Summary of the uses is food production which


North Sea is a resource-rich ocean constantly exploited by the seven – namely Netherlands,
Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom – economically-advanced
countries that surround it. Some of the economic and non-economic activities on
the sea include fishing, oil and gas extraction, harbours, industry,
recreation, wind energy farms, sediment extraction, military training and the
construction of cables and pipelines. Over the centuries, the Netherlands has
been very active on this sea, putting it to all of the uses mentioned. One of
the uses is food production which the country is presently seeking to augment.
However, before that can be possible, there is the need for adoption of strategies
to ensure sustainable use of this ocean. It is in this sense that experts have recommended
marine spatial planning (MSP) as a potential strategy to help put this sea to
judicious use. The Netherlands has developed some domestic policies including
the National Water Plan 2016 – 2021, the Policy Document on the North Sea 2016
– 2021 and the North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda. The findings of this review show
that the country is presently not performing well, especially with regard to
the production of traditional fish, aquaculture and macro-algae and therefore
must make effective use of the MSP strategy.



Dutch North Sea, marine spatial planning, sustainable management of marine
resources, seafood production.


literature review focuses on how the Netherlands can achieve her aim of
sustainable food production from her part of the North Sea in the face of other
equally important marine ecosystem uses of this same sea. Food production,
through traditional fisheries has come under pressure due to limitations in
space and over-fishing. The question that arises is how the country could plan
effectively to take advantage of the rich resources of this oceans Andreas (2012);
Eline and Hilde (2011); Christie et al (2014). This is particularly important
because other marine food production modes such as macro-algae and shell fish
cultures which can serve as alternatives require adapted spatial planning
according to Guillermo and Laurence (2008); Ricardo and John (2015); Brijesh
and Declan (2015).

stated above, the Netherlands put the North Sea to several uses besides food
production. Some of these include oil and gas extraction, shipping, sand
winning, energy generation, construction of cables and pipelines and military
training. This current situation has created competition for marine space with
some of the activities sometimes crisscrossing and creating conflict as stated
by Christie et al. (2014); Katherine et al. (2015). It is for this reason that
experts have proposed the use of marine spatial planning (MSP) as a way of designing
multiple-use of marine space Giacomo et al (2017). In this review, therefore,
an effort would be made to assess how the country could use (MSP) as a strategy
to sustainably manage the North Sea and thus maintain a sustainable food




countries namely Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and the United
Kingdom share boundaries with the Netherlands around the North Sea. This sea is
quite shallow with depths ranging from 30 to 200 meters, with an average depth
of 90 meters and stretching over an area of 572,000 km2 Emilie (2008).
Socioeconomically, the North Sea passes as one of the busiest seas in world.
Some of the major activities on the sea include fishing, oil and gas
extraction, harbours, industry, recreation, wind energy, sediment extraction,
military training and the construction of cables and pipelines Svein and Maaike
(2014); Emilie (2008).


the Dutch side, the North Sea covers an area of about 58,000 km2.
Over the years, the Netherlands has exploited the resources of the sea for its
socio-economic benefit. Some of the benefits which have accrued to the country
have basically emanated from fisheries production, oil and gas extraction, sand
winning and renewable energy production Emilie (2008).


view of the above, the country has developed a number of domestic policies for
the management of the Dutch North Sea. Some of these policies include the
National Water Plan 2016 – 2021, the Policy Document on the North Sea 2016 –
2021 (which focuses on sustainable exploitation of resources within the Dutch Exclusive
Economic Zone (EEZ)) and the North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda which is the long
term blueprint for MSP. This review will therefore take into consideration how
these policies provide the opportunity for sustainability in offshore food
production for the country.


of Review

publications for this literature review were retrieved from databases that
included Science Direct, Elsevier and Springer. Twenty-three (23) high quality
peer-reviewed journal articles were retrieved and sorted for relevance. The
keywords and phrases used in the searches included Dutch North Sea, marine
spatial planning, sustainable management of marine resources, and seafood
production. In addition, some websites were consulted for scientific
information on the subject. Particularly, websites of the EU were consulted for
relevant information on continental frameworks regarding MSP. These frameworks
included the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Natura 2000, the European Blue Growth strategy as well
as some national policies including the National Water Plan,
Policy Document on the North Sea 2016 – 2021 and the North Sea 2050 Spatial

Outlook of Offshore Food ProductionFisheries

from the European Union Maritime and Fisheries Report on the Netherlands, 2013,
indicate that currently the fisheries sector in the Netherlands accounts for
less than 0.1% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The fish stock in
the Dutch North Sea captured by the Food and Agricultural Organization Report
on fish supply for the Netherlands also states that it is dominated by demersal
and pelagic species. Other types include freshwater and diadromous fish,
crustaceans and molluscs (see Chart 1).

