Coastal Fishery, Biodiversity, Spatial Use and Climate Change: A Participative Approach to navigate the Western Baltic Sea into a Sustainable Future

Regulatory options for marine spatial planning contributing to sustainable coastal fisheries


KIEL | 30.08.-01.09.2023: With SpaCeParti, IOER brings marine/maritime spatial planning to the table at the DAM sustainMare Midterm Conference.


The research mission "Protection and Sustainable Use of Marine Areas" of the German Alliance for Marine Research (DAM) investigates the pressure and use patterns on different marine areas regarding their economic, ecological and social impacts. Five research associations are working closely together to advance guidance on protection and use concepts, further recommending actions on an ecosystem-based usage of the marine space. The research results will be made available to politics and society to enable science-based decisions.

A focal topic of the DAM is the sustainability-oriented organization of coastal fisheries in the Western Baltic Sea, which is increasingly threatened by climate change and biodiversity loss. As the intensity of maritime uses raises constantly, this leads to spatial conflicts, additionally burdening coastal fishing activities. Hence, the research consortium SpaCeParti focuses in two pilot projects on the ecosystem-based transformation of coastal fisheries in the Western Baltic.

Research Issue

One of the most relevant environmental problems in the Baltic Sea is the exploitation of natural resources, especially due to overfishing. The Baltic Sea populations of the main commercial fish species cod (Gadus morhua) and herring (Clupea harengus) are in drastic decline, resulting in severe future ecological and socio-economic consequences. Fishing is a traditional use at sea, which conflicts with other maritime activities as well as with marine conservation. Furthermore, it is diversely regulated at different levels. Securing long-term viable fisheries is challenging because the natural properties of the sea require the development of transboundary solutions. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is considered to be a key tool for resolving such conflicts at sea and further fosters transformative change towards sustainability-oriented practice. The currently still insufficient integration of fisheries into MSP calls for studying a wide range of potential connections for improved ecosystem-based fisheries management. Analyzing legal as well as planning frameworks thus make a relevant contribution to reducing uncertainties in planning and administrative decisions within fishery matters in the context of protecting the marine environment.

This fosters some key research questions:

How can coastal fisheries in the Western Baltic Sea be designed in a sustainability-oriented manner in long-term perspectives?
What possible solutions/approaches does the instrument of marine spatial planning offer for ecosystem-based fisheries?
How can administrative hurdles in different jurisdictions be overcome in favor of protecting the marine environment?

Transformation for ecosystem-based marine management through living labs

SpaCeParti is an interdisciplinary consortium, therefore applying various methodological approaches from marine and fishery sciences, from political sciences and economy as well as from law. Through participatory living labs, these key research questions shall be addressed. MSP-SpaCeParti works with a transformative research setting, where the exchange of information is organized through an experimental and reflexive procedure, meaning that the progress is continuously reflected and adopted accordingly. Living labs have a transformative orientation and follow up on interests of public concern. Currently, such an approach to marine management is unique.

Research Goal

The main aim of the SpaCeParti consortium as a whole is the development of scientific and policy-relevant action knowledge to enable transformative capacities in the Western Baltic Sea towards a sustainability-oriented future. Thereby, concerns and needs of biodiversity protection, tourism and generation of renewable energy need to be incorporated evenly. More precisely, possible uses of spatial planning instruments to enable ecosystem-based fisheries in the Western Baltic Sea are to be analyzed. Finally, the research aims at deriving recommendations for improved fishery activities and for effective administrative/institutional cooperation between various legal regimes.

Desired results and contribution to the objectives of the research area

With focus on designing transformation processes, the scientific output should enable science-based recommendations for improved fisheries as well as their management. The traditional sector of fisheries undergoes a substantive change due to manifold alterations, such as in climate and environmental conditions, the composition of marine ecosystems as well as use patterns and demands. In this light, transformative capacities of fisheries in the spatial context as well as practical measures for the future design of sustainable fisheries will be studied. To foster practice-orientated research, relevant stakeholders, such as fishermen, are involved throughout the research process (participatory approach).

A component of the spatial analysis is the regulatory overlap between marine spatial planning and fisheries. Therefore, the aim is to frame possibilities for enhanced fisheries management through MSP. This requires research on the legal and planning frameworks from international to regional level. Due to the living labs, joint generation of knowledge is created, which requires continuous adaptation according to the overall knowledge production.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.