As part of my teaching at Leuphana University Lüneburg, I gave a seminar in Winter Semester 22/23 on ‘Spatial Planning in Practice’ with a particular focus on ecosystem-based marine spatial planning. The seminar formed part of the minor programme in Spatial Science. The interdisciplinary group of undergraduate students brought their own perspectives and skills to the complex task of preparing an ecosystem-based transboundary marine spatial plan for the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea. The students initially worked in small groups focussed on thematic issues of relevance to the case study area, including offshore wind, shipping, fishing, marine mammals and birds.
Students discussing planning options for the Dogger Bank, bringing together diverse stakeholder perspectives.
Mapping fishing grounds at the Dogger Bank
The groups identified objectives for their area of focus for both 2030 and 2060 as well as potential planning measures targeted at achieving those objectives. In a subsequent step, the students exchanged information between the groups and engaged in negotiation with the aim of achieving common objectives, balancing the expansion of offshore renewable energy with protection of the marine environment and against the background of existing uses of marine space.
On March 7th 2023, I facilitated and led an online stakeholder workshop on marine spatial planning on behalf of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly. Following the publication of Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework and marine spatial planning legislation in 2021, the focus has shifted towards the subnational level. Regional Assemblies can, working together coastal local authorities, potentially play a key role in preparation and coordination of Designated Maritime Area Plans for nearshore areas.
Following an open tender process, I have been commissioned by the ASCOBANS Secretariat to develop guidelines for Cetacean-friendly marine spatial planning. ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas, entered into force 1994) is the key international agreement for the conservation of small cetaceans (harbour porpoises, dolphins, smaller whale species) in Northern and Western Europe. The ASCOBANS Secretariat is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and located in Bonn. The development of guidelines for cetacean-friendly MSP contributes to the realisation of effective ecosystem-based management.
In September 2022, I co-led a week-long international fieldtrip to the Wadden Sea coast at the border of northern Germany and southern Denmark. The fieldtrip was one part of a wider TriWadWalk partnership including universities in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In May 2022, a first field trip took place, with a group of staff and students exploring the Wadden Sea coast and islands at the Dutch-German border. Both excursions were unusual for including a balance of staff and students (approximately 10 and 10) with emphasis placed on international exchange, interdisciplinary and intergenerational learning and the experience of being in and moving through ‘the field’. The staff came from the disciplines of geography, planning, tourism studies, anthropology, landscape architecture and environmental economics and are engaged to varying degrees in social science research at the Wadden Sea. The students brought a wider range of perspectives from their studies in both the environmental and social sciences. The fieldtrip developed from a longstanding collaboration between Wadden Sea researchers and educators at the universities of Bremen, Groningen, Hamburg, Lüneburg, Oldenburg and Southern Denmark and was generously supported by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wadden Academy, the Danish Wadden Sea National Park, and the University of Southern Denmark.
In the following, I provide a brief account of the week, informed by my own personal reflections. Where relevant, links to secondary sources for further information are provided.
In accordance with the EU MSP directive all EU coastal member states were required to produce marine spatial plans by 2021. Not all have met this deadline but many are now published and adopted by national governments. A key requirement of the MSP directive is that marine spatial plans follow an ecosystem-based approach and contribute to the achievement of Good Environmental Status for marine ecosystems, as set out in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Over the last nine months or so, I have been engaged in the evaluation of selected national-level marine spatial plans, with a view to assessing their degree of alignment with EU environmental legislation and policy objectives. This work has been commissioned by environmental NGOs: Birdlife International and the Irish umbrella NGO Sustainable Water Network (SWAN). In the following, I provide an overview of this work with links to the published reports.