Report 350
Developing Marine Nature Conservation Objectives for the Irish Sea
(2004)
Lumb, C. M., Fowler, S. L., Atkins, S. M., Gilliland, P. M. & Vincent, M. A.
© Defra 2004

Executive Summary

 
The purpose of the Irish Sea Pilot was to help develop a strategy for marine nature conservation that could be applied to all UK waters and, with international collaboration, the adjacent waters of the North-East Atlantic. The work fulfils a commitment made by the UK Government in May 2002, at the launch of Safeguarding our Seas, and was funded primarily by Defra with contributions from other partners.
 
A proposed framework for marine nature conservation, developed as part of Defra's Review of Marine Nature Conservation, envisaged the need to take action at a range of scales. These scales were i) the Wider Sea ii) the Regional Sea iii) Marine Landscapes and iv) Nationally-important habitats and species. The proposed framework anticipated that a range of measures would be needed to conserve marine biodiversity, including protected areas, spatial planning and other measures. The Pilot tested the practicality and potential method of operation of the proposed framework and the additional measures needed to put it into effect.
 
The aim of the work described in this report was to develop objectives for nature conservation, for each of the levels of the implementation framework, which contribute to delivery of the UK vision and strategic goals for the marine environment. The report proposes a framework and process for developing objectives for use at the Whole Sea, Regional Sea and other scales. The key elements of this framework and the principles which should be considered in its development are described. These have been applied to identify an illustrative suite of conservation or 'ecological' objectives for the Irish Sea. These objectives include what previously may have been thought of as broader ecological or environmental objectives, for example in relation to water quality. This is because conservation has shifted away from the more 'traditional' focus on rare and threatened interests, to encompass all ecological components of the ecosystem, including more commonly occurring features, and the functional processes that support them. The conclusions of the Pilot emphasise the important and urgent need to manage and deliver this shift in approach.
 
The spatial scales at which objectives and targets would need to be developed have been considered. The Pilot concludes that many objectives would be most appropriately set at the Whole Sea or Regional Sea scales, economically and effectively capturing the ecological needs of the marine environment, and reducing the number of objectives needed and the potential conflict between them.
 
The potential contribution and importance of the conservation objectives to meeting the objectives of other sectors has been assessed and the substantial overlap of interests highlighted. The importance of developing and integrating conservation objectives with social, economic and other environmental interests within a single framework of objectives is highlighted, as is the need for transparent and inclusive processes to achieve this.
 
The development of objectives for nature conservation is used to illustrate how a more strategic, integrated and sustainable approach to objective-setting and decision-making could be developed, for planning and managing activities in the marine environment. In doing so, the report considers and makes recommendations on how the objectives framework could shape and strengthen links between the various elements of the UK Government's Marine Stewardship process. These include the UK marine monitoring strategy and programme and proposals to improve marine spatial planning.

 
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Please cite as: Lumb, C. M., Fowler, S. L., Atkins, S. M., Gilliland, P. M. & Vincent, M. A., (2004), Developing Marine Nature Conservation Objectives for the Irish Sea, JNCC Report 350