Irish Sea research holds the key to the future of the marine environment –

Irish Sea research holds the key to the future of the marine environment Fish Farming Today Published:  06 May, 2004

A PILOT project commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of a wide ranging review of marine nature conservation, has used the Irish Sea as a test area to examine how best to manage UK waters, in order to secure them the best possible future.

The report, produced by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), proposes that the large area of sea under UK jurisdiction, over three times its land area, should be managed as a number of ‘Regional Seas’.

It suggests that these regional seas should be defined on the basis of their biogeography and the use made of them by local communities. It also highlights the benefits for the sustainable management of these regional seas that could be achieved through improved international collaboration.

Published this month, the report makes 64 recommendations for consideration by the Government’s Review of Marine Nature Conservation. New legislation and governance designed specifically for the needs of the marine environment are suggested to improve the planning, regulation and enforcement of activities that impact nature conservation at sea. An important recommendation for action in the report is that a trial of marine spatial planning, (a marine equivalent of the land based town and country planning system) would be valuable. Marine spatial planning could help provide society with a better system for deciding where marine activities (such as recreation, fishing and wildlife watching) should take place, and where developments (such as wind farms, ports and shipping) should be located.

The report recommends other changes such as improved protection for threatened species and habitats, the environmental assessment of fishing activities and research to establish the potential environmental and economic benefits of setting up ecologically coherent networks of marine protected areas. All these recommendations are designed to put in place a strategy for the integrated management of the marine environment that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

Dr Malcolm Vincent, Irish Sea Pilot Director, commented: “Hundreds of stakeholders have contributed to the publication of this report which for the first time provides a route map for managing large areas of sea in a way which contributes to the nation’s prosperity and sustains its rich biodiversity for future generations”.