On Friday, I had the pleasure of organising a workshop and boat trip between the RSPB, other NGOs, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), based around the links between emerging marine plans and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
The MSFD has a legal obligation for the Government to make sure our seas are healthy and under minimal pressure from human activity. And marine plans are a key tool to achieve this, making sure that biodiversity is protected and human use takes place in the right place and time.
So, are the marine plans coming out of the UK so far contributing to meeting this MSFD aim? That’s the question that Wildlife and Countryside Link set out to answer in a new RSPB co-funded report, Effective Marine Planning – Delivery of Good Environmental Status by 2020. The answer so far could be summed up as "not yet". In fact, the report concludes that the first marine plans are actually in danger of hindering the aims of the MSFD, rather than supporting it. It also provides a number of recommendations of how to address this, including specific plan policies to enhance biodiversity, safeguard non-protected habitats and species, and a clearer application of the precautionary approach.
It was great to discuss these and the rest of the report's conclusions with the MMO, who are currently preparing the marine plans for the part of the English Channel between Devon and Dover. What’s more, there are signs that the new South England plans will hopefully be a real improvement on the first East England marine plans. I’m looking forward to seeing them when they come out for consultation in the near future.
Finally, we got the chance to see some of the beautiful East Devon Jurassic Coast by boat, including the kittiwake colony at Budleigh (below left in the grainy photo!). While kittiwakes in other parts of the UK (especially Scotland) are in decline, this colony is doing relatively well, and is one of the most important colonies on the south coast of England. They sit on a headland next to land owned by the Ministry of Defence, with caravan parks on both sides, kayakers on the water and a small local potting fleet, showing that biodiversity can coexist with human activity if they are not having an impact on the birds or their prey.
It was a great day and one we’ll repeat soon, I’m sure!
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