How sustainable is sustainable marine spatial planning? Part I-Linking the concepts

Catarina Frazão Santos, Tiago Domingos, Maria Adelaide Ferreira, Michael Orbach, Francisco Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Marine spatial planning (MSP) has emerged worldwide as a tool for sustainable ocean governance. This paper reviews how sustainability and ecosystem-based management (EBM) have been included so far within the MSP general framework, by carrying out: (1) a review on the links between sustainability, EBM and MSP in EU maritime policy initiatives; (2) an analysis on the differences between ecosystem-based MSP versus MSP focused on delivering blue growth; and (3) a discussion on how adaptive management may address some of the main challenges found in achieving sustainable ocean management. From the EU Green Paper (2006) to the MSP Directive Proposal (2013), MSP processes based on the principle of EBM have been recognized as a necessary tool to ensure maritime sustainable development. Although ecosystem-based MSP has been recently presented as the best way to ensure both ecosystem conservation and development of human activities, most national and European MSP initiatives seem to follow a MSP approach focused in delivering blue growth. A challenge, therefore, arises: how to adjust policy decisions to properly preserve ecosystems and the services they provide? If truly implemented, an adaptive approach seems to be a way forward in ensuring that spatial planning, management and policy-making in marine spaces can be continuously adjusted, thus allowing for sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-65
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Adaptive management
  • Ecosystem-based approach
  • Maritime spatial planning
  • Sustainability


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