© naturepl.com / Espen Bergersen / WWF
Planning for sustainable seas
The world’s oceans, seas and coastal areas are the largest ecosystems on the planet, and a precious part of our natural heritage. In 2015, WWF estimated the ocean economy to be worth USD $24 trillion and, with investors and policymakers increasingly turning to the ocean for new opportunities and resources, forecasted this economy to double in size between 2010 and 2030. However, the risks of losses in natural capital resulting from unsustainable activities are continuing to erode the resource base on which such growth depends. We need to raise the bar on our collective ambitions — in government, civil society and the private sector — to ensure that economic activities in our seas are sustainable.
In 2014, the EU adopted the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive, which provides goals and requirements for a sustainable balance between nature and people in European sea basins. Under the MSP Directive, coastal EU Member States were required to publish national maritime spatial plans, aligned with the Directive’s objectives, by 31 March 2021; only six Member States met this initial deadline
European MSP discussions are also often lacking in holistic, integrated and nature-based approaches for effective marine management. This puts the objective of achieving a truly sustainable blue economy at risk. 

Why it matters

A sustainable blue economy fits within the boundaries of our ocean’s ecosystems. WWF's vision is that marine activities in all European waters will be guided by ecosystem-based MSP that is well aligned with other marine policies, such as ocean restoration and protectionsustainable fisheries, and deployment of offshore renewable energy to bring together all relevant sectors for sustainable management of the marine environment. This will ensure the EU delivers on its Paris Agreement and European Green Deal promises, while supporting marine ecosystem recovery and protection in line with targets set in the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. 
An ecosystem-based approach to managing human activities at sea and in coastal areas is of the utmost importance to prevent any negative effects on areas that contain particularly sensitive habitats, species and/or ecological processes. It also ensures that the sea space, a common resource, is shared equitably amongst the ever increasing numbers of maritime activities and stakeholders. However, the MSP Directive’s lack of guidance on what an ecosystem-based approach consists of has resulted in a lack of consideration for nature in national maritime spatial plans

What WWF is doing

The EPO, with the support of WWF’s national and regional offices, is advocating and intervening at the EU level to hold both the European Commission and Member States accountable for promoting and coherently delivering on ecosystem-based marine and biodiversity policy targets, including ambitious and effective marine restoration and protection by 2030, ecosystem-based MSP and a nature-compatible expansion of offshore renewable energy to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. This work involves sharing examples of best practice and lessons learned from high-performing national, European and global maritime plans that already exist, while providing guidelines to improve where needed. 
WWF is part of a coalition on offshore renewable energy, which is calling on Member States to deliver ecosystem-based MSP that brings together offshore wind energy industries and civil society to explore and discuss how to best develop the sector while protecting our seas from further degradation.


Dr Antonia Leroy
Head of Ocean Policy
+32 485 69 20 85

Helena Rodrigues
Ocean Policy Officer
+32 492 33 00 08