Credit: Slaven Vilus

Marine Spatial Planning in the Adriatic


Efforts to manage marine areas in the Adriatic, in particular using marine spatial planning (MSP), date back to more than 30 years ago, when a Sea Use Plan for the Northern and Southern Adriatic was prepared. However, MSP has never been established as a legal requirement. Recently, the situation has been changing.  Firstly, with the adoption of the relevant policy framework within the Barcelona Convention and the EU. This includes the following: Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, Conceptual Framework for MSP and Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme within the Barcelona Convention; several EU directives largely concerned with marine management issues: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSPD). Secondly, with the increase in understanding and interest in marine management issues, often driven by the growing demand for nautical and cruise tourism, potential off-shore oil and gas exploration and extraction, amongst others.

Thanks to these recent changes, the need for coordinated MSP in the Adriatic has become increasingly clear. Whilst the issues and sectors involved in the growing blue economy are diverse, they all share the same marine space, where resources are limited and ecosystems are under strain. MSP is still relatively new in the Region, but it is already obvious that such planning will require cooperation between countries. This will assure a sustainable future, and redress the balance between socioeconomic development and environmental protection, by working to agree on common MSP principles and elements across the whole of the Adriatic. MSP will be able to operate effectively on a regional level by adopting agreed visions and strategies, legal and institutional frameworks, data collection and structuring, guidelines, methodologies, and best practice. Integration, collaboration and cooperation are critical.

More about the coordinated approach towards MSP in the Adriatic is available in the Pan-Adriatic Scope Full report and in its Summary.


The waterfornt of Sarandë, in southern Albania. Credit: Elion Jashari


Concept and planning options for MSP have been developed as part of the GEF Adriatic project in order to support the Montenegrin Government effort to secure sustainable management of productive seascape covering 250 000 ha. These options have been developed as a joint effort by a number of relevant institutions and interested national experts. As part of the process, a series of thematic reports has been produced, addressing the following: blue economy, navigation and marine safety, mariculture, land-sea interactions, state and pressures on the marine environment, coastal and nautical tourism, amongst others. The final proposal of the MSP concept is available here.


In Albania, the first preliminary MSP study, guidelines and training was implemented by a complementary MSP Pilot project, based on the GEF Adriatic Project approach and outputs.

In synergy with the GEF Adriatic Project, SPA/RAC implemented 3 Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) studies in Albania during the second semester of 2019, under the Cooperation Agreement between the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition and UNEP/MAP.  These have led to achieving the following first steps in the MSP process: The Assessment of the Ecological Status and MSP preliminary initial assessment of the Vlora Marine Area (AlbanianEnglish), Guidelines for the MSP process in Albania (AlbanianEnglish) and Guidelines for Anchoring buoys for small pleasure boats in Albania (AlbanianEnglish) used by the Albanian authorities for the installation of anchoring buoys.


If you would like to know more about Marine Spatial Planning, we invite you to join an online training course on MSP, developed as part of the GEF Adriatic Project. Visit


The Conceptual Framework for Marine Spatial Planning’ in the Mediterranean was adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 2017, to coordinate efforts to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES), increase knowledge on land-sea interactions, and build sustainable and coherent land and sea use planning frameworks for key sectors and activities. Importantly, it gives a common context for all Contracting Parties for the implementation of MSP in the region.