MSP Greece

Marine Spatial Planning in Greece - Paving the Road to MSP in the Mediterranean (2014 - 2015)

General framework

This project was commissioned by PAP/RAC from the University of Thessaly to facilitate the implementation of the ICZM Protocol. The ICZM Protocol includes several explicit references to marine spatial planning providing the legal basis for planning and management in the Mediterranean. The project intends to contribute by offering some responses to the question "how" as regards the implementation of the Protocol at the national and regional level.This project offers also a triple opportunity to:

  1. network with MAP Coastal Area Management Programmes (CAMPs), concluded and/or on-going in the Mediterranean;
  2. combine planning at the national level with consultations and implementation needed at the regional level through a case study in one of the insular Greek Regions (see the Map below);
  3. incorporate the principles of ecosystems-based approach (EcAp) and good environmental status (GES) in the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP).

The Region of the Ionian Islands has been selected as a case study combining a number of challenging characteristics.

Case study area

The case study area (Region of the Ionian Islands)
Source: processed by the core project team

The project buildS upon previous projects tackling MSP/ICZM issues that have been carried out in the Mediterranean (i.e. the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea), as well as in other regions, and tries to apply some of the tools developed or used by them. When formulating proposals, the project also takes into account the Ecosystem-based Approach (EcAp) and builds also upon the EcAp indicators.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) sets out the 1st of December 2014 as the starting date of the project and the 30th of November 2015 as the finishing date (total duration of 12 months).

Main problems in the case study area (the Ionian Islands)

Main barriers in achieving blue development and blue growth in the area appeared to be bureaucracy, lack of legislation, policy agreements, fragmented dialogue, lack of a management body in areas of conservation importance, lack of integration amongst administration levels, lack of engaging stakeholders in decision making, as well as synergies between sectors as a fruitful way of co-operation. Moreover, conflicts between sea uses in the Ionian Sea reflect ambiguities between EU policies. Also, the lack of a clear international framework for ICZM leaves room to the national authorities to formulate sectoral spatial plans, which are rather vague and sometimes fuel conflicts instead of mitigating them (MESMA, 2013).

Inception report

According to the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), the first action foreseen is the preparation of the Inception Report. The goals of the Inception Report and Meeting can be divided into two categories: the organizational (i.e. initiation of the project, activation of all partners, consolidation of co-operation among relevant authorities, and finalization of other operational and procedural details) and the essential ones (i.e. definition of the methodological approach, identification of the regional and local authorities’ scheme, discussion on details and finalization of the study area in the Ionian Islands Region, and the discussion and preliminary preparation of the Questionnaires (for the collection of data from the rest of the PAP/RAC National Focal Points (NFPs), as well as the regional/local stakeholders).

Project goal and structure / Organisation

The project goal is to facilitate the implementation of the ICZM Protocol, in particular with regard to MSP, by developing methodological tools, proposing possible co-operation/management schemes and identifying prerequisites and possible ways to deal with the challenges, in an effort to assist the Contracting Parties (CPs) to the Barcelona Convention to meet the common objectives of integrated marine spatial planning and management. In particular, the aim of the project is to produce methodological tools, which will serve as a guide to all CPs involved, in order to formulate or further strengthen  their own national MSP systems.

The project has the core team and the additional / assisting staff. The co-operating partners involved are: the University of Thessaly, Greece, as the Lead Partner; the Ministry of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy (former MEECC), as the Assisting and end-user Partner; and the Regional Authority of the Ionian Islands in Western Greece, as the Partner serving the case study.

Methodologies and tools

A structured step-by-step approach is usually adopted to develop marine spatial plans described within several efforts, such as the PlanCoast (Integrated) MSP Framework, the IOC-UNESCO Framework, the 12-stage process on how a marine plan is made in England, and the MESMA Framework. Furthermore, the PEGASO experience (2014) as regards the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) will be assessed and used as appropriate.

All the above constitutes the platform of the methodological approach that has been adopted for the realization of the project’s tasks. A case study is carried out in the Ionian Islands, in close co-operation with the related Regional Authority, to test the methodological tools and governance schemes proposed.

Core indicators per use

Practical tools facilitating the implementation and assessment of an ecosystem-based management (EBM) in marine ecosystems are the advanced Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD), Pressure - State - Response (PSR) framework (OECD, 1993), and the Drivers – Pressures – State – Impact - Response (DPSIR) adopted by the European Environment Agency in 1995 (EEA, 1995). The selection of suitable indicators reflecting the above components provides the basis for such an assessment.

