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Managing competition for marine space using the tools of planning
Professor Angela D. Hull
School of the Built Environment
Heriot-Watt University
EH13 4AS
Tel: O131 451 4407
Managing competition for marine space using the tools of planning
This article engages with the new and complex problem of managing the competition for
marine space and the institutional work of establishing a set of governance structures to
converge with existing terrestrial and marine multi-level institutions with their overlapping
spatial and sector based priorities. The structures being put in place are designed to
anticipate potential conflicts amongst marine users whilst ensuring that the assets owned in
common can be sustained for future generations. The article draws on the substantial body
of work on the efficacy of terrestrial planning and governance tools and the international
literature on marine management, and provides both new empirical material from
interviews with key actors and textual analysis of the concepts in use as the governments in
the United Kingdom interpret the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive to balance the
conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Specifically this article reviews the
progress towards the spatial management of marine resources and finds there has been
considerable collaboration to share datasets and to scope the possible conflicts in marine
planning zones but that, in most cases, the difficult work of sharing understanding of these
conflicts and partnership working to find resolutions has yet to start.
New structures are being put in place to coordinate the planning of marine activities. There
are several drivers behind this process. Firstly, the European Parliament adopted an
Integrated Maritime Policy (European Parliament, 2007) in 2007 and then issued a Roadmap
for Maritime Spatial Planning (European Commission, 2008) in 2008 to ensure a common
approach to maritime economic development amongst Member States. Secondly, the EU
issued the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) (European Parliament, 2008), which
sets a timetable for Member States to achieve and maintain “good environmental status” of
EU marine waters by 2020. Thirdly, the growing demands of the “wet” renewables industry
for seabed rights and coastal connections have added pressure to an already dynamic,
three-dimensional space. In response to these industry pressures and legal requirements,
Member States are testing out new management structures to comply with the European
Union’s aim to promote the sustainable management of marine and coastal areas and the
conservation of marine ecosystems.
This paper compares the emerging forms of marine governance in the United Kingdom using
a sociological institutionalist approach to develop an understanding of the policy drivers and
distribution of power embedded in the agenda setting, design of new institutions and
decision making procedures (Vigar et al, 2000). Data have principally been sourced from
policy documents, from a stakeholder workshop held in Inverness in February 2011 (Johnson
et al, 2011) and eleven interviews carried out in a 14 month period starting from the end of
2009. Rhetorical analysis is employed to tease out the policy intent, the assumptions
concerning priorities, the importance of different forms of knowledge and conceptions of
what good governance of marine space might mean. The findings are compared with
published research in other national contexts.
The paper is structured in the following way: Following this introduction, the first section
summarises the claims for space by different marine uses and introduces some of the key
stakeholders in marine planning, and the second section uses the policy documentation to
examine the emerging principles and structures of marine governance in the United
Kingdom. Specific attention is given in the second section to governance interventions at the
different spatial levels in Scottish marine planning to allow representation of the mainly
Scottish interviews that have been undertaken. Where Scottish practice diverges from the
rest of the UK this is noted. The third section focuses on the work the marine spatial plan
(MSP) purports to achieve and the principles and criteria proposed to resolve place-based
conflicts drawing on the work of the pilot MSPs. The final sections discuss the key findings
that have emerged from the research on how the institutional structures are being shaped,
the data requirements, and the engagement and building of trust.
Competition for marine space
The interactions between marine users are becoming more complex as the marine
renewable industry prepares for commercial project development of wave and tidal stream
machines as well as offshore windfarms. The MSFD and the UK Government’s Marine Policy
Statement (HM Government, 2011) refer to the increasing demand for use of the seas and
the need to manage these competing demands taking an “eco-system based approach”. As
an example of the scale of the claims for space and the possible conflicts of interest, Table 1
shows 30 marine users or sectors identified as having a claim on Scottish marine space. Since
the prime policy focus in Scotland is to achieve “sustainable economic growth” (The Scottish
Government, 2010) data have been collected to show each sector’s value to the Scottish
economy, where possible, using direct turnover, gross value added and infrastructure
replacement cost in 2007-08. The data are incomplete and mainly based on estimated
economic benefits. (Forum for Renewable Development in Scotland, 2009; Osborne, 2010;
Saunders et al, 2010). Renewable Energy is expected to grow in value to the Scottish
economy as companies take up the substantial government subsidies for marine
Many of the sectors in Table 1 already have established rights of use or exploitation of the
marine environment set within existing agreements. For example, specific agreements
cover commercial fisheries (EU Common Fisheries Policy), navigational channels and routes
for shipping (International Maritime Organisation (IMO)), and nature conservation interests
(EU Natura 2000 strategy, EU Birds & Habitats Directives, UK legislation) In addition, several
sectors such as Aggregates, Aquaculture, Energy developments, Oil and Gas, and
Telecommunication cables are regulated through specific UK legislation. There are also
ownership rights and authoritative rights to issue licences or to restrict activities. In the UK
the Crown Estate Commissioners own the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial
limit and hold the development rights of 80% of the seabed (territorial waters and the UK
Continental Shelf). The Crown Estate also own around half the UK foreshore between the
high (HWM) and low water mark (LWM. The remaining seabed and coastal areas are under
the authority of the UK and Scottish Governments. The other major player is the Ministry of
Defence with the power to regulate sea areas and restrict their use either temporarily or
permanently by making byelaws under nineteenth century legislation and the Land Powers
Defence Act 1958.
The table shows that the marine governance task is complex one involving multiple
institutions and stakeholders. The task of developing a common agenda amongst these
competing interests in a democratic society involves a huge collaborative effort. Several
deficiencies in the existing sector management frameworks are noted in the literature and
the interviews:
They consider activities in “isolation” (Halpern et al, 2008).
Often they are “piecemeal” or on a small spatial scale covering either individual
species or habitats (Scott, 2010; Hull, 2010).
