As human uses of the ocean are intensifying, there are new and increased stresses on ocean ecosystems and people. Development pressures in coastal waters for aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energy creates spatial conflicts, and there are challenges in both small scale and industrial fisheries to balance resource extraction with resource protection. The cumulative effects of human activities in the ocean, combined with climate change impacts, point to ongoing and new threats to ocean health from the high tide  line to the high seas.

Existing management systems are usually insufficient to address the complexity of issues facing the oceans today, or to integrate management across multiple sectors for the next 10-20 years. New management frameworks and governance structures are essential for ensuring that coastal communities and nations will continue to reap long-term benefits and services that healthy oceans can provide. To this end, marine spatial planning (MSP) provides governments, local communities, and marine sectors with a transparent, equitable, and participatory process to navigate these important challenges, develop effective and durable solutions, and plan for the future.