The main advantages of using indicators in environmental assessments are: a) the information they can give to decision-makers, to end-users and to the general public; b) the possibility of a omparison in terms of time and space; and c) the facilitation of the process for collecting information.

Vulnerability tools

Marine ecosystems may be affected by several human threats exerted by the variety of human activities and uses that take place within marine regions. Several methodologies and approaches have been developed in order to support threat analysis and the identification of the most vulnerable marine regions.

According to Halpern et al. (2007), threat analysis requires an integrated approach which contains methods and techniques to quantify the vulnerability of each component. This approach constitutes a first step towards the identification of human threats related to specific ecosystems within a specific marine area.

The assessment of ecosystem components’ sensitivity is also described in another approach implemented by Stelzenmüller et al. (2010). This study examines the vulnerability of specific fish species while the sensitivity of each variable (fish species) is expressed as a sensitivity index based on several factors involving among them variables that are also related to geographical distribution and threat status.

Considering the aforementioned approaches, it becomes obvious that, in the most of the cases, the essential tools for the evaluation of vulnerability issues must be compatible with a spatial aware expression.

Integrated regional assessment and cumulative impact mapping tools

An ecosystem-based approach for marine spatial planning and management needs to involve cumulative and interactive impacts of several human activities and the related pressures (Evans and Klinger, 2008). Cumulative impacts can be described as the impact combination produced by multiple pressures over space and time (McDonald et al., 2007). The case study presented by Micheli et al. (2013) constitutes a representative example of this approach. Similar work has been carried out in the context of PEGASO (2014) for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and will be taken into consideration.

Compatibility tools for main sea uses

The analysis of compatibility among human activities and uses, as well as the implementation of the related tools, constitutes a critical process in the procedures of prioritization and decision-making which are essential parts of an effective MSP.

To this end, the main objective of the project is the exhaustive listing of all kinds of uses that could be developed in the marine space. In parallel, in an effort to better evaluate the nature and the compatibility of activities in the marine environment, sea-uses has been codified and classified, according to the following parameters: location at the sea level and the stability or mobility features. In general, the project builds upon previous projects and existing bibliography, in an effort to synthesize knowledge, adapting it to the case of the Mediterranean.

Governance tools

This project touches on governance focusing mostly on competences and public participation aspects. The challenge has been to apply some theoretical models in the real conditions of the regional and national stakeholders. The intention has been to address in particular the following: Competences of the public authorities at local, regional and national levels; Participation schemes and stakeholders; Access to information; Modalities of the process; and Evaluation of the outcomes and follow-up of participation processes.

International organisations like the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) are using indicators to evaluate MSP performance including governance aspects. This project explores which of these indicators could be more appropriate for the Mediterranean conditions.

Interaction (of planning and between sea/land)

MSP focuses on preparing spatial plans in marine waters by addressing land-sea interactions in a co-ordinated way with a view to ensuring their sustainable development. The challenge is to plan and manage inshore and offshore anthropogenic activities in a harmonized manner considering the functional integrity of the land-sea continuum.

To effectively tackle the above, development of a more comprehensive understanding of land-sea interactions should be pursued by adopting consistent approaches to mapping these interactions. Coupling MSP and ICZM frameworks will also contribute towards this direction. The project considers such aspects and aims to provide relevant recommendations as a viable step towards implementing an ecosystem-based management in the marine and coastal environment.


Due to the nature of MSP, the project necessarily focuses on the examination of the state of the art (GIS, tools and methods, planning authorities and schemes), in an effort to track the appropriate ones for the representation of the multidimensional geographical information related to the sea/marine space (2dGIS and 3DGIS).

Following the overall spatial planning methodology  and process, the elaboration of a marine spatial plan  also  depends on the  documentation, the  credibility and accessibility of data (statistical, environmental, spatial, etc.).

Mapping methodologies and tools proposed by the project will be tested in the Region of Ionian Islands, which is selected as the case study area. 3D interactive maps and tools will be especially tested in public participation procedures. Ultimate purpose of this test is the formulation of proposals aiming at strengthening public awareness and consensus in the decision making, in terms of MSP.

Timetable of the project

The initial time-schedule of the project (starting: 2nd half of December 2014) is presented by the following figure (Gantt graph):


Time schedule