The Marine Planning and Policy Lab at BIOS is focused on research, preparation and implementation of marine planning, particularly marine spatial planning (MSP) and ocean zoning. The Nearshore Marine Spatial Planning initiative looks at marine policy and the implementation of marine planning through marine stakeholder consultation, science-based policy, ocean zoning, and geographic information systems. We look at marine planning applications internationally and how best practices can be adapted into a locally relevant process for Bermuda’s nearshore waters.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) integrates collaborative stakeholder involvement with science-based evidence and analysis to develop marine zoning and regulatory policy. BIOS is providing research and capacity support to the Government of Bermuda to investigate the possibility of marine spatial planning for Bermuda. Within the Government, the Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation Services lead the initiative and are assisted via a public-private partnership by BIOS, the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California-Santa Barbara, and the Waitt Foundation.
The marine spatial planning process seeks to create a sustainable marine use plan by reducing conflict among user groups, locating activities where they can have the greatest benefits with minimal negative environmental and economic impacts, ensuring that future development is considered in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, and potentially setting aside ecologically significant areas. The ultimate goal of MSP is to implement a marine plan that supports healthier, more sustainable marine ecosystems and provides socio-economic benefits to local communities. In this sense, it is an adaptation of land use planning to the ocean, and can include the use of zoning to separate uses that are incompatible with each other.
A marine planning process assembles existing knowledge of the marine environment, examines the priorities of stakeholders, and ideally uses scientific analysis to suggest or evaluate plans in order to maximize the benefit of ocean uses and minimize negative environmental and economic impacts. Marine planning is not a one-off project, but rather an iterative process that establishes a framework to balance future conditions and needs, whether they are economic, social, or ecological. Within such a framework, marine regulations can be more efficient and the development of emerging industries can be facilitated in a structured manner that accounts for the ongoing health of the marine ecosystem services on which they depend.
BIOS and MSP
The Nearshore Marine Spatial Planning initiative is tasked with researching best practices in marine planning policy and providing advice on implementing marine planning in Bermuda. BIOS is hosting Nearshore Marine Spatial Planning (NMSP) Coordinator, Dr. Kevin Mayall, who is assisting the Government of Bermuda with its investigation of marine planning policy options for Bermuda. This includes identification of best practices in other jurisdictions, review of existing marine legislation and policy for MSP purposes, distillation of options into a process that best fits Bermuda, identification and evaluation of local marine uses and stakeholder groups, gathering of available scientific monitoring and human activity data, and general capacity building in policy development, data analysis, technology development, and community engagement. BIOS is partnering with the Bren School at the University of California-Santa Barbara who is providing analytical expertise to support the planning process.
The project has conducted background research on MSP practices worldwide in order to find relevant processes for Bermuda. This work recently culminated in a background paper and proposal for the Bermuda Cabinet regarding the relevance of MSP to Bermuda and a proposed way forward.
We have developed geographical databases that assemble available data from Bermuda’s known marine activities and resources. The data is continually under improvement and is being deployed to an online mapping platform for use in community engagement activities. We have also designed a localized strategy for consultations with Bermuda’s marine stakeholders and the wider public for the purposes of MSP. Consequently, we have generated an evolving contact portfolio for stakeholder relationship management.
The project is currently performing an analysis of Bermuda’s marine-related legislation in order to provide an overview of our laws and institutions that are relevant to ocean planning and management. From this analysis, we will identify possible obstacles to MSP and consider appropriate options for surmounting them. The resulting framework will be able to be used to develop model legislation for MSP. Our MSP team is also currently administering a survey to individuals in our identified stakeholder groups, to evaluate their perspectives of ocean health, ocean management and marine planning concepts in the nearshore environment. The responses to this survey will provide valuable insight into public perceptions of marine spatial planning as a management tool for Bermuda.