Management practices are difficult to enforce because of a lack of defined
ownership rights and/or lack of compensation procedures and/ or hidden or
complex licensing systems (DEFRA, 2011a; Hull, 2010).
They address the near shore zone (within the 3nm covered by the Water Framework
Directivei) but not the offshore zone (interview) .
The dominance of the mental concept of the “open sea” (interview).
The pertinent question is whether a spatial, or multi-sector, management approach to the
marine space can deliver a more comprehensive and coordinated management plan that
anticipates and resolves conflicts amongst the many potential users of the sea-space
according to the principles of securing “sustainable economic growth” and “good
environmental status” of national, and European, territorial waters.
Governance tools for Marine Planning
Governance tools encompass legal rules and responsibilities, financial tools, decision making
structures and processes, agreed benchmarks and criteria, and guidance. According to Vigar
et al (2000) effective governance requires (i) clarity about legal responsibilities and required
outcomes; (ii) financial resources aligned with policy goals; (iii) wide participation of
stakeholders to give the decision making process authority. Ostrom & Ahn’s (2003) research
identifies that decision making structures allocate roles and authority to certain
stakeholders. Governance tools, therefore, can be used to cajole as well as to advantage
The MSFD provides clarity to Member States in terms of timeframe and objectives. By 2020,
they should have Marine Strategies and other management measures in place to achieve
good environmental status in the marine environment. This should include:
by 2012 an assessment of the state of territorial waters including the
characterisation of what “good environmental status” (GES) means and setting
targets to achieve this;
by 2014 the development of monitoring programmes to assess progress towards
GES; and
by 2016 the implementation of programmes developed to achieve GES by 2020.
The MSFD identified broad descriptors of GES for Member States to use as a basis for their
more detailed characterisation of GES (HM Governments, 2011: 17). These are listed below
in Table 2.
Member States are implementing the MSFD by establishing an institutional architecture
which includes the following governance tools (European Commission, 2005):
national legislation on marine spatial planning requiring collaboration by key
government agencies
establishment of a dedicated responsible organisation
joint agreements on marine objectives with neighbouring governments
a plan-making process
a system and process of marine spatial management
implementation, monitoring and data collection activities
Member States that already have the capability to comprehensively manage their marine
space, or have few maritime obligations, are using their existing structures to implement the
MSFD (European Commission, 2008). Table 3 shows how complex the vertical nested
structure for marine governance has become. The UK marine governance framework sits
within existing international and EU legal directives that set the broad scope of the marine
planning agenda by steering attention to certain forms of knowledge and institution.
National level actors then interpret and re-interpret the agenda placing particular emphasis
on some aspects through setting new requirements within national priorities and through
defined action programmes.
The UK Government has enacted the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to ensure
common principles for marine spatial planning among the devolved governments of the UK.
Whilst Table 3 shows these include the creation of marine plans and powers to designate
zones for rare, threatened and representative habitats and species, Scotland has a separate
marine management organisation and is setting out its own approach to the streamlining of
licence requirements for marine development, and the “modernisation” of enforcement
powers. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 is nested within, and integrated with, the UK Marine
and Coastal Access Act 2009. Up to 12 nm (the inshore region) Scotland has a legally separate
responsibility for marine management, although this does not include powers over navigation,
oil or gas, reserved for the UK government. Marine planning in Scotland has to deliver the UK
Marine Policy Statement (HM Governments, 2011). In exchange, Scotland has executive
responsibility for marine planning, including wave and wind power, for fishing and for marine
conservation, from 12 out to 200 nm (the offshore region) abiding with international and EU
laws (See Table 3).
Dominant in the UK governance structure are the two marine management organisations,
both of which have taken over the existing Marine and Fisheries responsibilities. The Marine
Management Organisation set up in 2010 in England and Wales is a stand alone public body
responsible for producing the regional marine spatial plans, the lowest level of nested planmaking proposed. Marine regions for planning purposes have been identified for England
and Wales, and for Scotland. In contrast, Marine Scotland was established in April 2009 as a
Scottish Government directorate and has published a National Marine Plan (2011)
consultation document (The Scottish Government, 2011a), as part of the process of gaining
consensus on the National Marine Objectives. In Scotland, regional marine spatial
management will be presided over by Marine Planning Partnerships composed of a Board
appointed by the Scottish Government. On behalf of Marine Scotland, they will oversee the
production of the regional marine spatial plans, which will deliver the national priorities for
marine space whilst being attuned to the management of specific local issues.
Parallel with the development of these governance processes has been the scientific
assessment of the state of the territorial waters required by 2012 MSFD timeline led by the
Joint Nature Conservation Committeeii (JNCC) and devolved government environmental
agencies. The prime work here has been the characterisation of “good environmental
status” and agreeing guidelines for the selection of marine protected areas. Known as
marine conservations zones (MCZ) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland proposals for a
further 127 MCZs have been identified for consideration by the JNCC and the UK
government through a regional process of discussion organised through 4 MCZ projectsiii
covering the England and Wales inshore and offshore areas (DEFRA, 2011b). This has been
an expert-led process working with representatives of sea user and interest groups from
2009 to 2011. Currently there is an impasse with the JNCC-appointed Scientific Advisory
Panel, and several user groupsiv, questioning the scientific evidence base for these
recommendations (DEFRA, 2011b; Kelly, 2012; Plymouth Herald, 2012). The government
minister for the environment stated that “It is important that we get this right. It is vital
that we have an adequate evidence base for every site if we are to create successful wellmanaged MCZs. An adequately robust evidence base will be essential when we come to
implement management measures” (DEFRA, 2011b).
A similar process has been carried out in Scotland through a partnership of government
bodies (Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland) in collaboration with
Marine Scotland Science and the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The work has
focused mainly on specifying new nature marine conservation areas (MCAs) but also
identifying demonstration and research, and historic, marine conservation areas for
consideration by the Scottish Government. Proposals supported by Scottish Ministers are
subject to a 12 week consultation period. Interestingly, the Scottish legislation encourages
third parties, and community groups, to submit proposals for MCAs too. Engagement has
mainly been organised by Marine Scotland, focussing in 2011 on collecting data, raising
awareness and consulting on the processes for selecting MCAs (Marine Scotland, 2011).
Since the marine planning structures are still evolving it is not clear which of the marine
objectives will be given primacy e.g. facilitating new development; securing eco-system based
management; protecting interests of established rights of exploitation; etc. Central to the
effectiveness of regional marine plans will be clear and consistent principles on both process
and substantive outcomes that define the sustainability principles and how to measure “good
environmental status”. Research by ABP MER (2010) identified four different marine
management outcome models which embody different concepts of partnership. In Figure 1
below Model 1 is a ‘top-down’ single marine management plan whilst Model 2 presents a set
of nested marine plans that can incorporate local objectives. Models 3 and 4 build on this local
dialogue (and consensus) to establish marine activity zones to manage competing activities,
which includes in Model 4 the active management of protected areas within the marine planmaking and spatial management processes rather than being a separate government process.
The Scottish Government have piloted Models 3 and 4 to test out different management
strategies in the Shetlands and the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters through non-statutory
marine spatial plans. Institutional tools have allowed an integrated approach to develop in
Orkney and Shetland where legislation dating from 1974 has given the local authorities
works licensing powers extending over inshore waters allowing them to integrate the
landward and seaward connections between activities such as fish farming. The strengths
and weaknesses of this bottom-up approach are discussed later in this article.
Marine spatial management decision support tools
Marine spatial planning across Europe is using and adapting existing terrestrial planning
tools and sustainable development concepts to inform the dimensions/ scope of the
conceptualisation of the “sustainable use of the sea”. The terrestrial planning tools include:
data collection and studies with stakeholders
mapping and protection of resources (e.g. Natura 2000 sites; marine nature
reserves; priority marine features)
site planning and long term management plans
production of a spatial plan with indicative or prescriptive “use-class” allocations
registrations, permits, licences and seasonal closures and their monitoring
industry Codes of Practice
mitigation measures, compensation and incentives
As mentioned earlier, sustainable development in UK policy has a strong economic
development focus and, thus, when applied to marine space government policy aims to
facilitate sustainable economic development, a low carbon economy, a sustainable marine
environment, and the sustainable use of marine resources (HM Governments, 2011: 3).
The next section will examine how these tools are being used in the UK case study to
establish shared meanings of the key marine management concepts and inform government
policies. This section undertakes a textual analysis of how two concepts given prominence in
the MSFD – “good environmental status” and “ecosystem based management” – are being
translated into UK policy.
Good environmental status
GES is the benchmark for the “sustainable use of the sea” since the maintenance of
GES of the marine seas is essential for many economic activities as well as for marine
ecology as characterised in Table 2 above. European coastal nations have already
collaborated on establishing a network of marine protected areas in areas beyond their
national jurisdictions through the OSPAR Conventionv (Ardron, 2008; Molenaar and Oude
Elferinck, 2009). As part of the delivery of the MSFD, the UK government has been collecting
evidence from scientists on the priority marine features (species and habitats) that could
form a network of ecologically coherent marine protected areas in UK waters. The network
will consist of the Natura 2000 sites, designated under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives
(2009/147/EC; 92/43/EEC respectively), new designations under the Marine Act 2009 and
other designated sites (e.g. Ramsar sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest in estuarine
and coastal waters). These designations currently cover just over 3% of UK waters (HM
Governments, 2011). Several problems have been identified in using zoning as a tool to
protect mobile species such as seabirds, fish and marine mammals (Agardy et al, 2011; Ban
et al, 2010; Scott, 2010; Solandt, 2010). Table 4 lists the problems noted in the academic
GES will be achieved through the integrated management of a connected network of marine
protected areas which will be agreed following the process of engagement with scientists
and sea user groups. This process has relied on existing science and data to secure species
and habitat protection (HM Government, 2012; Gormley et al, forthcoming). The
connectivity of MPAs, particularly between coastal and offshore locations, is crucial to
maintaining populations of mobile species. Under the EU’s Water Framework Directive
(WFD), Member States have to achieve “good ecological status”, or the potential for this, in
estuaries and coastal waters by 2015. This requirement covers the biological quality
elements of benthic invertebrates, macroalgae, angiosperms, phytoplankton and transitional
water fish (HM Governments, 2011:17). The Marine Policy Statement only applies to GES
issues not covered by WFD such as the impacts of marine noise and litter and specific
environmental protection and improvement measures. The recent MPA consultation
document (HM Government, 2012) considers that biodiversity and sea-floor integrity GES
will be achieved through the other 9 descriptors (Table 2) or by adherence to existing targets
set under pre-existing legislation.
Ecosystem based management
The MSFD and the Marine Policy Statement endorse an “ecosystem (based) approach” to
marine management. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity promoted this integrated
approach to managing the various human activities which impact on ecological ecosystems
(Flannery and Ó Cinnéide, 2012). It provides a framework for assessing biodiversity and
ecosystem services, ensuring the maintenance and restoration of this suite of benefits, and
is indispensable for delivering the MSFD requirement to achieve or maintain GES of all
marine areas by 2020.
The UK Marine Policy Statement published in 2011 translates the MSFD’s intentions for
ecosystem-based management as ensuring that the “collective pressure of human activities
[..] does not compromise the capacity of marine ecosystems to respond to human-induced
changes; and that enables the sustainable use of marine goods and services” (HM
Governments, 2011:4). In line with this interpretation, 21 aspirational high level marine
objectives or outcomes (HLMO) are presented containing environmental, social, economic
and governance objectives. GES is promoted by the three environmental objectives and two
complementary governance objectives. These are:
‘Biodiversity is protected, conserved and where appropriate recovered and loss has
been halted (HLMO 11)
Healthy marine and coastal habitats occur across their natural range and are able to
support, strong and biodiverse biological communities and the functioning of
healthy, resilient and adaptive marine ecosystems (HLMO 12)
Our oceans support viable populations of representative, rare, vulnerable , and
valued species (HLMO 13)
The use of the marine environment is spatially planned and based on an ecosystem
approach which takes account of climate change and recognizes the protection
needs of individual historic assets. (HLMO 18)’
The precautionary principle is applied consistently in accordance with the UK
Government and Devolved Administrations’ sustainable development policy. (HLMO
21) (HM Government, 2011: 11-12).
The scientific process organised by the JNCC will establish ‘bottom line’ targets and
measures for marine plan authorities to implement to ensure that human activities do not
further deplete and damage ecological ecosystems. Marine plan authorities ‘should be
mindful that […..] the UK aims to ensure:
A halting and, if possible, a reversal of biodiversity loss with species and habitats
operating as a part of healthy, functioning ecosystems; and
The general acceptance of biodiversity’s essential role in enhancing the quality of
life, with its conservation becoming a natural consideration in all relevant public,
private and nongovernmental decisions and policies’ (HM Governments, 2011: 18).
The Marine Management Organisation in England and Marine Scotland have since their
establishment been focused on collecting data on the socio-economic interests and marine
features in their jurisdictions. They are tasked with taking a “precautionary and risk-based
approach” to addressing the impacts of climate change and to the impacts of human
activities on other valued interests, including ecological ecosystems and other legitimate
uses of the sea (HM Government, 2011). In the absence of scientific data on marine ecology
and ecosystem security, the UK governments have accepted a pragmatic approach of
“adaptive management” working with volunteers from the fishing and renewable energy
industries to understand marine stressors and to adapt management approaches
accordingly. This is reported as leading to confusion over who will develop and regulate the
spatial management measures and how co-location of uses will be determined (Marsden,
2011. Scottish interviews highlight the importance of a “deploy and monitor” approach to the
development of marine renewables so that the quantification of human impacts can be
The UK Marine Policy Statement sets clear priorities for, and expectations of, marine plan
authorities. The main priorities are (ibid: 11-12):
Achieving a sustainable marine economy
Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society
Living within environmental limits
Promoting good governance
Using sound science responsibly
There are 149 statements that refer to factors that should be taken into account in the
process of decision-making (‘should have regard to’; ‘should consider’; ‘should take account
of’) or stakeholders who should be consulted (‘should engage with/ consult’).
Certain ‘should achieve’ statements identify the HM Governments’ outcome priorities for
the development of the marine environment. These are listed in the left hand column of
Table 5. The table also shows how these priorities are reflected in the consultation draft
marine plans for Scotland and the Shetlands, which are discussed in the next section. The
priorities are not ranked in anyway and are presented in the order in which they appear in
the Marine Policy Statement. The MPS has a presumption in favour of sustainable
development in the marine environment through the promotion of economic growth and
renewable energy, which maintains the supply of marine aggregates, and protects the
interests of the Ministry of Defence, designated heritage interests, water quality and nature
conservation interests and where growth is shared with coastal communities.
There are also certain interests the Marine Policy Statement seeks to protect from the
impacts from other human activities. These include:
‘As a general principle, development should aim to avoid harm to marine ecology,
biodiversity and geological conservation interests [...], including through location,
mitigation and consideration of reasonable alternatives. Where significant harm
cannot be avoided, then appropriate compensatory measures should be sought.
Additional requirements apply in relation to developments affecting Natura 2000
sites.’ (ibid:18)
‘Marine plan authorities [...] should [...] seek to minimise any negative impacts on
shipping activity, freedom of navigation and navigational safety ‘ (ibid: 37)
‘A marine licence or other regulatory approval to dredge should only be issued if the
decision maker is content that the proposed dredging is environmentally
acceptable.’ (ibid: 39)
Applications to dispose of wastes [...] should not be accepted for disposal where
appropriate opportunities exist to re-use, recycle or treat the waste.’ (ibid:40).
Marine Spatial Planning in Scotland
Marine spatial plans in Scotland must be consistent with the Marine Policy Statement, so the
interesting question is how these principles are being incorporated into Scottish
Government documents such as the pre-consultation draft National Marine Plan which was
published in 2011. There is a ‘presumption of use’ of marine space in Scotland’s National
Marine Plan, which was strongly argued for by the marine renewables industry (Forum for
Renewable Energy in Scotland, 2009). The draft plan aims to deliver the Scottish
Government’s Economic Strategy objectives to make Scotland ‘Wealthier and Fairer’ and
‘Greener’. There are targets for economic growth and sustainability:
To raise the GDP growth rate to the UK level by 2011 and to match the GDP growth
rate of the small independent EU countries by 2017
To reduce emissions over the period to 2011 and to reduce emissions by 80 percent
by 2050.
The national marine spatial plan scopes the challenges and objectives for each of the sectors
presented to provide clarity on what the national objectives are for these sectors. It also
reflects on the demands placed by human activities on the marine environment and sets
objectives for reducing negative impacts. This provides some clarity on marine nature
conservation interests and potential conflicts amongst activities. The Marine (Scotland) Act
2010 requires marine plans to include specific objectives for the contribution of MPAs to the
protection and enhancement of the marine environment (HM Government, 2011:7). This is
not developed in the draft plan (See Table 4). Since the style of the draft plan is aspatial and
structured around sharing information on each economic sector, through providing
objectives and targets, it is difficult to perceive what the national policies are and how these
would be cascaded down to regional plans. Whilst the environmental impacts of each sector
are identified in general terms, no understanding of the connectivity of ecosystems is
shown. It is fundamentally an economic report on the opportunities for sustainable marine
industry growth.
These issues, however, have been addressed in five non-statutory regional marine spatial
planning pilots, funded by the Scottish Government, in the Shetlands, the Pentland Firth and
Orkney Waters, the Berwickshire Coast, the Clyde and the Sound of Mull (Flannery and Ó
Cinnéide, 2012). The aim of these pilots, established in 2006, was to test and trial different
approaches to marine management and to share any data and stakeholder engagement
concerns. All besides the Berwickshire Coast initiative, which focused solely on the fishing
industry, produced a marine spatial plan framework in 2009 which publicised the location of
marine activities and the distribution of planning constraints and assets worthy of protection
(Ironside Farrar, 2010). The Scottish Government has also funded the Scottish Coastal Forum
to undertake stakeholder engagement on the criteria to use to define the Scottish marine
regions (The Scottish Government, 2011b).
The pilot projects were important as a forum to raise issues of concern for local stakeholders
who attended meetings and to bring together existing data from several organisations into
one accessible publication (Johnson et al, interviews). They each provide an atlas of data
and inform marine developers of the existing and new regulations they need to adhere to.
For example, the Shetlands draft MSP published in 2010 seeks to:
Develop local management policies for specific sectors and activities;
Identify potential areas of conflict and resolve conflict;
Provide a framework for the granting of development consent;
Identify areas of sea for potential activity/development;
Identify areas and actions needed for conserving biodiversity (Scottish Sustainable
Marine Environment Initiative, 2010: 8)
Clear objectives are given such as “to enable the long-term protection and use of the marine
environment” (ibid: 11) and these are followed through the whole document (Table 4). Clear
policies are presented to address the priorities in the Marine Policy Statement as well as
local issues of aquaculture development, oil extraction, marine recreation and tourist
development, placement of new telecommunications cables and pipelines. These are
justified against the knowledge of how current activities and sectors currently spatially
interact and their impacts on environmental interests. For example:
“Marine developers must consider their wider impacts on the environment, and this will be
implemented by screening applications to determine whether they have suitable site
restoration proposals: this could include plans for habitat restoration by, for example,
promoting community involvement through schools and volunteer groups. Other
considerations that could be included is the creation of compensatory areas i.e. habitat
banking/ creation. Developers must also show to the satisfaction of the Planning Authority
that plans include the removal of redundant plant and equipment and the assurance that any
deposits of waste are agreed at the application stage.” (ibid:19)
The pilot MSPs are, therefore, an important first stage of information provision to gain
consensus on the benefits of marine management. The Shetlands, and the Pentland Firth
and Orkney Waters, initiatives have progressed further following the end of funding in 2010,
publishing second stage documents showing how the different sea users may impact on
each other using impact matrices. For example, the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters
identifies the knowledge gaps identifying specific research projects. Specific attention has
been given to mapping inshore fishing with locally based fishermen (The Scottish
Government, 2012).
The governance literature argues that effective governance requires clear responsibilities for
action, certainty about the rules of the game, and sufficient knowledge and resources (e.g.
skills, finance) to deliver agreed programmes of action. The first of these is nearly in place in
UK marine planning, whilst the second awaits more definition on the political process of
mediating between competing priorities, and the ecological data, according to scientists and
environmental impact assessors, is woefully inadequate (interview data). Each of these
issues will be examined in turn.
Institutions for marine governance
The findings show that considerable effort has been expended to deliver on the MSFD
requirements with two new marine management organisations allocated defined joint
responsibilities in collaboration with existing statutory nature conservation bodies to advise
the UK governments and to facilitate the making of regional marine plans. The approach in
the UK was criticised by several interviewees as highly centralised, up to the beginning of
2011, with little discussion and prior debate with local coastal partnerships. Similar findings
have been reported by Stanovic and Barker (2008) and Johnson et al (2011). Interviewees in
Scotland also perceived that Marine Scotland had been too preoccupied with reacting to the
steady release of renewable energy leases and licences by the Crown Estate and that the
licensing system had been shaped by developers’ needs. One interviewee perceived that this
was a “catch up” process by the government and that the two planning permit processes
(Crown Estate; Marine Scotland) had made it difficult to move away from sector planning to
an integrated approach to marine planning. Another interviewee considered that the
timescale for the delivery of marine spatial plans appears slow given the quickening
developer interest in marine space incentivised by government grants and favourable
Another issue not specifically explored in this research, although identified in the literature,
is the integration of potentially conflicting policy objectives (Suárez de Vivero, and Rodríguez
Mateos, 2012). The EU Marine Strategy Directive will have the task of integrating the EU
Integrated Maritime Strategy (economic development), the EU Common Agricultural Policy,
and the EU Water Framework Directive (ecology). The documentary review suggests that the
marine spatial planning process in the UK is actively addressing both socio-economic and
eco-system management (Tym and Partners, 2011).However, it is still uncertain how these
issues will be integrated into detailed policies. The Royal Town Planning Institute
(RTPI,2010:1) whilst commenting on the good intentions of the MCZ process in England and
Wales argue that separate institutional approaches for the coastal, inshore and offshore are
unlikely to create a coherent network of protection for ecosystems , or support integration
and connectivity and “will lead to unnecessary duplication and waste of effort”. Although
the boundaries are not yet clearly identified, the Scottish Government has chosen to work
with 10 coastal/inshore zones reflecting roughly similar Scottish Environment Protection
Agencyvi and Inshore Fisheries Region limits with one offshore zone (12nm- 200nm limits).
Both marine management organisations, bestowed authority in the new system, need to
develop close interaction with other regulators and national interest groups, involved in the
production of marine plans, who are waiting for advice and specific interaction to scope and
understand the tasks required of them (interview data). In Scotland, there are debates on
how the Scottish marine regions will manage their regions working with local planning
authorities, and where the regional marine zones will finish and terrestrial planning start
(interview data). Local authorities will need to play a key role in identifying the
opportunities to integrate marine and terrestrial plan production and participation. There
have been calls in the UK from the renewable energy industry for more guidance to be given
to local authorities to reduce the regulatory uncertainty and to speed up the permit process
for land-based energy infrastructure (Planning, 2012).
Dealing with conflicts
So far spatial planning for the marine space in the UK has been a high level process
discussing broad brush issues and providing strategic guidance for the marine regions.
Although, detailed action planning and implementation has been carried out by the Crown
Estate the criteria used are shrouded in secrecy due to the confidentiality statements
developers must sign. It is easier to get consensus on a strategic plan when scientists and
government agencies discuss the issues in a rational way divorced from conflicting values
which arise when details are discussed and when decision outcomes will favour one group
against another (Backer and Frais, 2012; Flannery and Ó Cinnéide, 2012). In the ‘pilot’
Bothnia Plan water companies, fisheries trusts and land managers were not involved (Backer
and Frais, 2012). In the UK process, fishermen and coastal partnerships have felt bypassed
by the consultation exercises (Johnson et al, 2011; interview data). Territorial planning
shows that there is tendency to leave out social groups from consultation exercises unless
they are already known to the regulators. Local issues, practices and cultures are important
to acknowledge and can be difficult to incorporate midway through the process (Soma and
Vatn, 2009).
The community participation literature reveals that the sensitivities of different stakeholders
need some consideration at an early stage and engagement needs to be tailored to the
needs of different socio-economic groups so that trust and the full participation of all
stakeholders is captured (Hull, 2006; Te Brömmelstroet and Bertolini, 2008; Flannery and Ó
Cinnéide, 2012). Early and continuous engagement can lead to joint learning amongst
participants when information is shared and explored together to develop understanding.
This specifically works well to address conflicts and devise solutions early on in the process
of engagement (Te Brömmelstroet and Bertolini, 2008; Pound, 2010). The UK Department
of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) used real life scenarios and case studies with
stakeholders to identify and to understand the different types of issues that might arise in
the planning and licensing of scallop fishing (DEFRA, 2011a). Gilliland and Laffoley (2008)
recommend that conflicts are identified and ways of resolving them are openly addressed
using a “goals achievement matrix” with relevant stakeholders. All these examples of how to
successfully acknowledge and address conflict state that consensus building requires skilled
facilitators and specialist (independent) input to design the process. There are several broad
interest groups that should be involved in these processes:
1. Local coastal residents; landowners and seabed owners; developers with an interest
in coastal sites; local networks, coastal partnerships and interest groups;
2. Commercial and recreational marine users;
3. Regulators/ and statutory bodies: Local authorities; Port and Harbour Authorities;
Government departments responsible for regulating or managing marine and or
coastal activities, including regulators such as Trinity House, Ministry of Defence,
4. National and regional interest groups: National Trust, National Farmers Union,
representative bodies for tourism bodies, sea fisheries, nature conservation,
archaeology etc. and
5. Scientists, consultants and educators.
Knowledge and resources
It is not clear from this research whether the marine management organisations or the
regional marine partnerships will have the tools and knowledge to understand how to
balance the conservation and the sustainable use of marine resources. The question is how
will we know that social and economic demands for marine space are consistent with the
ecological functions of that space? There is little information on the distribution of
ecologically important areas or the potential climate change impacts in the long term from
coastline changes due to sea-level rise and/ or managed coastal realignment. Data
insufficiency is delaying guidance on the bottom-line targets for GES (interview data) and the
support for further MCZs. The same issues were encountered in the Bothnia Plan, where
detailed analysis was hampered by lack of data – particularly on wildlife and living organisms
– which was restricted to analysis of fishing caught or station based sampling of species
(Backer and Frais, 2012). How should the regional marine planning process take into account
these future ‘potentially unpredictable’ issues’? The UK Government’s view is that existing
science and data is sufficient to make policy decisions (HM Governments, 2012), which
appears to contradict the Environment Minister’s statement of November 2011 regarding
the MCZ process (DEFRA, 2011b). This does suggest that the lessons on MCZs have still to be
learnt (See Table 4).
The likely outcome from the 4 MCZ projects in England and Wales is that support has been
garnered from sea users for another 20-30 MCZ designations by 2013. The delay in the
timetable to identify a network of ecologically coherent marine protected areas will allow
more data to be collected, but also demonstrates the unwillingness of the UK Government
to implement the precautionary principle to ensure that the delay does not “seriously
hamper the recovery of vulnerable ecosystems and …. expose them to further damage” (The
Wildlife Trusts, 2012). Despite the additional funds committed by DEFRA to checking the
evidence base for further MCZ proposals and to carry out seabed and habitat monitoring,
there is still a real danger that new scientific knowledge on issues of connectivity and marine
and ecosystem interactions will not be harnessed in time to secure the protection that some
species and habitats may require under climate change scenarios (Gormley et al,
There is also the issue of whether the marine regional partnerships and local authorities
have the resources, skills and knowledge to understand the cumulative impacts of ecological
and human ecosystem interactions. The two Scottish pilot MSPs that have developed clear
guidance to developers through policies and an accessible data depository are the two
authorities that have existing local decision making powers for the management of their
inshore zones. They have built up considerable expertise in marine and coastal interactions
and produced ambitious draft MSPs which aim to influence marine planning regimes and as
well as the organisational strategies of regulatory bodies and developers.
Specific additional funding would allow these draft plans to develop further, using their
matrices of user conflicts to identify a system of zoning to govern the application of detailed
policies for defined areas. Management policies might be developed in terms of setting
input/ output capacity limits (viz. fishing activity, vessel size and gear type; allowable
catches, gravel extraction), and could include spatial measures to steer potentially damaging
developments and activities away from particularly sensitive features of the marine
environment (ABP, 2010).
Belgium has been a frontrunner in terms of planning the conflicting uses in its spatially
restricted North Sea jurisdiction taking an incremental approach since 2003 (Douvere et al,
2007; Douvere, 2008). The Belgian North Sea master plan acknowledges the importance of
sand and gravel extraction, the fishing industry including aquaculture, and offshore wind
farms to the Belgian economy. The plan seeks to control the conflicts through designated
priority areas for these uses, and using control zones to allow multi-uses to co-exist
operating a sequential rotation process to reduce or spread the pressure, for example, of
sand and gravel extraction on spawning fisheries periods. This has involved a highly technical
approach to demonstrate the suitability of marine space for different uses drawing on
“geophysical, hydrological, bathymetric, chemical and other considerations concerning
ecological damage” (Douvere et al, 2007: 186).
UK marine spatial planning has the same long term aim of halting biodiversity loss and
ensuring that “conservation becomes a natural consideration in all relevant” societal
decisions (HM Governments, 2011:18) achieved through the co-existence of multiple uses
wherever possible and reducing real and potential conflicts. The task is much harder due to
the longer coastline and the low percentage (3%) of territorial waters protected through the
Natura 2000 programme. In contrast, 45% of the German sea is protected by a network of
flora and fauna protection sites and special protected areas (Federal Ministry for
Environmental Protection, 2011). The marine plan for the North Sea German Exclusive
Economic Zone determines that windfarms are not acceptable in Natura sites and, for other
uses, a pre-investigation has to be carried out to determine whether major impacts on these
protected sites are probable. If this is not the case, and adverse impacts can be negated,
development can be allowed.
Spatial planning cultures are different in these examples, with the German Federal
Government along one end of the spectrum laying down statutory expectations for the
permanent protection of the marine nature and biodiversity as well as the sparing use of its
resources at the outset, whilst the UK Governments, at the other end, taking a much more
incremental partnership approach with heavy reliance on the collaboration with key national
public, private and non-governmental bodies. It is important for the UK that the next stage is
characterised by proactive spatial planning at the national and regional levels so that
knowledge of the potential conflicts are understood and agreed mitigation measures are in
place. The British approach to “adaptive management” must show that it can be a robust
spatial planning tool to deliver the “healthy functioning ecosystems” and the “biologically
diverse seas” required by the MSFD.
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relevance and limitations to marine management and conservation using Canada’s Pacific
Waters as a case study, Marine Policy, 34,pp. 876-886.
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the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for
community action in the field of marine environmental policy.
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2007/ 575).
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examination of the European Commission's guiding principles based on their application in
the Clyde MSP Pilot Project, Marine Policy, 36(1),pp. 265-271.
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[Online], Accessed on 25 June 2012 from:
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HM Government (2012) Marine Strategy Framework Directive consultation
UK Initial Assessment and Proposals for Good Environmental Status, consultation document,
(London, DEFRA).
HM Government, Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly
Government (2011) UK Marine Policy Statement (London, The Stationery Office).
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Marine Planning: Developing Best Practice in Marine Management, 1st July 2010 London.
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Table 1: Claims for space by marine sectors
Space claims ranked by estimated market
Other user claims: market and intrinsic values
Oil and Gas
Aquariums/ sale of marine pets
Coastal Tourism (including wildlife viewing)
Marine Transport
Carbon Capture and Storage
Telecommunications cabling
Fertiliser/ Feed
Commercial Fisheries and Freshwater
Inspiration/ Art
Marine Aggregates
Marine Dredging and Disposal
Marine Historic Environment Protection
Naval Defence
Marine Nature Conservation
Research/ education
Coastal Defence
Nature Watching
Water Abstraction/ Cooling water
Ornamental materials (shells)
Pipelines (other than oil and gas)
Renewable Energy
Spiritual/ cultural wellbeing
Salt extraction
Waste Disposal
Recreation/ Sport (including fishing and
Waste Water
Source: Market value data from Saunders et al (2010); and SG (2010)
Table 2: Characterisation of Good Environmental Status
Biological diversity is maintained
The quality and occurrence of habitats and the distribution and abundance of species are in
line with prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions
Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely
alter the ecosystems
Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits,
exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock
All elements of the marine food web, to the extent that they are known, occur at normal
abundance and diversity levels capable of ensuring the long-term abundance of the species
and the retention of their full reproductive capacity
Human-induced eutrophication is minimised, especially the adverse effects thereof, such as
losses in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algae blooms and oxygen deficiency
in bottom waters
Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine
Sea floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystem
are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected
Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects
10 Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine
11 Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect
the marine environment
Source: European Parliament (2008)
Table 3: Nested scales of Marine Governance in the UK
Policy advice
and new
Marine Plan
Marine Plan
marine plan
England, Wales and Northern
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
IMO Maritime safety and prevention of pollution
Safety of Life at Sea Convention
The OSPAR Convention on NE Atlantic water quality measures; Priority
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on the Conservation of Salmon in North Atlantic Ocean
Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008
EU Directives : Habitats; Birds; Shellfish: Environmental Impact;
Strategic Environmental Impact; Flood Risk; Water Framework, etc.
Regulation on Alien Species; Common Fisheries Policy Regulations
MSFD: Good Environmental Status indicators
WFD : Good Ecological Status indicators
European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research (2008)
Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Marine Strategy Regulations 2000
Ministry of Defence bye-laws
UK Our Seas- A Shared Resource: High Level Marine Objectives 2009
UK Marine Science Strategy 2010
UK Marine Policy Statement 2011
Planning Act 2008
Marine (Scotland) Act 2010
National Policy Statement for
National Planning Framework
Energy (E&W)
SG Marine Energy Policy Statement
Strategic Energy Framework (NI)
UK Navigation; UK Oil & Gas;
Marine planning and conservation
Marine Conservation Zones in
powers; Designation of Marine
England and Wales
Protected Areas, and Historic
Marine Protected Areas
Marine Management
Marine Scotland (MS) working with
Organisation (MMO) working
the 12 Inshore Fisheries Groups
with the 10 Inshore Fisheries
Conservation Authorities
Statement of Public
National Marine Plan
Participation 2011
7 Marine regions; 4 have
10 Inshore zones and one offshore
separate inshore and offshore
zone (12nm-200nm)
MMO prepares 11 Regional
Marine Planning Partnerships will
marine plans
oversee the production of Regional
marine plans
Source: Author’s own
Figure 1. Spatial management model types
Source: ABP (2010:38)
Table 4: Problems associated with using zoning as a tool to protect mobile species
Insufficient involvement of stakeholders in defining habitats for breeding and nursery
areas or in identifying their conservation objectives;
Little importance given to protecting the critical habitats for feeding, including the 1st
and 2nd marine trophic levels (plankton, zooplankton);
Lack of understanding of how the structure of the water column (stratified, mixed,
frontal) defines habitats;
Poorly designed conservation areas due to small spatial scale, focus on individual
species, and failure to anticipate unintended consequences (displacement effects) of
management practices allowing many of the stressors to continue within their
Failure to integrate the planning of protected areas with the management of other
marine space uses and thus little understanding of the anthropogenic stressors;
Management structures and processes that give inadequate consideration or
resources to effective tools for monitoring, surveillance and enforcement.
