Maritime Affairs

The governance of maritime space at the heart of a conference organized by the European Commission and UNESCO

The governance of maritime space at the heart of a conference organized by the European Commission and UNESCO

The governance of maritime space at the heart of a conference organized by the European Commission and UNESCO

15/03/2017

The European Commission and UNESCO are hosting an international conference from 15 to 17 March at UNESCO Headquarters on marine spatial planning, a process that consists in regulating human activities in the waters bordering coastal areas in order to preserve marine ecosystems, avoid conflicts between sectors of commercial and industrial activity, and promote international cooperation.

Organized by the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and, this conference will bring together for two days more than 350 experts from all regions of the world. It will provide an opportunity to take stock of existing experiences in marine spatial planning (MSP), exchange of best practices, encourage cooperation among countries sharing coastal and marine waters and establish priorities for the years to come.

On the sidelines of the conference, participants will be able to take part in a role-playing game by putting themselves in the shoes of an environmental advocate, an industry representative or a decision-maker, in order to better understand the stakes involved in this planning process.

Intensified activities in coastal and marine waters increasingly require the implementation of marine spatial planning. Traditional activities such as fishing and navigation have begun competing in recent decades with practices such as the extraction of marine aggregates, offshore aquaculture or renewable marine energies, which can lead to overexploitation of resources and conflicts between different users. MSP aims to bring together the different users of the ocean in order to make coordinated decisions that allow for a more sustainable use of marine resources. Marine spatial plans now covers almost 10% of the world's exclusive economic zones*.

Since 2006, through its Marine Spatial Planning initiative, IOC is assisting countries in implementing this type of ecosystem-based management of marine areas. In 2009, IOC published Marine spatial planning: a step-by-step approach to ecosystem-based management [available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese], a guide to support  countries implementing management plans for their marine regions.

In 2014, the European Union adopted legislation to create a common framework for maritime spatial planning in Europe. The European Commission is funding cross-border planning projects worth € 18 million for the period 2014-2017.

At the end of the conference a road map should be adopted by the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO to encourage marine spatial planning in all seas and oceans of the globe. The objective is to triple the area of ​​territorial waters benefiting from marine spatial planning by 2025, reaching a coverage of one third of the total surface area of ​​waters under national jurisdictions.

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* Marine space on which a coastal State exercises sovereign rights in the exploration and use of resources, it stretches from the coastline (baseline) out to 200 nautical miles.

More information about the conference

More information on the European directive on  MSP

More information on the MSP Challenge
(An event open to members of the press previously registered with UNESCO and invited experts only)

Commissioner Vella's speech

UNESCO's press release: UNESCO and the European Commission elaborate a common roadmap for the planning of maritime space

Media contacts:

Iris Petsa, press officer for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at the European Commission. Tel: +32 (0) 2 299 33 21, iris.petsa@ec.europa.eu

Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service. Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon@unesco.org