Challenges at Coastal Conference

Wide ranging, thought provoking and at times provocative, the thirty plus multi-disciplinary presentations at the conference – ranging from fishing, sea bed users to health and well being from the coast – gave the two SPS delegates a great deal to think about during the conference and subsequently to consider the implications for the Solent.

A number of threads emerged during the presentations –

* collaboration was better than confrontation;

* all marine users could contribute to building up our knowledge of the sea, for example by deploying low cost technology attached to vessels already operating for a different purpose There has never been more interest or activity on marine protection than there is at present. But major problems remain in communicating the issues to the general public and engaging their support.

The issues considered, which particularly impact the Solent, were :-

Marine Act implementation

* Marine Planning in the South. Lessons learnt from the East Inshore and Offshore Plans + a timeline for Marine Planning in the South

* Solent Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) sites are to be designated in later tranches.

* The need for the clarification of policy issues concerning the situation regarding Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) which are not being designated in the first tranche

* Gaps in Habitat and Species Data.

* The re-assessment of all Reference Areas

* Policy and practical suggestions regarding future management and regulation of designated MCZs – which will affect Solent sites when they are designated.

* The need for a timeline for future tranches of MCZ designations.

Future developments

* The impact of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and a newly proposed Integrated Coastal Zone Management (IZCM) Directive and the co-ordination of their implementation.

* Ecosystem services –this concept is changing the way the value of environmentally protected areas, whether terrestrial or marine is assessed. * Ideas regarding future management and regulation of designated MCZs, policy and practical suggestions management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and issues of Cumulative Effects damaging the marine environment Commercial exploitation matters

* Fisheries – arguments on all sides regarding new MPAs, and frustration at the time taken to renegotiate the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

* Seabed User Industry. – concerns as to uncertainty surrounding the regulation and management of MPAs, and issues of Cumulative Effects damaging the marine environment.

The final lively discussion brought out strong feelings about recent legislation

* Natural England declared their intention to improve the quality of the science underpinning the MCZs and MPAs while having to cope with budget cuts and policy change

* Some of the fishing community were worried about the impact of the new MPA management regime, while others expressed a commitment to a collaborative approach to achieving a sustainable fishery

* The Wildlife Trusts are concerned about the slow pace of marine protection

* Industries that rely on using the seabed (aggregates, windfarms, undersea cables) asserted that delays in the MPA and MCZ regime implementation were adversely affecting investment decisions and introducing unwelcome uncertainty..

Follow up

There is so much that needs careful thought by the Council of Solent Protection Society to reach a settled view. Your views will help us, so please comment below, or email us (see the SPS website for details)

This was the 20th Annual Coastal Futures conference organised by Bob Earll in London. It remains a key meeting place for environmentalists, government agencies and departments, industry, academics and students.

As soon as possible we will publish further comment on these issues. We will try to explain the complex issues in plain language

Once our new website is available, we can attempt more extensive comment. There will also be a members only area where the issues are debated.