Maspnose: Maritime spatial planning in the North Sea

Cross-border maritime spatial planning (MSP) requires a pre-agreed process with a clear mandate and responsibilities.

Cross-border maritime spatial planning (MSP) is a specific challenge over and above the general EU principles on MSP.

The planning of the countries involved is often not harmonized and conflicting interests can be played out in different arenas. The key principles on MSP drafted by the EU do not offer a practical remedy. The simple lesson is that MSP in cross-border situations requires a pre-agreed process with a clear mandate and responsibilities.

That is the outcome of the MASPNOSE (Maritime Spatial Planning in the North Sea), a study carried out by six knowledge institutes (Centre for Marine Policy, Deltares, vTI, University of Ghent and DTU-Aqua) at the request of EU DG Mare. The consortium initiated discussions with governmental parties and stakeholders (fishery, NGO’s, industry) to see if the current principles are satisfactory. It turns out that they are often too non-committal and do not lead to a unified MSP for the area.

Two case studies in the North Sea were taken up: developing an international fisheries management plan for the Dogger Bank in the central North Sea and an exploration of the potential for collaboration on the Thornton Bank in the southern part of the North Sea.

The Dogger Bank is area under jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The Netherlands, Germany and the UK have allocated their part of the Dogger Bank as an area important for nature (Natura 2000) but at the same time the United Kingdom wants to construct an offshore wind park and it is an important fishing area. The challenge was to develop an international management plan for the area taking into account those constraints.

The Thornton Bank is managed by The Netherlands and Belgium. Here the focus was on potential areas of collaboration for wind-energy and the harmonization of MSP practices.