Conflicts related to the use of marine space may emerge both at the spatial and the decision making level, prior to and/or after the adoption of a marine spatial plan. Marine conflict management is inherent in marine spatial planning (MSP) and should include three stages: a) identification of compatibilities and conflicts, b) avoidance of conflicts, and if required c) resolution of conflicts. Various decision support tools and processes tested so far that aim to address marine conflict management have proved successful in providing identification and visualization of spatial conflicts and compatibilities and their relevant trade-offs and thus in assisting in conflict avoidance efforts. However, in case conflict resolution is required, they fail to provide a final solution (e.g. allocation of space) acceptable by all parties involved. This happens because the (spatial) allocation rules that these processes adopt usually focus only on ensuring efficiency that is not enough to guarantee a (single) mutually acceptable solution. In the present paper, it is suggested that apart from ensuring efficiency, a solution should also ensure fairness, equity, transparency, sustainability and consideration of synergies that may emerge, both at the spatial and at the decision making level. In conclusion, there is no single tool or process that can satisfactory address all conflict management stages, and thus a careful selection and combination of decision support tools and processes is required to facilitate the production of an integrated mutually acceptable marine spatial plan.
- Conflict management (identification, avoidance and resolution) is inherent to MSP.
- In MSP initiatives it is often not clear what marine conflict management includes.
- No universal tool exists to address all stages of the marine conflict management.
- Spatial allocation rules should ensure efficient and equitable win-win solutions.