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The role of marine spatial planning in sea use management: The Belgian case

By F. Douvere, F. Maes, A. Vanhulle and J. Schrijvers


The expansion of offshore activities and the increasing need to meet international and national commitments to biodiversity conservation have led to an enhanced interest in marine spatial planning (MSP) as a tool for sea use management. Several European countries, on their own initiative or driven by European legislation and policy, have taken global leadership in implementing MSP. This article will discuss the Belgian experiences with MSP. It will give a short historical overview based on legal developments and review the implementation process of a 'Master Plan' as a spatial management policy for the Belgian Part of the North Sea. Additionally, this article will reflect on the research that has been done in Belgium to apply a land-use planning approach to the marine environment. The MSP process in Belgium shows that a spatial approach to sea use management is possible despite the lack of a legal zoning framework. However, it concludes that a legal basis for MSP, in addition to the current permit system, would provide a more strategic and integrated framework for ecosystem-based, sea use management.Sea use management Marine spatial planning Biodiversity Nature conservation

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