You are here: Home Projects Tools for MSP


Tools for MSP

Collaborative Tools for Effective Marine Spatial Planning

In our ever-changing marine environment, dynamic tools are necessary for resolving new and evolving ocean challenges. A current challenge for resource managers is to develop approaches for balancing the costs and benefits of diverse human uses of ocean ecosystems. Marine spatial planning is a process to identify which areas of the ocean are most appropriate for different uses in order to reduce conflict and achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. Effective marine spatial planning requires the use of the best available scientific information, data and technology. Successful implementation hinges on stakeholder support and explicit consideration of potential trade-offs.

SeaSketch and the Sustainable Fisheries Group have forged a collaboration focused on delivering cutting edge decision-support tools for effective marine spatial planning for a range of users including governments, private enterprises, and regional institutions. This collaboration brings the modeling, analysis and visualization needed to make informed management decisions. The Sustainable Fisheries Group and SeaSketch use the best available data, science, and tools to provide users with the means to maximize economic return, minimize ecological impact, and ensure stakeholder support.

The collaboration provides:

  • Tools for collaborative, stakeholder-driven, science-based management
  • Application of innovative, scientifically-robust spatial planning techniques and analyses
  • Identification of optimal spatial plans for balancing human uses of our ocean resources


is a web-based mapping application that allows anyone, regardless of his or her technical or scientific abilities, to participate in ocean planning. By answering spatially explicit surveys, users can provide information about the distribution of resources and human activities in and around the ocean.  Using simple sketching tools, users may also generate any number of alternative spatial plans representing a range of perspectives and interests. Zoning, regulatory, or management plans can now incorporate local knowledge and the diverse opinions of stakeholders most affected by those decisions. The reports generated by SeaSketch can identify habitats protected, potential social or economic costs and benefits, and other metrics that can inform the development of broadly supported marine spatial plans.

SeaSketch can be used to engage stakeholders face-to-face and online, making previous barriers of distance or competing schedules a thing of the past. Users can share their sketches and associated analytical reports, discuss their ideas, share views of maps, and post sketches to larger discussion forums. These forums encourage cross-interest discussion and collaboration.

The Sustainable Fisheries Group (SFG)’s research helps to better align economic incentives for fishermen and other resource users with ocean stewardship, creating implementable changes to ensure the long term health of coastal ecosystems. SFG uses market-based approaches, bioeconomic modeling and spatial analysis to create solutions to improve the status of marine resources around the world. SFG’s goal is to provide the scientific expertise to identify the best possible tools to tackle important problems facing the oceans. SFG also focuses on publishing high impact papers to provide the scientific foundation for important management and policy reforms.

SFG provides expertise in economics, fishery policy and MPA design. SFG develops cutting-edge, dynamic bioeconomic models and tradeoff analyses that can be used to evaluate and compare tradeoffs among alternative spatial plans. By evaluating these tradeoffs, decision makers can identify optimal plans that minimize conflicts and maximize the value of the ecosystem.

Key Outputs of the Partnership:

There is a growing need to improve the process of identifying tradeoffs between ocean use decisions in order to optimize the value of competing uses in the marine environment. SFG analysis can provide a transparent process of quantifying and visualizing tradeoffs and comparing alternative decisions. By making these tradeoffs explicit and allowing for stakeholder interaction, the collaboration between SFG and SeaSketch optimizes the benefits received by all stakeholders from ocean ecosystems.


SeaSketch example map of multiple use zoning for Barbuda and the associated tradeoff analysis of different zoning proposals


Through the use of analytical tools and modeling, the collaboration allows for useful comparisons of marine plans and management strategies utilizing available information, even in data poor areas. Utilizing the analytics SFG provides allows for the identification of optimal spatial plans, while SeaSketch provides the platform to engage stakeholders in the planning process. This partnership offers an ideal setting to connect communities with the spatial planning process and achieve community buy in for decision making. SFG and SeaSketch aim to provide stakeholders with the means to make informed decisions with a high likelihood of successful implementation.