Title: SIMAtlantic – Supporting the Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in the Atlantic

Start Year: 2019

End Year: 2021

Research partner/host: MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, ERI, UCC, Ireland

Project Partners: 

French Agency for Biodiversity (France)

Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (Northern Ireland)

Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility, and Urban and Country Planning (CEREMA) (France)

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Republic of Ireland)

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland)

General Directorate of Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services (Portugal)

Spanish Institute of Oceanography (Spain)

Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine (SHOM) (France)

University of Aveiro (Portugal); University of Liverpool (England)

Principal Investigators:Dr. Anne Marie O’Hagan


The Supporting Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in the Atlantic (SIMAtlantic) project aims to support the establishment and implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in five European Atlantic countries. This objective will be achieved by building capacity for transboundary cooperation and undertaking concrete actions of direct relevance for competent authorities tasked with developing maritime spatial plans in line with provisions of the MSP Directive (2014/85/EU).

The SIMAtlantic project will be implemented by a consortium of partners representing academia, Marine Planning Authorities and scientific public bodies supporting the implementation of MSP in France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland and England).  Project partners will work together in an Atlantic transboundary context to transfer information and knowledge and ultimately build lasting capacity to support cross-border cooperation on MSP.

The project will result in methodologies, practical guidance documents, communication tools and an Atlantic-wide data and information catalogue to assist the work of MSP authorities. MSP tools and recommendations will be applied and tested in specific pilot study areas working with planning authorities. This will culminate with an ‘Atlantic Vision’ for MSP which will reflect the characteristics of the Atlantic marine region and findings from the project work. As a number of the issues raised in one Member State often resonate in other sea basin areas, the project outputs are not geographically limited to the Atlantic region but rather will be applicable to the wider Atlantic region and other EU sea basin areas.

Continuous cross-border cooperation on MSP will be ensure by the project through the creation of an Atlantic MSP Cooperation Group. The Cooperation Group will support the objectives of the EU Atlantic Strategic and directly act as a conduit for discussions and information exchange thereby providing a lasting mechanism for cross-border MSP cooperation in the European Atlantic area.

Overall, SIMAtlantic consists of three technical work packages (WP) and will:

  • Assist competent authorities in managing marine activities in transboundary marine space (WP1);
  • Create tools to facilitate communication on key steps in MSP implementation to the general public and stakeholders at multiple governance scales (WP2);
  • Explore methodologies for addressing Land-Sea Interactions in different contexts (WP2);
  • Review and identify the best available data to support analysis of Land-Sea Interactions in MSP (WP2);
  • Facilitate the creation of an Atlantic MSP Cooperation Group (WP3);
  • Develop a handbook on transboundary Strategic Environmental Assessment and MSP for Atlantic MSP practitioners (WP3);
  • Develop a catalogue and overview of Atlantic-relevant data and public documents related to MSP (WP3);
  • Present a tried and tested methodology for addressing Land-Sea Interactions in the Atlantic (WP 3) and;
  • Agree and present an ‘Atlantic vision’ for MSP developed from project findings and collaboration with competent authorities (WP1).
Work Packages

Work package (WP1) will run for the duration of the project and provide an initial description of the geographical and biological characteristics, governance arrangements and current and future spatial uses relevant to MSP in the Atlantic region. This will be utilised in conjunction with outcomes from the other two substantive work packages to produce an ‘Atlantic Vision’ for MSP. The ‘Atlantic Vision’ document will be developed in a collaborative manner between project partners to provide recommendations on how transboundary MSP can be further advanced between Atlantic countries. This will incorporate aspects such as governance, data and information, stakeholder engagement and other law and policy objectives, framed within an Atlantic context. The Atlantic vision for MSP will be discussed and agreed with representatives from the Atlantic area competent authorities for MSP and other interested stakeholders so as to ensure as much support as possible.

