Towards Sustainable Seas: Lessons for Successful Stakeholder Participation in Marine Spatial Planning
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Marine areas face several challenges: while high pressure is already imposed on marine ecosystems, traditional and new uses of seas increase continuously. Traditional, top-down, single sector approaches were often not able to find sustainable solutions able to preserve ecosystems benefits in the long-term. Marine spatial planning is a widely applied instrument for dealing with the challenges in order to lead to more sustainable development. Stakeholder participation forms a key to marine spatial planning processes and is handled as an approach to enhance sustainable development. This thesis analyses conditions for enhancing the degree to which stakeholder participation contributes to sustainable marine spatial planning. Success conditions are identified from the literature and analysed regarding two cases of applied marine spatial planning in Europe: the Voordelta (The Netherlands) and the Barents Sea- Lofoten area (Norway). The analysis focusses on fishing and nature protection interests. The process towards the Voordelta management plan forms an impressive first attempt of applying stakeholder participation as part of marine spatial planning. There is a rather high degree of stakeholder participation and major efforts were made to realize active participation. The outcome was successful to a quite high degree: some trade-offs were identified in cooperation with stakeholders and there was some degree of ownership. However, there were drawbacks regarding the latter especially for the fishing sector and regarding the strict deadline. The process towards the Barents Sea—Lofoten area management plan was rather technical: it was dominated by experts and officials, and organised top-down with a limited role for stakeholders. There was a limited degree of success of the outcome: there was only one fairly-balanced compromise and basically no feeling of ownership developed among the fishing and nature protection interests. The thesis confirmed the importance of the success conditions analysed. Finally, recommendations as based on these two strikingly different approaches to stakeholder participation in marine spatial planning are offered as linked to the analysed success conditions.