Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP) enables a more integrated and sustainable planning of ocean uses and resources. However, despite its relevance for the development of integrated maritime policy and blue economy, there is little integration between marine protected areas (MPAs) and MSP. Theoretical work has been done on the issue, but the development and validation of such integrated approaches is still needed.

In order to address this gap, the MSP4BIO project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme, has been launched to address the limited consideration of biodiversity protection and restoration in maritime spatial planning (MSP) processes across five European Sea Basins.

Along with 17 other project partners, PAP/RAC is working towards the development of an integrated and modular Ecological-Socio-Economic (ESE) management framework for the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems – as the main objective of MSP4BIO.

The ESE looks at the compatibility between maritime/coastal uses and protection measures: it includes the establishment of a practical typology of protection measures, ecological issues, and activities, allowing to categorize socio-economic impacts of these protection measures. The resulting solutions (strategic and spatial) will fill gaps on marine biodiversity and better the integration between MSP and MPA management.

The framework will take into account the criteria and objectives of relevant policies (MSFD, WFD, MSPD, CFP, etc.) and contribute to the EU Biodiversity Strategy (EUBS) 2030 and the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework.

Six test sites have been selected to conduct the analysis and to showcase and operationalise the ESE management framework, with PAP/RAC involved in the North-Western Mediterranean Basin. The test sites reflect the processes which are taking place at the national, sub-and-supranational levels, at different geographical scales, and focus on different socio-economic and environmental challenges.

Photo - Geographical distribution of test sites in MSP4BIO, their basic characteristics and challenges

In the frame of this 3-year project which runs until July 2025, Communities of Practice (CoP) will be established in each of the test sites for the effective interaction with planners, regulators, and researchers relevant for MSP and MPAs. Interactions will take place in the form of workshops and focus group meetings.

This is expected to facilitate exchange, to build ownership, thus ensuring uptake of developed tools in test areas and beyond. Detailed information about the project is available on the official MSP4BIO website.