Marine Planning
Practical Approaches to Ocean and Coastal Decision-Making

Multi-Objective Approach

In marine policy and management, the standard practice has been to make decisions on management issues or sectors separately. For example, management decisions for fisheries in a geographic region are typically made independently without accounting for effects on each other or on different management sectors. Similarly, decisions about seabed mining may occur without factoring in the  effects on fisheries or biodiversity conservation. The same is true for most management and policy actions related to the ocean.

Baltimore's inner harbor. Photo © John Keith

In many cases, even though it is well known that trade-offs exist between management objectives in different sectors, there is no mandate or mechanism for explicitly balancing the competing objectives to arrive at the best overall solution. Too often, the outcome of such fractured governance is a failure to achieve the objectives for individual sectors, much less the best overall solution.

New Frameworks for Multiple Objective Management

Recognizing the shortcomings of single-sector management, many government agencies and non-government organizations are developing approaches for multi-objective management. The goal is to think holistically across management sectors, so that tradeoffs among sectors and objectives can be identified and addressed for a mutually beneficial outcome. This integrative, multiple objective approach may better sustain the ocean's ability to provide goods and services that people need and want. 

Marine spatial planning (MSP) and ecosystem-based management (EBM) are important frameworks for multi-objective planning. They address multiple objectives jointly and can be used to maximize opportunities for reaching objectives while minimizing costs.

Methods and interactive decision support systems are available for implementing a multi-objective approach. Applications of MSP and EBM are illustrated in the Case Studies.


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