Food and Agricultural Organization (Fisheries and Aquaculture Department)

Chart 1: showing composition of
per capital fish supply for Netherlands


to data from the European Commission, the Dutch fishing fleet in 2013 comprised
741 registered vessels, with a combined gross tonnage of 129000 GT, a total
power of 275000 KW and an average of 30 years. For the same year, the number of
fishing businesses in the Dutch fleet totalled 456 with the vast majority
(about 70%) owning a single vessel. The total landings for 2012 were 165 tonnes
and first sale value was €384 million. The main types of species that were
landed included plaice, sole, mackerel, sardine and shrimp, whereas offshore
aquaculture farms basically produced mussels, eels and oysters.


Netherlands, thus, is not a major global player in the fishing industry. For
the country to ensure sustainability in its offshore food production, it would
have to invest more in areas such as aquaculture as an alternative source.
According to Poul et al. (2017)
global production of aquaculture now accounts for 50% of the world edible
seafood supply. This has come at a time when the traditional means of fishing
has come under severe constraints. In Netherlands available data shows that,
over the years, aquaculture production levels have been shrinking. Starting
from the 1980s, the production levels have been fluctuating and actually
declined since the 2000s (see Chart 2). The country must therefore step up
efforts to boost up production levels.


Food and Agricultural Organization (Fisheries and Aquaculture Department)

2: showing major aquaculture species produced in the Netherlands





Algae (Seaweeds)

et al. (2016) have noted that macro-algae (seaweeds) are strongly emerging as alternatives
to land-grown products in food and feed applications. In the temperate waters
across Europe, there is growing interest in the production of seaweeds,
especially, in combination with offshore wind energy generation. However, using
economic modelling to analyse the profitability of commercial offshore
production, the authors came to the conclusion that based on current costs and
benefits, offshore seaweed production in the North Sea is not commercially
viable. According to the sensitivity analysis, revenues would have to increase
by about 300%, all things being equal, before profits can be made.


above study, however, identified a number of opportunities that can be utilised
to improve the economic feasibility of seaweed production. These opportunities
included, firstly, adopting technical innovations in the production systems
that will enable multiple harvests per year and secondly, the marketing of
seaweed as human food has to be intensified in an innovative manner since the Dutch
culturally, are not used to having seaweeds in their menu.

feasibility study by Henrice et al. (2016) using a spatial distribution model
established that offshore mussel production can be profitable. However,
commercial interest for offshore development of mussel culture is lacking.
According to the findings of that study, an analysis of technical, economic and
technological boundaries show that the potential of fish culture is not that
promising. For seaweed cultivation, potential exists except that some of the
current challenges relating to processing have to be overcome. The study also
established that in order for resources to be managed in a smart manner, it
would be useful to explore possible combinations of marine activities such as
wind parks, fisheries and nature conservation.


the desire of the Netherlands to achieve sustainable food production from the
traditional fisheries, aquaculture and macro-algae production as stand-alone
sectors, discussed above may not be enough to achieve this target of sustainable
food production.  The country will have
seek additional strategies that such the marine spatial planning (MSP) framework
as an integrative approach that can lead to harmonization of all food
productions ways to achieve sustainable food production.


Marine Spatial Planning as a


Marine Spatial Planning

and Lee (2015) define MSP as “a public process of analysing and allocating
marine uses over space and time to achieve economic, ecological, and social
objectives.” This refers to the zoning of the ocean in a manner that ensures
that different marine activities including fishing, oil and gas extraction,
shipping, renewable energy production etc. are brought under control for
sustainable management Hauke (2014); Wanfei and Peter (2014); Svein and Maaike
(2014). This definition, is because the sea has no physical barriers. The
movement of fish, for example, is uninhibited by boundaries. Likewise, oil
spillages flow freely across marine boundaries. Consequently, MSP is not a single
country’s activity. It requires co-operation from all affected countries Steven
et al. (2016); Andreas (2012).


One key indicator for sustainable food production form marine
ecosystem is its biodiversity. Over the last couple of years, there has been a
rapid decline in marine biodiversity owing to unsustainable uses Katherine
(2015). To this extent, one of the core need for MSP is informed
by the intentions of the European Union (EU) to ensure that the marine
ecosystem is well preserved and sustainably maintained Brice et al (2011); Christie
et al (2014), Peter et al (2016). Giacomo et al. (2017) note that MSP is a key
framework for delivering conservation strategies in marine environment and
reduce competitions among different uses of marine space.


are different approaches to MSP. Katherine et al. (2015) identify three of such
approaches to include multi-criterion analysis, systematic conservation
planning and trade-off analyses. Focusing on food production, trade-off
analyses appear to be a much more feasible option for the Netherlands. Kirsten
(2015) notes that the decision support tools for trade-off analysis have
increased rapidly in recent years except that their use in MSP is limited.
There are also challenges with the availability of reliable data, lack of
documentation and the difficulty in the interpretation of results.


et al. (2016) points out that appreciation of the relationship between
fisheries and MSP is still not clear. Even though there have been several
scientific studies that highlight a strong relation between fisheries and MSP,
the actual integration of the two is not very common. They conclude that the
spatial and temporal dynamics of fish and fisheries remain major challenges in
spite of the fact that an integration of fisheries is already possible today.
In this sense, the trade-off option is probably the most viable for the
Netherlands. Food production could be optimised if some of the space currently
being used for other activities could be traded off for food production.


