Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) derives from the development of integrated management plans for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment, including management of protected areas and of sectoral activities (Smit and Vallega, 1991). MSP can be defined as a strategic, forward looking planning tool aimed at regulating and managing human activities and at protecting the marine environment, through the allocation of maritime uses. It addresses the multiple, cumulative and potentially conflicting uses of the sea, ideally through a series of long term plans at different spatial scales, focused around marine regions and using an ecosystem-based approach (Gilliland and Lafolley, 2008), as requested by the new European Directive (2014/89/UE). In other words, MSP is a practical way to create and establish a more rational organization of the use of marine space and the interactions between its uses, to balance demands for development with the need to protect marine ecosystems, and to achieve social and economic objectives in an open and planned way (Ehler and Douvere, 2009).
According to the ecosystem-based approach, MSP processes are required to be: