Globally, coastal areas are subject to an increase in competing activities. Coastal fisheries and aquaculture are highly dependent on availability and accessibility of appropriate sites. Aquaculture production is increasing, whereas fisheries are at best stagnant. Coastal activities also include activities such as recreation, tourism, facilities for renewable energy production, all of which are expected to increase in importance. There is also increasing focus on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Thus, competition for available sites will probably increase, emphasizing the need for Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and improved management tools supporting policies for space allocation along the entire European coastline. Successful MSP is not likely to be achieved without a certain level of conflict, and without iterative adaptations in management actions. MSP is viewed an essential part of advancing ecosystem‐based management as demanded by the Marine Strategy Directive. The biological interconnectedness of fisheries and aquaculture is strong, with factors such as competition for space, disease transmission, genetic impact from escapees, availability of food for cultured finfish, and organic and inorganic waste management. Furthermore, the public perception of aquaculture in Europe and North America may be characterized by the view of aquaculture being a “new” and “unnatural” activity, whereas fisheries are viewed as “traditional” and “natural”. However, in an ecosystem‐based management context, both industries represent human activities strongly influencing, and influenced by, the environment. Management of aquaculture and fisheries, as well as other uses of the coastal zone, should be considered integral parts with local variations in their respective importance.