Sunday Jul 12, 2020

About Marine Spatial Planning

Complex and dynamic marine ecosystems support diverse sea life and sustain a multitude of environmental functions that are significant to humans from social, economical, biological and ecological perspectives. Exploitation of these natural systems has resulted in the abrupt decline in the sea’s capacity to provide ecosystem services and therefore it is crucial that steps be taken to maintain and recover biodiversity and integrity of marine ecosystems. Continuous and reckless use of marine ecosystems endangers seabed habitats, which are essential in providing a variety of ecosystem services, and also reduces the effectiveness of their ecological services. In order to minimise the undesirable consequences of recklessly exploiting marine ecosystems, some interdisciplinary, long-term, and integrated planning is required. A thorough understanding of the spatially-explicit ecosystem services, careful planning and decision-making mechanisms and successful implementation of these measures have become increasingly important in preservation of marine ecosystems, especially over the past three decades.

The document before you outlines the Marine Spatial Planning (“MSP”), which primarily sets out a strategic plan that focuses on a well-balanced and sensible use of spaces within a given marine environment.  This document also aims to provide guidelines for different government sectors and policy makers as well as private entities that are, in one way or another, involved in marine-related activities to make integrated, complementary, and farsighted decisions. Above all, the most important objective of MSP is to eventually maximise the synergy amongst all marine-related activities, and to diminish and/or eliminate the disparity between the current human exploitations and the marine ecosystem capacities.  These objectives can be achieved through preparation of a zoning map of the distribution of seabed-associated ecosystem services capacity, as well as implementing a permit-issuing procedure to identify and allocate suitable sea areas to appropriate marine-activities.  It can be said that MSP follows the same goals as the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (“ICZM”) in the coastal and territorial waters.

 About MSP

Marine-based development (the further development of the country’s marine bases or the country’s marine-based resources) has been one of the fundamental strategies of Iranian authorities in recent years.  However, without the proper implementation of an MSP it is likely that the disparity between the negative effects of misuse of the marine ecosystems and the natural resources will continue to grow.  In order to reduce the negative effects of exploitation of marine ecosystems and to warranty the proper implementation of our legal responsibilities in the sea, Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran (“PMO”) has commenced a series of MSP studies in the coastline of Hormozgan Province as a pilot project. Sazeh Pardazi Iran Engineers and Consultants (“SPI”) have been given the task of conducting this project since December 2017.

Plans to implement MSP and ICZM in Hormozgan Province are currently being formulated with a view to integrate the decision making processes that effect sea and land development plans and also to respond to the desire for a marine-based development approach. Evidently, achieving such a goal presents some difficulties and challenges.  The emergence of MSP in the world is a relatively new phenomenon and therefore similar precedents and models are rare elsewhere in the world. Another major obstacle is a lack of in-depth knowledge of the physical and biological characteristics of a given marine environment.

Iran's MSP pilot project follows IOC-UNESCO guidelines on Marine Spatial Planning that is called "A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management – Marine spatial planning". The mentioned UNESCO publication on MSP is a cooperative initiative of IOC and the MAB Programme. It provides a step-by-step approach to MSP from establishing authority, through to planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This approach has been localized based on prevailing conditions in Iran for implementation in the Oman Sea and the Persian Gulf.