Multi-Objective Planning

“Explicitly considering tradeoffs can lead to a greater net benefit for society.”

Implementing multi-objective planning is perhaps the most important—and among the most difficult—challenges in marine planning. In many places around the world, initiatives are under way to transform marine and coastal planning from a traditional single-objective approach to a more holistic multi-objective approach.

The Need for a Conceptual Framework

While there are various examples of conceptual frameworks for coastal and marine planning, there is no well-developed, accepted framework in the U.S. that considers multiple objectives. As a result, all planning initiatives are grappling with similar questions: How can tradeoffs among different sectors—such as biodiversity conservation, energy production, fishery production, and transportation—be understood and analyzed in a coordinated fashion? How can scenarios be developed for a range of multi-objective planning options? How can decision makers get the information that they need for multi-objective planning? How can multi-objective planning be done in a way that is transparent to stakeholders?

A robust and widely applicable conceptual framework would accelerate the implementation of multi-objective planning. It would enable planning initiatives to focus on addressing their place-specific issues, rather than wrestling with difficult, fundamental questions about how to do multi-objective planning.

Although a fully developed framework for U.S. coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) is not yet available, we provide here useful resources including guidance for multi-objective planning and a storyboard that illustrates scenario planning and tradeoffs across objectives.