5.2 Current
Allocations of Marine Space

In the
Netherlands, as can be seen from Figure 1, there are currently different
allocations of space for the economic and non-economic uses of the Dutch part
of the North Sea.

Source: Integrated Management Plan for the North Sea 2015

1: showing space allocations of the Dutch part of the North Sea for various

1 below indicates that about 11,374 km2 is reserved for conservation
purposes. The reserved areas include Voordelta, Vlakte van de Raan, North Sea
Coastal Zone, Dogger Bank, Frisian Front and Cleaver Bank. For wind energy, the
designated space is 743 km2 Cables and pipelines occupy 3,300 km2
and 4,500 km2 respectively. Oil and gas, mineral extraction
and dumping sites combined constitute a total of 253 km2. Quite significantly,
the space reserved for military training is 4,200 km2. The areas
reserved for fishing include the EEZ and the territorial waters (except areas
reserved for energy production and conservation).



of space

Oil and gas extraction



Cables & Pipelines (in use)



Shipping routes

                          3600 km2

Military exercise zones



Wind energy



575  at 6MW/km2

Nature conservation areas


374 km2


and territorial waters minus areas closed for nature and energy

Dutch part of the North Sea


Source: Policy Document on the
North Sea 2016-2021

1: showing allocation of space in the Dutch part of the North Sea in numerical


Marine Spatial Planning

is a recent development in Europe. It was officially accepted into European
legislation in 2014. This was when the European Parliament and the Council
adopted legislation to create a common framework for MSP in Europe Jason and
Lee (2015). Thus, besides the Netherlands other European countries are involved
in a similar exercise Andronikos (2017), making its implementation wholistic.


deployment requires a lot careful scientific planning. There are several
interests that have to be taken into consideration. It has political, economic
and social implications Michelle (2016); Kira et al. (2017); Wanfei and Peter
(2013).  There is the need for the
process to be well balanced using different approaches such as co-location and
multi-location Hauke et al. (2014). 


the Netherlands, MSP could be used to alter the current allocations of space
for marine activities. There is no doubt that all the present economic and
non-economic activities are important. However, with careful planning some more
space could be made available to support food production.  If the strategy of co-location is explored,
for example, the wind farms for energy generation could also be used for
macro-algae production after further research has proven that there are no adverse
health implications involved.






5.4 Why Marine Spatial Planning?

It addresses
the heterogeneity of marine ecosystems in a practical manner. MSP
recognizes that some activities will only occur in the sea Crowder and
Norse (2008), meaning that economic activity will (and can) only take
place where the resources are located, as for example, oil and gas
deposits, sand and gravel deposits, and areas of sustained winds or waves.
It focuses
on influencing the behaviour of humans and their activities in the sea.
Although goals and objectives for a certain area are usually set for both
ecosystem/natural processes and human activities, it is only the human
component of human activities and resource use that can be managed (not
the ecosystem itself), e.g., we are able to identify which fishing methods
to use at any particular part of the North Sea to ensure sustainable
highlights conflicts and compatibility issues among human uses present,
and therefore makes them tangible. Through the hypothetical mapping of
marine ecosystems using MSP, their characteristics, and human activities
affecting it, we can see where conflicts and addressed as is the case with
the North Sea at present.
MSP advocates a multi-sector management approach towards an integrative
decision making on the use of the North Sea. The development of marine
spatial plans for an entire region visualizes alternative scenarios drawn
from a specified set of sectoral objectives, which in turn can provide
guidance to a range of decision makers, each responsible for only a
particular sector or activity of the entire area (e.g. offshore developers
of wind farms will see what conflicts and compatibilities their management
plans will have with plans for the fisheries management)


Conclusion and Recommendations

literature review has looked at marine spatial planning as a strategy to
increase food production in the Dutch North Sea. It argued that the present
allocation of spatial spaces could be reviewed as an MSP strategy to make more
space available for food production. It identified the fact that seafood
production levels in the Netherlands are quite low and require boosting. This
is because huge opportunities exist for aquaculture and macro-algae production.
The country must therefore take advantage of its domestic policies on MSP as
well as that of the EU.

there is the need for trade-off of spaces Klein, et al. (2013) so that some of
the spaces currently being put to other uses can be converted into fish
production. In compliance with EU frameworks the areas reserved for conservation
may not be touched Peter et al (2016). 
However, the other parts of the available space could be added to the food
production sites. The areas for wind energy could also be zoned in such a way
that the subsea areas can be converted in to sites for the production of
macro-algae. Secondly,
there is the need for more investment in the production of macro-algae and the
creation of a value chain along the production lines. This is important because
presently, the levels of seaweeds production are rather low. Thirdly,
there is the need for more investment in the development of aquaculture. As
mentioned already, the production levels of aquaculture have been declining in
the last 20 years. In view of the high potential of this sector, there is the
need for more investments to scale up food production from the North Sea. Fourthly,
there is the need for public engagement on MSP as it relates to food production
(Jason and Lee 2015). Indeed, all stakeholders need education on the importance
of seafood and a possible co-location of its production with other uses of the
North Sea.