initially logical, but the MSP is now a central instrument in the implementation of integrated maritime policies.