Marine spatial planning is a process now employed in more than 60 countries around the world to identify and resolve conflicts among competing uses of ocean space, and to resolve conflicts between human uses and the natural marine environment. Marine spatial planning is often driven by the need to find space for new users—including energy extraction and generation—in increasingly busy seas, and to reduce conflicts in space and time among uses and between use and conservation. Marine spatial planning should be (1) place-based, with a focus on marine spaces that people can understand, relate to, and care about; (2) participatory, building on a broad base of stakeholders to ensure long-term support for management; (3) integrated and multi-objective, including all important economic sectors—and economic and social objectives as well as ecological ones; (4) strategic and future-oriented, considering alternative means to achieve desired future conditions of the marine area; (5) ecosystem-based, with a focus on maintaining ecosystem services over time; and (6) continuing and adaptive, with an emphasis on monitoring and evaluating the performance of management actions, and learning by doing. Good marine spatial planning is a public process done mainly by government, but it should also effectively involve users and stakeholders. While often presented as an overly complicated process, marine spatial planning reduces to four simple questions: (1) Where are we now? (2) Where do we want to be? (3) How do we get there? (4) What have we accomplished? One of its assumptions is that not all areas of the ocean are equally important from an ecological, economic, or social perspective, and many opportunities exist to identify the most important areas and resolve any conflicts among alternative uses (or non-use) of those areas.
This is a book chapter in Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning.