Ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning approach in the Shetland Islands

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 2/23/2017 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan (SIMSP) guides marine use and activities in the coastal waters of the Shetland archipelago (NAFC Marine Centre 2015). These islands are located approximately 160 km from Scotland and represent 10% of Scotland’s coastline at 2,702 km. The SIMSP area includes all territorial waters seaward of the mean high water of the spring tide out to 12 nautical miles and coastal habitats and processes that are affected by marine use (e.g., dunes, salt marshes). The key marine activities identified in the plan are oil and gas, commercial fishing, aquaculture, renewable energy, and tourism and recreation. The SIMSP was designed to be complementary with the Shetland Local Development Plan (LDP), which guides development and activities in the coastal zone of the region. The Shetland Islands’ Council intentionally created a planning and policy framework to integrate marine and terrestrial planning by aligning the SIMSP with the LDP; as such, developers and users must consider potential impacts on both the marine and terrestrial environments in any proposals. 

The SIMSP is an ecosystem-based management framework that requires all new and modified developments to address climate change impacts through mitigation and adaptation measures. With respect to mitigation (Policy MSP CLIM1), marine-related developments and uses are required to demonstrate that resource and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions have been both assessed and minimized as part of the proposal. Examples include using energy efficient construction and use of renewable energy. In terms of adaptation (Policy MSP CLIM2), proposals for marine development must demonstrate that climate change projections have been incorporated and impacts minimized. The plan requires that the Council and other authorities consider the impact of any proposed development on climate change.


Gregg, R.M. 2017. Ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning approach in the Shetland Islands. Summary of a project of the North Atlantic Fisheries College Marine Centre. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated February 2017)

Project Contact

Affiliated Organizations

The NAFC Marine Centre is an educational and scientific institute, located in Shetland. The Centre delivers training and education, carries our research and development, and provides consultancy, advisory and other services for the maritime industries. The Centre is operated by a charitable trust (the Shetland Fisheries Training Centre Trust) and employs about 40 people.


Scale of Project
Habitat/Biome Type