Balancing use and conservation in marine spatial planning - Perspectives of sustainability and the ecosystem approach in a Swedish context

University essay from Göteborgs universitet / Institutionen för ekonomi och samhälle

Abstract: The environmental concern and interest in marine resources are growing, which is reflected within marine policies in the European Union. In 2007 the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) was adopted, aiming at collecting and integrating marine policies in one framework. The Integrated Maritime Policy holds the long-term strategy Blue Growth and the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive. Blue Growth aims at developing maritime industries to create job possibilities and economic growth, and the MSP Directive seeks to allocate maritime uses in the most optimal ways, presented in comprehensive plans with the objective to achieve ecological, economic and social goals. The Marine Spatial Framework Directive (MSFD) is connected through the ecological dimension as it aims at creating ‘good environmental status’ in the oceans. The share of how heavy the different dimensions influence the MSP is however up to each member state to interpret and decide. An ecosystem-based management is required, and a true ecosystem-based MSP is supposed to rest on a hard sustainability perspective. Yet the approach does not have a universal understanding ultimately making the approach adaptable. In Sweden, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) are responsible for creating the plans in cooperation with the coastal municipalities.The aim of this study is to investigate the planning process on the west coast of Sweden and how perspectives of sustainability and the balance of use and conservation differ depending on the local context. The study also investigates how the Ecosystem Approach is interpreted among involved practitioners and how it is applied on a national level. To perform the study interviews were conducted with practitioners in the field at different levels of governance, and planning documents were examined for each investigated body.In the case of Västerhavet the varying activities in different areas has resulted in marine environments being included to different extents in local and regional planning processes as a result of path dependency, meaning that previous uses are reflected in plans towards the future. If the identity of a community is connected to marine environments, finding a balance between use and conservation weighs heavily on the agenda. In areas where activities are more diverse, and focus of planning is not specifically put to the ocean, perspectives of sustainability ultimately vary.The SwAM interpretation of the Ecosystem Approach rests on a hard sustainability perspective.However, this is not clearly visible in the first draft presented of Västerhavet as most previous uses have been allocated space and few trade-offs seem to have been made. Nevertheless, the planning process has created a forum for perspectives and knowledge to be shared, and the encouragement and support provided to regional collaborations further enhances the objective of creating a holistic view of planning.

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