"Thanks for giving us the opportunity to tell our story to such a broad audience"

Professor Rick Shine University of Sydney

Environmental Audit Committee shows the “red card” for environmental protection

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has delivered a strong critique of the Coalition Government’s environmental record, with Wednesday’s “environmental scorecard” report concluding that the Government has failed to make satisfactory progress in any of the ten policy areas identified.

Three policy areas were identified as giving the most cause for concern, with biodiversity, air pollution, and flooding and coastal protection all given a “red” rating, representing either a deterioration since 2010, or progress at a pace unlikely to lead to a satisfactory outcome by 2020. Seven other areas – emissions and climate change, forests, soils, resource efficiency and waste, freshwater environment, water availability, and marine environment – were rated “amber”, indicating unsatisfactory progress.

Focusing on England only, the report seeks to establish a clearer picture of the state of the environment, and the progress made in its protection since 2010. It draws on a briefing produced by the National Audit Office in June, written and oral evidence from environmental NGOs and government, and previous EAC reports.

Biodiversity is highlighted as an area of particular concern, with progress towards the Government’s Biodiversity 2020 indicators identified as unsatisfactory, and bird populations – used in the Sustainable Development Indicators as a litmus test for wildlife – deteriorating in three out of four cases. The continued impact of invasive species, and the lack of pollinator-specific measures in the implementation of the 2014 – 2020 Common Agricultural Programme were also viewed as key risks in this area.

Aside from the specific policy themes, an overarching problem raised throughout the report is the insufficient availability and quality of data to allow the state of environmental protection to be assessed effectively, pointing to the importance of accessible ecological evidence in informing decision-making. The report recommends that the Natural Capital Committee established by the government is put on a permanent footing and given a mandate to co-ordinate a programme to improve environmental monitoring data.

The integration of a natural capital approach across all areas of government policy is a key part of the EAC’s recommendations for a new “environmental strategy” – rendering the Natural Capital Initiative’s forthcoming summit even more timely. This strategy would guide the action required to improve the quality of environmental protection in the short to medium term, working across all levels of government, addressing gaps in evidence and assessment and mapping appropriate policy levers. A strengthened Natural Capital Committee, or new independent “office for environmental responsibility”, is recommended to review and audit this strategy, and advise government on appropriate targets and resources.

The timing of the report, released as the main political parties prepare for their manifesto setting conferences ahead of the next general election, sends a strong message affirming the importance of effective environmental protection and outlines an ambitious approach to securing the sustainability of our natural capital.

Posted in Biodiversity, Common Agricultural Policy, England, Environmental Monitoring, Government | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The shape of the next European Commission: what does it mean for environmental policy?

On 10th September, President-elect of the European Commission (EC), Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, announced his new team of commissioners-designate, accompanied by a significant restructuring of the Commission. This reorganisation includes a number of changes to the way that European environmental policy is framed and delivered.

Juncker’s intention is to streamline the Commission around five priority areas responding to Europe’s biggest political challenges: “getting people back to work in decent jobs, triggering more investment, making sure banks lend to the real economy again, creating a connected digital market, a credible foreign policy and ensuring Europe stands on its own feet when it comes to energy security”.  Six vice-Presidents have been appointed to lead “project teams” for each of these themes.

What does this mean for environmental policy? For the first time in twenty-five years, there will not be a European Commissioner for whom the environment is their sole responsibility. Rather, the new Commissioner-designate, Karmenu Vella of Malta, will assume responsibility for the twin portfolios of Environment and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. The EC explains this decision as reflecting “the twin logic of “Blue” and “Green” growth” and the integrated role that environment and maritime policies can play in “creating jobs, preserving resources, stimulating growth and encouraging investment.”

This emphasis on the economic dimensions of environmental policy is underlined in President Juncker’s “mission letter” to Commissioner Vella, which outlines that he will liaise most closely with the new Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and affirms the position that “protecting the environment and maintaining our competitiveness can go hand-in-hand, and environment policy also plays a key role in creating jobs and stimulating investment.” Other significant priorities include an in-depth review of the Birds and Habitats Directives with a view to reform, as well as the implementation of the recently agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

A number of environmental NGOs have responded critically to Juncker’s proposals, with Green 10, a pan-European alliance including Birdlife Europe and WWF, articulating a number of concerns. Primarily, they consider that the move to combine the Environment and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries portfolios represents a “downgrading” of the EU’s environmental commitments. Similarly, the European Environmental Bureau has expressed “deep concern” at an agenda they perceive to be focused too heavily on deregulation and economic growth. In the UK, both the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have highlighted the risks of unnecessary reform to the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Certainly, President Juncker’s promises of reform mean that we are likely to see significant changes in environmental policy during the term of the next European Commission. Gaining a better understanding of the links between the environment and the economy, as exemplified by the Natural Capital Initiative, will be crucial. Similarly, dialogue at a European level both between scientists and with policy makers, as highlighted by the British Ecological Society’s forthcoming joint annual meeting with the Société Française d’Ecologie, appears increasingly important.

Posted in Environment, EU | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seminar 28 October: National Pollinator Strategy

Several members of the British Ecological Society will speak at a seminar in Parliament on 28th October, on the National Pollinator Strategy. This event is being organised by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and takes place from 16.00-18.00 in the Jubilee Room, Palace of Westminster.

Contact postevents@parliament.uk to attend

Food security and environmental resilience are threatened by the decline of pollinator species, such as bees. This seminar considers the evidence base for Defra’s approach to the problem: the National Pollinator Strategy.

