By Joanna Smith

Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM and MSP processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network, a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

In September 2015, I wrote an EBM Toolbox column about tools used for MSP in British Columbia, Canada. For 3.5 years, I was a private consultant to the Marine Planning for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) process in British Columbia and led the development of the technical and science planning tools for regional priorities and sub-regional plans. Now with TNC Canada (an affiliate of The Nature Conservancy), I work with TNC’s Global Oceans Team and country programs to advance MSP and plan implementation around the world including in Seychelles, Indonesia, Canada, and Mexico. TNC has been engaged in marine spatial planning since 2006 and supported MSP processes in the United States, Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific region. We have found that by incorporating local knowledge, stakeholder input, and spatial information, planning tools can effectively be adapted to meet planning objectives in new geographies. This approach saves valuable time versus starting from scratch in each location, and we can build on lessons learned from previous processes.

MSP Tools for Seychelles

In Seychelles, we are facilitating a government-led multi-objective MSP initiative for the 1.37 million km2 Exclusive Economic Zone. This planning is driven by international biodiversity agreements, national biodiversity targets, a national “blue economy” and sustainable development strategy, and climate change adaptation objectives. The main outcomes of the initiative will be a zoning design and management conditions. The design and conditions are being developed over a 5 year period (2014-2020) and will result in a legislated marine plan that includes marine zones for high and medium biodiversity protection goals covering up to 30% of the EEZ, or 400,000 km2. The remaining 70% is being proposed for a multiple use zone. The MSP process in the Seychelles is being developed using an EBM framework with foundational principles of ecological integrity, human wellbeing, and governance.

Like the MaPP process in British Columbia, Marxan outputs are being used to identify high priority conservation areas and inform discussions to propose locations for biodiversity protection areas that meet representation percentage targets set by experts and scientific literature (e.g., 30% of coral reefs). Marxan scenarios for a 30% representation goal were developed by a 4-year UNDP-GEF Progamme Coordination Unit of Seychelles Protected Area Expansion project that utilized expert advice, stakeholder review, and a spatial data catalogue for more than 100 biodiversity features. The UNDP preferred scenario is being used to inform the MSP zoning design and propose areas to meet the Seychelles government’s 30% by-area and 30% by-representation goals. The zoning design process is being supported by Rick Tingey (Spatial Support Systems LLC) who has developed an adaptable spatial data management and analysis framework and custom ArcGIS decision-support tools to visualize and quantitatively assess how well draft zoning designs meet government goals. Adaptable spatial planning tools can facilitate the efficient incorporation of stakeholder input during rapidly evolving planning processes.

To accompany the zoning design, we are developing Activities Tables to indicate activities that are compatible with the objectives for a zoned area and, where necessary, note the conditions associated with a particular activity. These tables were adapted from the Recommended Uses and Activities Tables from the MaPP process and the Activity Table developed by the Australia Great Barrier Reef. (See the North Vancouver Island Marine Plan for an example.) The first step in developing these tables was developing a relative compatibility matrix for marine uses. We looked at versions from the MaPP process and from the Grenadine Islands, a zoning framework project supported by TNC and others from 2011-2012. These planning tools are being continually refined and adapted during the planning process as new information becomes available from stakeholders, other projects get underway in Seychelles, and the zoning framework changes.

MSP Tools for Indonesia

In Indonesia, TNC’s Indonesia Marine Program is supporting a government-led MSP process in the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, an extension of a marine protected area network project in Lesser Sundas and Savu Sea. We are using SeaSketch to develop a web-based planning tool to view spatial data and support the planning process. The SeaSketch-based tool will be critical for viewing, reviewing, and overlaying data for existing zones (such as military uses and park and political boundaries), marine species and habitats (such as whales, turtles, and coral reefs), marine uses (such as fisheries), marine ecosystem services (such as coral reefs for fish supply and tourism), and spatial model outputs (such as Marxan results). The SeaSketch project may also be used to assist with stakeholder review of a regional zoning plan and for spatially explicit analyses of tradeoffs. The Lesser Sunda Ecoregion SeaSketch project will be live at this link in Spring 2016.

To effectively use existing MSP tools in new planning processes, tools obviously need to be adapted to the physical environment and ecosystems of a new location. Equally critical, tools need to be adapted to the specific needs, governance structures, politics, stakeholders, cultures, and styles of a new location. MSP practitioners should evaluate tools for local fit before they start using them, and they must be willing and able to adapt the tools to their specific planning process as it moves forward. Adapting the tool could include modifying the tool itself or trying a new way of using it. And if a tool is not effectively meeting local needs, practitioners must not be afraid to scrap it and try something else.

At the end of the day, MSP is about governance and improving ocean decision-making to benefit people and the environment. We look forward to continuing our work to make MSP processes more efficient and effective through the use of planning tools while also making sure every process, including its tools, is fully “place based.”

[Editor’s note: Joanna Smith is the Marine Spatial Planning Science Manager for TNC Canada. Read more about her work. She can be contacted at]