At a recent meeting of ocean planners in North America, the question was asked:
"How do you make the concept of marine spatial planning interesting?"
The fact is, unless there is an immediate need for MSP in a particular region – like when offshore wind projects move into an area with other existing uses – the concept can seem abstract or even irrelevant to current user groups. ("Why do we need to plan the ocean if things are fine as they are?") In such cases, it may even seem easier for opponents to build a constituency against MSP – "The government is trying to zone the oceans and take away your use rights!" – than for proponents to build one for it.
Coastal natural resource managers and communities have begun to plan for the impacts of climate change on their local ecosystems and infrastructure. However, many practitioners are finding it difficult to select tools suited to their needs and capacities. This is because of the wide variety of tools, the difficulty of finding clear information about tool functions, and the lack of ways to compare different tools (e.g., their functionality, data and training requirements, and strengths and limitations).
Nothing could be more droll than an ecosystem assessment. By its very nature, assessment is meant to be comprehensive, systematic, rational – not the stuff of colorful sound bites or emotive calls to action. But what is really more important to effective communication about marine ecosystems and the urgent need to conserve them than thorough knowledge about how these ecosystems function, how we use and value them, and what pressures they face? After all, we cannot love what we do not know, and without being informed and invested in marine ecosystems, we cannot hope to generate the resources and will to conserve them.
New MSP guide shows how site would look at different stages of planning
The MarViva Foundation, an NGO that supports sustainable management of coastal and marine resources in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, has produced a new guidebook on marine spatial planning. Based on findings from a regional capacity-building and training event on MSP in May 2012, the guide focuses on challenges faced by practitioners in North America, the Caribbean, and the eastern Pacific.