Institutional barriers to integrated marine spatial planning on the island of Ireland

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Achieving sustainability goals in shared marine ecosystems is often undermined by different nation state marine governance systems, conflict over jurisdictional boundaries, and geopolitical differences. Moreover, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is politically charged in cross-border areas resulting in institutional fragmentation. Decision-making processes are embedded in different legislative approaches, cultures, fiscal, and administrative procedures which are unable to adequately consider the specificities of these areas. Greater integration is required to deliver sustainable outcomes. However, academic literature regarding integration in MSP fail to incorporate the co-evolution of institutions and this remains a wholly undeveloped area of MSP research. This paper contributes to the emerging MSP discourse by revisiting the understanding of institutional barriers to effective MSP implementation. The island of Ireland is selected as a case study to demonstrate how MSP legislation, policies and plans are emerging with limited coherence contrary to requirements under the EU MSP Directive 2014/89/EU and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Findings from series of interviews with key stakeholders on the island of Ireland are discussed. The analysis focuses on key barriers identified by utilising Ansong et al.’s ‘Wheel of Integration and Adaptation’ [1] under the themes of structural alignment, community and self-action, decision making, collaborative learning, leading structured intervention, and collaborative capacity. The paper concludes by presenting different intervention pathways to addressing the management and planning of contested marine areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105082
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalMarine Policy
Early online date4 May 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to express sincere gratitude to all the interview participants for their responses. We would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable comments which improved the discussion presented above. This research was carrried out with funding from Ulster University under the Vice Chancellor's Scholarship .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Marine spatial planning
  • Contested marine areas
  • Institutions
  • integration
  • Integration


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