Marine Policy & Planning

European Union

Human uses of Ireland’s seas and coastal areas are expanding at a rate that challenges our ability to plan and manage them under the current sector by sector approach. Most maritime countries are experiencing similar pressures and there is international recognition that marine planning, akin to planning on land, is necessary to balance competing uses of our seas and manage our marine resources in a sustainable manner.


  • Aquaculture
  • Commerce and Transportation (e.g. cargo and cruise ships tankers and ferries)
  • Commercial Fishing
  • Environmental Conservation
  • Maritime Heritage and Archaeology
  • Mining (sand and gravel)
  • Oil and Gas Exploration and Development
  • Ports and Harbours
  • Recreational Fishing
  • Renewable Energy (wind, wave and tidal)
  • Recreation (e.g. beach visits, boating, swimming, surfing, nature and whale watching, diving etc.)
  • Scientific research and exploration
  • Tourism

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is strategic, forward-looking planning for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment that addresses the multiple, cumulative and potentially conflicting uses of the sea. It is seen as a way of improving decision making, involving a wide range of stakeholders and delivering a more eco-system based approach to managing marine activities. In essence it is a planning tool that enables integrated, forward-looking and consistent decision-making on the use of the sea. It provides the context in which to make decisions about the use of resources, conservation, development and the management of activities in the marine environment. The Irish government has recently begun the process of developing a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland. A document entitled Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland was launched in December 2017, by Department of Housing Planning and Local Government and the Department published their National Marine Planning Framework Baseline Report in October 2018. This document is designed to help identify what is happening in our seas; where, when and why it is happening and what challenges are faced, both at an individual sector level and collectively.


Marine spatial planning is gaining considerable importance all around the world. Various countries are now using marine spatial management to balance development and conservation interests in their seas and coastal areas. The second UNESCO International Conference on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (2017) recommended the adoption of joint roadmap to accelerate MSP processes worldwide. With reference to Europe they stated:

'In Europe, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires the Good Environmental Status of marine environments in Europe's regional seas. The MSP Directive requires the use of an ecosystem based approach, which should ensure that the collective pressure of maritime activities is kept within levels compatible with the achievement of good environmental status.

Yet, maritime activities, including sources of marine degradation, are diversifying and intensifying worldwide. By resolving conflicts and regulating maritime activities, MSP can make a significant contribution to achieving Good Environmental Status.'

Joint Roadmap to accelerate Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning processes worldwide, Paris 2017