Work package 2 (WP2) will concentrate on four case studies developed around aspects that have direct operational relevance to MSP authorities, hence strengthening the policy links between MSP and sectoral planning and management approaches. Case-studies (CS#) have been designed taking into account specific implementation issues identified in collaboration with competent Marine Planning authorities.

CS#1 will explore the reality of cross-boundary planning and management with a view to producing practical, operational guidance on how entities can work together in such situations with a focus on a transboundary marine lough between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (CS#1).

MSP must be implemented along with other EU and national policies such as environmental assessment and nature conservation, as merely two examples.  Two case studies look at these policies so as to determine better practices in relation to how common objectives can be achieved (CS#2 and 3). Specifically, communication on MSP and what it means for stakeholders with different sectoral interests is explored in a novel and innovative way using technology.  A didactical electronic portal will be developed to facilitate the dissemination of the content of maritime plans to stakeholders and the general public at different scales.  The portal will be tested in a French territory covered by a multi-objective Marine Protected Area, ‘the Nature Marine Park of Gironde Estuarine and Pertuis Sea’. Recommendations will be made to transpose the portal to plans developed at larger scales and also to other Member State plans.

Land-sea interactions (LSI) form the basis of the final case study.  CS#4 will draw upon LSI methodologies developed in other regional sea settings to undertake a pilot LSI study working with MSP authorities within the Irish Sea basin.  This investigation will support the work of competent authorities in charge of implementing MSP in the Irish Sea and culminate with wider recommendations for transfer to other locations in the Atlantic region (CS#4).

Work Package 3 (WP3) takes a number of cross-cutting themes that are intrinsic to MSP implementation and seeks to explore them in greater detail using outputs from the case-studies. The themes will draw upon the lessons learned in the case-studies to develop general guidelines for competent authorities in the wider Atlantic region.

These themes are derived from the provisions of the EU MSP Directive, namely 1) governance, 2) cumulative effects/impacts assessment (CEA/CIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), 3) data and information and 4) land-sea interactions:

  • The cross-cutting theme on governance will improve Member State understanding between adjoining Atlantic Member States, including progress to date on MSP, their objectives and priorities as well as potential for cooperation and collaboration. This will be particularly relevant given the impending exit of Britain from the EU.
  • Alongside MSP Directive requirements, Member States must also comply with other legal instruments such as SEA and within it cumulative effects. Under this cross-cutting theme partners will work together to co-develop a methodology for this which is applicable to any transboundary system.
  • Data and information are fundamental considerations in transboundary MSP. Work under the third cross-cutting theme will focus on developing a Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) that will enable marine data to be organised, used and shared across the various maritime boundaries in the Atlantic.
  • Finally, how Atlantic competent authorities consider land-sea interactions in their MSP work is the final cross-cutting theme. This component will result in a methodology for CIA and SEA that can be applied by competent authorities in the Atlantic region.

Work structure:

WP1 – ‘Atlantic vision’ for Maritime Spatial Planning

  • Task 1.1 Description of MSP relevant information for Atlantic countries
  • Task 1.2 Identification and analysis of current spatial uses and needs
  • Task 1.3 Preparation of an ‘Atlantic Vision’ for MSP

WP2 – Cases-studies

  • Case-study 1 – Management of marine activities in a transboundary ecosystem
  • Case-study 2 – Communication on Maritime Spatial Plans
  • Case-study 3- Transboundary Impact Assessment
  • Case-study 4 – MSP and land-sea interactions pilot in the Irish Sea

WP 3 – Cross-cutting themes

  • Theme 1 –Governance
  • Theme 2 – Cumulative Impacts and Transboundary Enviromental Assessment
  • Theme 3- Data Use and Sharing
  • Theme 4 – Land-Sea Interactions
Outreach Activities

Dr. Anne Marie O’Hagan (project coordinator), email: A.OHagan@ucc.ie

Martin Le Tissier, email martin.letissier@ucc.ie

Hester Whyte, email hester.whyte@ucc.ie