Call for Expressions of Interest:

Develop ASCOBANS guidelines for cetacean-friendly Marine Spatial Planning

Closing date: 4 October 2022


The ASCOBANS Secretariat is welcoming Expressions of Interest (EOI) from organisations or individuals to develop guidelines for cetacean-friendly Marine Spatial Planning for the ASCOBANS region.      


All ASCOBANS Parties are applying Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in their national waters (coastal zones and/or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)), albeit with different levels of experience and development. The majority of Parties have finalised their first MSP in line with EU Directive 2014/89/EU on establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, which includes a legal requirement to develop national MSPs by March 2021. Germany’s 2nd MSP came into force in 2021 and the Netherlands are now in their 3rd MSP cycle, which is running from 2022-2027 (in alignment with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)).

MSP is a tool for marine zonation, which ultimately aims for coexistence of human activities and sustainability within a healthy and resilient marine ecosystem. It can be defined as “A public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that have been specified through a political process. Characteristics of marine spatial planning include ecosystem-based, area-based, integrated, adaptive, strategic and participatory.” (UNESCO 2009[1]). 

MSP is one of the focal areas in terms of pressures and threats to cetaceans within the ASCOBANS work programme and national reporting framework[2]. MSP is discussed and reviewed in a four-year cycle, in line with national reports. In the ASCOBANS context MSP is closely associated with cumulative impacts and managing these. In 2021 the 26th Meeting of the Advisory Council (AC26) discussed MSP, reviewed progress made within Parties and agreed action points to further advance the issue[3]. During the discussions it became clear that there was insufficient guidance available for applying the ecosystem-based approach in MSP with regards to cetaceans. Only few Parties had made a potential link to underwater noise in their MSP, for example, and only in the German MSP were there specific spatial and temporal management measures for the harbour porpoise. One of the Action Points agreed at AC26 was therefore to prepare guidelines for cetacean-friendly MSP, with the aim to adopt these at the 10th Meeting of Parties in the context of a Resolution on the ecosystem-based approach. Such guidelines could then contribute to MSP processes more consciously incorporating measures to benefit the conservation status of ASCOBANS cetaceans, such as explicitly including underwater noise, managing collision risk, disturbance and ecological connectivity. Synergies between different legal and policy instruments could furthermore be strengthened. A working group was set up to oversee and support this process. 

Aims of the contract

Building on discussions from ASCOBANS AC26 regarding MSP, taking into account available assessments of national MSPs and relevant scientific literature, and in close consultation with the Members of the intersessional Working Group and the ASCOBANS Secretariat, draft guidelines for cetacean-friendly Marine Spatial Planning for the ASCOBANS species and region. A technical workshop is potentially foreseen as part of the review process.      

The ultimate task will be undertaken in two phases. The initial contract will be for Phase 1 (due to budget constraints).

Specific tasks and responsibilities

The scope of the work will include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following tasks:

Phase 1:

a) Produce an overview of potentially suitable measures which are included in national and international marine spatial plans today, which benefit the conservation status of cetaceans (given the presumed very low number of such measures, a global focus should be taken and potentially other relevant aquatic species with similar needs and sensitivities to cetaceans should be included in the assessment);

b) Consult with both MSP and cetacean experts throughout the development of the first draft of the guidelines to ensure interdisciplinary balance and cross-fertilisation;

c) Based on a review of relevant scientific and grey literature, as well as available guidance for applying the ecosystem-based approach in MSP, draft ASCOBANS guidelines for cetacean-friendly MSP, including but not restricted to the following aspects (each including draft MSP measures):

  • MSP as a means to effectively manage underwater noise
  • Threats and pressures such as fisheries[4], shipping, offshore wind, cables, pipelines, other grid-related infrastructure, natural resource extraction including sand and gravel, other sediment management, exploitation for oil/gas, naval/military operations, unexploded ordnance, tourism, research
  • MSP as a means to strengthen ecological connectivity and other aspects in order to ultimately strengthen the capacity of cetacean populations to adapt to climate change
  • Role of MPAs
  • Multi-use outside of MPAs
  • Spatial mapping aspects such as buffer zones, species-specific reservation areas
  • Temporal mapping taking into account reproductive cycle and seasonal presence
  • Compensation measures for the benefit of cetaceans, which might be applied in the MSP context (e.g. as a result of offshore wind construction)

Phase 2:

d) Lead an online review process, potentially culminating in an online workshop.Include key MSP and cetacean experts, as well as the intersessional Working Group and the ASCOBANS Secretariat.

e) Finalise the draft guidelines.


