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Introducing the Marine Planning Trade-off Analysis (MaPTA) tool

Marine Planning Trade-off Analysis (MaPTA) is a low-tech, participatory tool designed to lead stakeholders step-by-step through a process to identify the trade-offs arising from management interventions. It will help you to assess and decide the extent to which trade-offs are acceptable, or unacceptable, to different stakeholders. It will also support you to identify response options to address potentially harmful and unacceptable outcomes.

Why is this important? 

While many programmes and policies often promise to benefit both people and planet, such win-wins can be elusive in reality. Interventions (e.g. policies, management actions, and new technologies) typically result in gains for some people, sectors, or ecosystems, but losses for others. The distribution of gains and losses are known as “trade-offs”.

The tool supports users in making decisions based on open dialogue and negotiation about potential trade-offs. It highlights synergies and co-benefits from interventions, and reveals negative, harmful, or unintended impacts arising from interventions, which can alienate partners and reduce levels of stakeholder support if left unaddressed. Assessing the acceptability of trade-offs can help to reveal the reasons why different groups may support or oppose the intervention. This in turn can help to improve the legitimacy of an intervention and prevent ecosystem features and stakeholders from becoming harmed and/or disenfranchised.

MaPTA aims to ensure that management interventions have more sustainable and equitable outcomes for the stakeholders and marine environments affected by them. 

How to access and use MaPTA

MaPTA is freely available to use. Facilitator instructions for implementing MaPTA offline or online can be downloaded here. 

The University of Exeter team that developed MaPTA would be delighted to hear from you to provide access to the online version of MaPTA, and support you to develop and adapt MaPTA for your needs. Contact Matt Fortnam at

What are the plans for MaPTA going forward?

MaPTA was developed during the GCRF Blue Communities programme, a four-year research capacity-building programme for marine planning in Southeast Asia, funded by the United Kingdom (UK) Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

MaPTA is now being further developed, adapted and piloted for use in UK marine planning in the SMMR Resilience of Coastal Communities (ROCC) project, under Research Theme 3 – Nexus Futures. Working with partners, we are identifying upcoming case study interventions in the UK (especially in the Southwest of England) to co-develop and pilot MaPTA. We would like to further develop MaPTA to better account for resilience to future changes and crises. Please get in touch with the ROCC team if you are interested in piloting MaPTA on your initiative or policy.