The Royal Decree 363/2017, of 8th April, establishes a framework for Maritime Spatial Planning. This is a policy development of the Law 14/2010, of 29th December, for the protection of marine environment, which transposed the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. As such, implementation of MSP will be closely related to MSFD implementation. MSP objectives are, therefore, subordinated to the objectives contained in the Marine Strategies as a Law ranks higher than a Royal Decree in the Spanish legal system. The practical effect of this is that MSP provisions cannot, in any way, contradict provisions contained in the Marine Strategies. The article 5 of the MSP Royal Decree, regarding MSP objectives, establishes that marine spatial plans will:

  1. a)  Establish specific objectives for each marine demarcation taking into account environmental objectives of marine strategies as well as sectoral planning objectives.
  2. b)  They will take into account economic, social and environmental aspects to support sustainable development and growth in the maritime sectors, applying an ecosystem approach, which will promote the coexistence of relevant activities and uses and the socially equitable sharing of access to uses.

Likewise, Article 4.2 of this Law establishes that “the Government may approve common guidelines to all marine strategies in order to guarantee the coherence of its objectives, in aspects such as: (…) f) The planning of activities that are carried out or may affect the marine environment”. Royal Decree 363/2017, of 8th April, augments the provisions of Article 4.2 of Law 41/2010, by providing that “this management framework will constitute a common guideline for all marine strategies, in accordance with the provisions of article 4.2.f) of the Law of protection of the marine environment”.

Relevant Technical Information

  • Support to the National Competent Authorities: The Ministry for the Environmental Transition and the Demographic Challenges
  • Support to the Spanish data Portal (  and data harmonization for MSP
  • Dissemination and formation on MSP and Ocean Literacy at national level


For the implementation of the MSFD, an Interministerial Commission of Marine Strategies (CIEM – Comisión Interministerial de Estrategias Marinas) was established. Within this, there is a Working Group on MSP (GT-OEM – Grupo de trabajo de Ordenación del Espacio Marítimo) with representatives from the Ministries concerned and from two technical support institutions, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and the Centre for Studies and Experimentation of Public Works (CEDEX). Five plans are expected for each of the 5 Marine Demarcations, which are the same units for implementation of the MSFD, both related to the Spanish marine regions/subregions. The Commission (CIEM) has monitoring committees for each of the Marine Demarcations, which are composed of representatives from the central administration (national level) and representatives of the Autonomous Communities concerned in each Marine Demarcation (regional level). Consultation has also been ongoing with the regional governments, specifically in relation to tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, environment and protected areas, regional ports, and cultural heritage. Ten bilateral meetings with the different regions took place between June to September 2020.

To develop the MSP national process, subgroups were identified to address specific topics within the MSP national process covering aspects such as MPAs, cetaceans, ports, marine renewable energy, benthic habitats and recreational activities. These subgroups are formed by representatives of Ministries and Entities concerned with each topic, representatives of the regional bodies in charge of the different topics and representatives of the Centre for Studies and Experimentation of Public Works (CEDEX) and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO). The MSP process is illustrated in Figure 1.

In 2020, the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) commenced with consultation on the first draft of the POEM (Planes de Ordenación del Espacio Marítimo), together with the Strategic Initial Document. From these documents, an inventory of uses and activities was progressed, considering both present and future uses.[1] These documents are currently being reviewed by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITERD) and the Autonomous Communities (regional governments). Final versions of these, together with the draft Royal Decree to legally approve POEMs, were open for public consultation in June 2021.

As explained above, MSP and MSFD processes are inherently interlinked. The time frames for MSP have been adjusted to coincide with marine strategies cycles. In this sense, Marine Strategies and Maritime Spatial Plans will be revised and updated each 6 years. Furthermore, it is expected that monitoring of MSP plans will be also linked with the monitoring programmes of Marine Strategies.