Phase 1: The draft should be submitted to the ASCOBANS Secretariat by 10 March 2023.

Phase 2: Delivery of the second draft 40 days before  the 28th Meeting of the Advisory Committee (AC28 - expected to take place in Q3 or Q4 of 2023).       

Required Profile and Qualifications

The ASCOBANS Secretariat welcomes EOIs from organisations or individuals with substantive proven experience and capacity to provide the required output as described above. In particular, the organization or individual should:

  • Have proven expertise in producing strategic documents for policy makers;
  • Have proven knowledge of Marine Spatial Planning and small cetacean conservation issues, in particular be deeply familiar with the gaps in applying the ecosystem-based approach to MSP;
  • Have a good understanding of the mandates and work of ASCOBANS;
  • Have excellent communication skills in English.                     

Estimated Duration

Phase 1: approximately 4-5 months part time. Phase 2: approximately 6 months part time.     


The ASCOBANS Secretariat is looking forward to receiving EOIs by 4 October 2022, 12:00 noon CEST.  Please include a brief technical proposal (max. 2 pages), a financial offer, and the relevant CV(s). Please send your EOI to the ASCOBANS Secretariat by email:


[1] Ehler, C. & Douvere, F. (2009) Marine Spatial Planning: a step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Man and the Biosphere Programme. IOC Manual and Guides No. 53, ICAM Dossier No.6. Paris: UNESCO    

[4] Taking into account but not being restricted by the Common Fisheries Policy



An internship at the ASCOBANS Secretariat provides a good opportunity to gain experience in a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary environment, as well as in the day-to-day functioning of an Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) Secretariat.

The ASCOBANS Secretariat offers interships to qualified university graduates or students, enrolled in a tertiary course of study, interested in gaining experience in the areas of:

  • Biology
  • Environmental and political sciences
  • Law
  • International studies
  • Any other area related to the work of the Secretariat

Internship - Areas of Work

Interns are supervised by the ASCOBANS Coordinator, supporting her with particular tasks. Some examples are:

  • Assistance with preparations and servicing ASCOBANS meetings or workshops
  • Research in preparation for reports, documents or publications
  • Assistance with outreach and education, incl. the annual International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise (IDBHP)
  • Dealing with website content
  • Other support to the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat

Internship – Facts

Depending on places available, the ASCOBANS Secretariat offers internships for a period of 3 – 6 months, beginning at any time. The Secretariat is located at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany.

Internships are not remunerated – all expenses must be covered by the intern or a sponsoring Government or institution. Written confirmation of enrolment in an appropriate health insurance scheme and in an university must be provided in advance.

Internship – Requirements and Application Procedure

Students should:

  • Be enrolled in the final academic year of a first university degree programme (minimum Bachelor’ s level or equivalent), or be enrolled in a graduate school programme (second university degree or equivalent  or higher), or have graduated with an university degree (as defined above) and, if selected, must commence the internship within a one-year period of graduation
  • The working language of the Secretariat is English; full ability to work in English (written and spoken) is required. Knowledge of further languages spoken in the Agreement Area is an asset
  • Interns should have standard computer skills (Microsoft Office)
  • Interns need to agree with the scope of tasks before the start of the internship

Internships at the ASCOBANS Secretariat are advertised at the UN Careers Portal. Interested candidates can also find further information about internships at the UN Environment Program website

For further information contact the ASCOBANS Secretariat at