Ocean governance frameworks, including marine spatial planning (MSP), are generally aimed at achieving sustainable use of the marine environment and of its finite resources, and are increasingly being developed and implemented worldwide. Although the importance of evaluating the success of integrated ocean management initiatives is widely recognized, so is its complexity,
and there is still limited knowledge or empirical experience on how to actually carry out such an evaluation. The main aim of this research is the development and testing of a framework to evaluate the performance of marine spatial plans (focusing on the outcomes). Portugal’s maritime area totals c. 3,800,000 km2, i.e., c. 4% of the Atlantic Ocean and 1% of the global Ocean. As one of the world’s largest maritime nations, and with its ocean governance framework finalised in 2015, Portugal emerges as relevant case study. For the evaluation methodology showcased here, objectives of Portuguese marine spatial plans (MSPlans), as set out in national legislation published in March 2015, were matched to a preliminary list of indicators, selected from a literature
review of scientific and technical references on the evaluation of policies and plans and expert interviews. Indicator selection was also supported by a review of ocean monitoring commitments assumed by Portugal, including the national monitoring related to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, to identify and take advantage of potential areas of overlap, avoiding duplication of efforts, and minimizing implementation costs. The preliminary list of 65 performance indicators was fine-tuned through structured interviews with selected Portuguese and international experts, and resulted in a list of 37 indicators addressing many of the suggestions raised by the experts. The proposed approach contributes to evaluation of progress towards achieving sustainability
objectives, the ultimate goal of MSP, and to highlight gaps, not only in terms of needed information, but also in terms of important concerns for MSP that current frameworks may not address. Despite the necessary adjustments related to the unique contexts of each individual case, the proposed framework may constitute a useful tool in the emerging field of MSP evaluation, supporting decision making and management processes, in articulation with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (particularly Goal 14, for the Ocean).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 22nd International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference (ISDRS 2016)
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking Sustainability Models and Practices: Challenges for the New and Old World Contexts
EditorsJ. Joanaz de Melo, A. Disterheft, S. Caeiro, R. F. Santos, T. Ramos
PublisherCenter for Environmental and Sustainability Research (CENSE - UNL) | ISDR Society
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-972-674-791-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Marine spatial plans
  • performance evaluation
  • outcome evaluation
  • indicators
  • Sustainable Development Goals


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