Source: Agardy et al (2011); Ban et al (2010); Scott (2010); Solandt (2010).
Table 5: The interpretation of Marine Policy Statement priorities in Scotland
UK Marine Policy Statement 2011: The marine plan /authority should:
SG National Marine Plan 2011
MSP Shetlands Policy Framework 2010
Ensure [...] that marine planning contributes to securing sustainable economic growth both in
regeneration areas and areas [of] strong local economies. Through well placed and well
designed development Marine Plans should promote economic growth and sustain local jobs.
Contribute to vibrant coastal communities, particularly in remote areas, which will include
consideration of cultural heritage, seascape and local environmental quality.(16)
New development should not cause a water body or adjacent water bodies to deteriorate in
status, nor prevent the achievement of established objectives set out in any River Basin
Management Plan (17)
Ensure that appropriate weight is attached to designated sites; to protected species
respecting the carrying capacity of the environment; to habitats and other species of principal
importance for the conservation of biodiversity; and to geological interests within the wider
environment. (18)
Ensure that development does not result in a significant adverse effect on the conservation
of habitats or the populations of species of conservation concern and that wildlife species
and habitats enjoying statutory protection are protected from the adverse effects of
development in accordance with applicable legislation. (19)
Adopt a general presumption in favour of the conservation of designated heritage assets
within an appropriate setting. The more significant the asset, the greater should be the
presumption in favour of its conservation. (22)
Marine activities should not prejudice the interest of defence and national security and the
MoD should be consulted accordingly.(28)
Develop Carbon Capture and Storage; increase
sustainable production of freshwater fish, finfish and
shellfish cultivation to provide secure employment
and economic activity
Ensure continued access to the marine and coastal
resource for leisure and recreational use.
Developments should not result in a deterioration of
the ecological status of any water to which the Water
Framework Directive applies.
Development should aim to avoid harm to marine
ecology, biodiversity and geological conservation
through location, mitigation and consideration of
reasonable alternatives.
To protect marine nature conservation and where
appropriate recovery
Development proposals will not normally be permitted if it
obstructs important fishing activities. Importance defined by
local fishermen based on frequency of use and productivity
Take full account of the individual and cumulative effects of marine infrastructure on both
marine and land based MoD interests. (29)
Take account of and identify areas of potential for the deployment of different renewable
energy technologies. Measures should be taken to prevent, mitigate, and where that is not
possible compensate, for any potential negative impacts in line with legislative requirements
As a minimum make provision within Marine Plans for a level of supply of marine sand and
gravel that ensures that marine aggregates [...] contribute to the overarching Government
objective of securing an adequate and continuing supply to the UK market for various uses.
Development should take account of sustaining and
enhancing the significance of heritage assets.
Continue to support the seas delivering military and
security objectives, maintaining freedom of
movement for the navy and other sea users
Maintain MOD exclusive use of areas during particular
times of the year, and MOD agreement with fisheries.
Develop renewable energy resources to deliver
economic growth and climate change objectives.
Minimise the impact of aggregate extraction on the
marine environment and ensure the future
sustainability of the physical and biological resource.
Encouragement given to proposals that promote the culture
of maritime enterprise and community aspirations
Should take account of water resource issues such as water
quality, marine litter and the introduction of non-native
European designations protected unless no other alternative
locations and overriding public interest for development.
Protection commensurate according to level of importance
If likely to decrease the value of a site of natural heritage
importance a management plan to minimise potential
damage and to provide for the enhancement of habitat
features must be prepared.
Presumption in favour of preserving archaeological features
unless a marine engineer’s report claims structures unsafe.
Navigation Channels and Port Areas are safeguarded
Not specifically addressed
Encouraged where they take account of wider impacts and
impacts on other marine activities, have appropriate
monitoring programme, restoration and maintenance
Not normally permitted unless no other alternatives
The Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament) commits EU member
states to achieve agreed improved standards of water quality in river basins through river basin management
planning by 2015. The WFD includes marine waters up to three nautical miles from the shore in Scotland.
JNCC is the UK Government’s statutory advisor on national and international wildlife and conservation issues.
It works with other statutory government funded agencies for nature conservation: Natural England, Scottish
Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council of Wales.
See The four projects are called Balanced Seas, Finding Sanctuary, Irish Sea
Conservation Zones, and Net Gain.
Sea users have identified gaps and limitations in the scientific evidence base for new MCZs. In addition to
proposing new MCZs the four MCZ projects were asked to recommend several reference areas (RAs) where “all
extraction, deposition or human-derived disturbance is removed or prevented” (DEFRA, 2011b). The projects
were asked to propose at least one RA for each of the habitats and species being protected by the proposed
The OSPAR Convention was signed in 1992 by the European Commission and 15 European nations to protect
the marine environment of the NE Atlantic Ocean. It mainly focuses on pollution and the quality of marine
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is the Scottish Government’s statutory advisor on environmental
pollution and water quality.