Research Article: Multi-use of the sea: A wide array of opportunities from site-specific cases across Europe

Date Published: April 11, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Martina Bocci, Stephen Joseph Sangiuliano, Alessandro Sarretta, Joseph Onwona Ansong, Bruce Buchanan, Andronikos Kafas, Mario Caña-Varona, Vincent Onyango, Eva Papaioannou, Emiliano Ramieri, Angela Schultz-Zehden, Maximilian Felix Schupp, Vassiliki Vassilopoulou, Marta Vergílio, Karyn Morrissey.


The concept of multi-use of the sea has gained popularity in recent years as a result of ocean space (coastal areas and regions with relatively small sea space in particular) becoming increasingly crowded due to the development of the maritime economy. Competing claims for space can be a source of conflict, however this may also lead to mutual benefits for different users when sustainable combinations are sought. Despite increasing European-wide efforts, on-the-ground knowledge and practice of multi-use are still limited. Therefore, with the aim of investigating opportunities for multi-use development in the European seas, 10 case studies were selected, involving different site-specific contexts. This study analyses the characteristics and development potential for ocean multi-use, integrating results from desk analysis and stakeholder perceptions from different sectors in each of the case study locations. Similarities and differences between various combinations of sea uses are also identified. The results show a high heterogeneity of multi-use opportunities between case studies, with a range of combinations identified. The investigated combinations of maritime uses share an overall balance between factors promoting (drivers) and hindering (barriers) multi-use development. Based on stakeholder opinions, expected benefits (added values) of multi-use implementation outweigh potential negative impacts. Management actions are also proposed to further exploit multi-use potential at a local, regional (sub-national) and national levels.

Partial Text

There is an ever increasing variety of commercial activities in European sea basins: oil and gas (O&G) extraction; renewable energy production; pipelines and cables; shipping; coastal and maritime tourism; fisheries; aquaculture and blue biotechnology, and sand and mineral extraction. Furthermore, European seas offer several intangible assets linked to the cultural and natural capital that they host, and the different services related to them (e.g. marine defence and oceanographic monitoring & research). To that end, under Blue Growth concepts and approaches [1], [2], maritime activities are expected to grow in the near future, which may intensify conflicts, particularly in cases where different uses compete for the same space.

In order to tackle these RIs, a methodology was defined which combined desk analysis with stakeholder engagement. This allowed for the exploitation of documented knowledge and data, as well as the collection of undocumented knowledge, and gathering of the most up-to-date stakeholder information. Due to the nature of the RIs considered, both qualitative (e.g. factors influencing MU development) and quantitative (estimation of MU Potential and MU Effect, as defined below) indicators were included in the analysis.

The concept of MU of the sea has gained prominence in recent years due in-part to competing claims for space, initiating the investigation of suitable management policies and procedures for synergistic uses. This paper defined and applied a replicable methodology to analyse the characteristics and potential of MU development and strengthening through the implementation of quantitative and qualitative methods in site-specific local contexts. Despite the methodological limitations discussed, the applied methodology allowed to provide additional understanding about the RIs identified at the beginning of the study and is readily transferable to different European locations and marine management areas, supporting who are seeking to determine the state of knowledge of MU and target certain combinations for strengthening and development on micro and macro-economic scales.