Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has been given increased prominence recently in various parts of the world. In response to increasing pressures upon the seas, potentially huge economic potentials for maritime industries, fragmentation of marine governance, and tensions between economic interests and environmental goals, MSP is currently developing as a tool for integrated marine governance. MSP is a comprehensive process for spatially and temporally analysing and allocating human activities in marine areas on the basis of ecological, economic, and social objectives. Within Europe the new Framework Directive on MSP obliges member states to transpose MSP regulations over the next years and to have marine spatial plans in place by spring 2021. In practice this transposition comes along with a number of challenges, such as the implementation of the ecosystem approach in MSP, the integration of fisheries in MSP, and the interlink between MSP and the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
With the development of marine activities such as energy, maritime traffic and the increase of areas reserved for nature conservation, the space available to fishing is shrinking. There is a strong need for fishermen and the fishing industry to participate in MSP processes. This, however, has so far often been more than difficult simply because fisheries are a highly mobile activity. At the same time marine areas can be very heterogeneous in terms of catch rates influencing their profitability for fisheries. VECTORS scientists investigated the impact of different spatial planning scenarios on the revenue of Dutch and German fleets. Analysed was also to what degree climate change might influence some of the fisheries in the North Sea and whether this should be taken up in an integrated spatial marine management.
According to the European Framework Directive MSP shall follow the ecosystem approach, which means – among others – that MSP shall be based on the best available scientific knowledge about the ecosystem and its dynamics (cf. HELCOM & OSPAR, 2003). VECTORS research provided new knowledge on how human activities influence marine ecosystems and on how this knowledge can help to implement the ecosystem approach in MSP. VECTORS assessed the impact of wind farms on the occurrence of the moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita as well as on oxygen conditions in the southwestern Baltic Sea. The project also provided advice for marine management also and produced a new spatial typology for the sea which identified marine spaces with consistent features that ask for joint planning and management approaches beyond administrative borders.