Grenadines Marine Resource Space-use Information System (MarSIS)

Published: 28 August 2015
Last edited: 28 March 2019
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The Grenadines MarSIS illustrates how a participatory geographic information system (PGIS) approach supported the development of demand-driven information on marine resources and spatial uses of the transboundary Grenada Bank. Stakeholder engagement not only increased understanding and provided useful and publicly accessible information, but also created ownership of information produced and validated the role of participation in research and governance.


Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Salt marsh
Coastal and marine spatial management
Ecosystem services
Legal & policy frameworks
Outreach & communications
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Other theme
sustainable tourism, maritime transport, infrastructure
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada | St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada


Access to information for marine spatial planning and management

  • A comprehensive strategy was essential to address complex social-ecological system problems and support an ecosystem approach to marine governance. This solution engaged a diverse range of stakeholders to obtain all available sources of information; increase stakeholder understanding; and promote ownership and use of information produced to support marine spatial planning and management.


National governments, Non-governmental organizations, Resource users, Communities and Schools

How do the building blocks interact?

Ecosystem-based management highlights the need for an effective participatory framework. In this transboundary solution, we illustrate how the application of a participatory GIS approach was successful in developing an information system containing a range of data (biophysical, social, fisheries, tourism, recreation, transportation) that could be easily accessed and understood by resource users, whilst also serving the needs of decision-makers. Participatory GIS provided a platform for transparent cross-scale communication, information exchange and problem-solving. The high level of stakeholder engagement necessary for successful participatory GIS not only provided useful information, but also created a strong sense of ownership in information produced, increased understanding within and between stakeholder groups, and validated the critical role of stakeholder participation in research and governance. Furthermore, the GIS framework and its integration with other freely available easy-to-use information technology applications has provided access to information for all stakeholders that will allow continued engagement, updating and use of information for marine planning and management.


  • Marine resource users have been exposed to the wide variety of issues affecting the marine environment and can take part in processes to address them.
  • Stakeholders have experienced a variety of communication and information sharing techniques that they continue to use.
  • Demand for spatial data and information has been increased as evidenced by: expansion of the study area to the main island of St. Vincent by the national government and use of the MSP to support a National Ocean Policy; use of the MarSIS by NGOs; and a joint transboundary marine World Heritage Site submission.


Kim Baldwin

Beyond the benefits identified in the solution, a participatory approach may also facilitate improved governance by building adaptive capacity and resilience. A participatory GIS approach resulted in a broader set of ecosystem-based information than could have been obtained from conventional science sources which has been actively used by diverse stakeholders since its public release. On the international level, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean used the MarSIS to quantify the economic value provided by reef ecosystem services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Subsequently, on the sub-regional level the MarSIS has been used to support: a transboundary marine multi-use zoning design for the Grenadines; a transboundary application to designate the Grenadine Islands as an UNESCO marine mixed World Heritage Site; and the Nature Conservancy’s ‘At the Water’s Edge: Coastal Resilience in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ project. Nationally, the planning departments of both countries regularly use the MarSIS to check the validity of environmental impact assessments submitted to the government. Locally, two NGOs have used the MarSIS to contest environmentally unsustainable coastal development projects to show the potential impacts of a dredging and sand reclamation project in Canouan, and to rally against a proposed freeport development in Carriacou. Additionally, Grenadine school teachers have developed environmental curricula based on the use of MarSIS in Google Earth. These examples substantiate the importance of connectivity for learning systems to empower stakeholders to participate in governance.

Contributed by

Kimberly Baldwin University of the West Indies

Other contributors

Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), of the University of the West Ind
Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) of the University of the West Indi
Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), of the University of the West Ind
Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), of the University of the West Ind