In England, there are approximately 1,500 insect species that pollinate food crops and wild plants, including bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, butterflies, beetles and moths. Many of these are declining from multiple pressures, such as the intensification of land-use and habitat loss. England’s National Pollinator Strategy aims to address these and other pressures by providing advice on pollinator conservation, improving the evidence base for conservation and implementing a monitoring scheme. The draft Strategy has been assessed by the Environmental Audit Committee, which has suggested that to be effective, it needs further clarity in the approach to Integrated Pest Management, greater integration with the Common Agricultural Policy, and transparency of research into pesticide impacts. A delivery plan is due to be published within six months of the Strategy. This seminar considers the evidence used to inform measures likely to be set out in the delivery plan.


4.00pm Sarah Newton MP, Chair’s Welcome

4.10pm Presentations
Prof. Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, The University of Reading
Dr. Christopher Connolly, Reader in Neuroscience, University of Dundee
Prof. Jane Memmott, Professor of Ecology, University of Bristol
Dr. Adam Vanbergen, Invertebrate Ecologist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

5.10pm Discussion

5.40pm Chair’s closing remarks

5.45pm Refreshments

6.00pm Close

Further information.

Posted in Event, Parliament, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Pollinators | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NERC Policy Placements at the Environment Agency

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Environment Agency (EA) are seeking to appoint a policy placement fellow in each of the following areas:

  •  Impact of atmospheric pollutants on the current and future status of protected habitats;
  • Nitrate from agriculture: moving from uncertain data to operational responses;
  • Predicting and mitigating environmental impacts from low head Hydropower schemes.

This is an exciting opportunity for environmental science researchers to work closely with policymakers. Applications are invited from early and mid-career researchers, with 2-5 years post-PhD experience.  The awards will be jointly funded by NERC and the Environment Agency for a period of one year, on a full-time basis (although part time working will be considered). The placements will be based at the Environment Agency’s Bristol office or an alternative  EA office subject to agreement. Ideally, successful applicants should be in place by December 2014.

The awards are managed under the NERC Policy Placement Scheme which aims to promote knowledge exchange between research organisations and public sector, increase the uptake of NERC research and provide partner organisations with research-informed evidence to develop and review policy, and offer researchers skills and career opportunities.

Further details on the policy placement opportunity and application process are available at the NERC website.

Deadline of application:  14 October 2014

Interviews: week commencing 20th October 2014

Posted in Agriculture, NERC, Research Councils, Science Policy, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The A-level and GCSE results are in …

The long awaited month which is August brought in variable results for A-level and GCSE students across the UK.  The results verify the impact of this year’s notable changes in education policy and implicate what is to come over the next few years as more changes are set to take place.


The overall A-level pass rate dropped this year for the first time in 30 years. Many claim this is a direct consequence of the removal of the January exams. Only 26% A-level students in England and Wales attained A*-C, falling short of the average of their counterparts in Northern Ireland who achieved 30% of these grades. However, despite the drop in A-level results, UCAS reported that universities continued to accept students, reaching a record number of 500, 0000 places. UCAS also reported an 8% increase in the number of students accepted into universities from disadvantaged areas.

This year Maths overtook English as the most popular A-level. There was a considerable shift in more students taking Maths, Chemistry and Physics, which exam board officials attribute to students trying to secure places at top universities that strongly favour traditional subjects. The number of pupils taking STEM subjects rose for the fifth year in a row, with the number of students taking Maths increasing from 1% to 1.5% – a trend welcomed by government officials and business leaders alike.

As the gender gap remains and women continue to outperform men, it also appears that more women are taking STEM subjects than ever before. However, although Biology is still the third most popular A-level, and there was a 3% increase in students taking Chemistry and Physics A-levels, key stakeholders from the STEM community emphasised that more work is needed to harness this interest from A-level to university and beyond, for both men and women.


This year the proportion of students achieving A*-C rose to 68.8% from 68.1% in 2013. However, the overall, A*-G pass rate fell to 98.5% from 98.8%, marking another year of a declining pass rateThis year saw a higher number of boys achieving A*grades over girls. However, the gender gap remains and similar to A-levels, girls continue to outperform boys – the female A*- C rate was 73.1% compared to boys who achieved 64.3%. Interestingly, boys continue to outperform girls at Biology and Chemistry, whereas girls continue to outperform boys in Physics as the gap increased by 0.1%.

Posted in Education, Education Policy, England, Government, Northern Ireland, UK, Wales | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Policy, biodiversity and conservation – Scotland 2014

Looking to find out more about the role of monitoring in conservation? Want to know how your research can influence decision making in Scotland? Our events in Edinburgh in October are a great opportunity to learn more about policy, biodiversity and conservation. With tickets from just £10 and travel bursaries available for early career researchers, it’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Our series of events kick off on 2 October, with our policy training day at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo. Over the course of the day you’ll gain an understanding of how decision making works in Scotland and how scientific evidence feeds into this process. You’ll hear how it really works from those in government and its agencies and will have the opportunity to talk to policy makers, scientific advisors and academics who work closely with government.

It won’t just be about listening to the experiences of others though; you’ll get the chance to develop your communication skills for a non-academic audience and to develop your own personal action plan for engaging with policy, under guidance from individuals who have experience this themselves.

If you stay on in Edinburgh, you’ll have the chance to hear Bill Sutherland introducing our biodiversity conference with an evening lecture at the Royal Botanic Garden. If you’ve had the chance to hear Bill speak before, you’ll know this is likely to be both a lively and enlightening talk. The lecture will be followed by a convivial networking reception, with the chance to meet and chat to a wide range of individuals.

Both the lecture and reception are free to attend, but registration is required to confirm attendance.

All this will be followed by the BES Scottish Policy Group’s annual biodiversity conference, in collaboration with CIEEM and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy’s Science and Technical Group on Friday 3 October.

Monitoring is at the heart of Scotland’s 2020 targets for biodiversity. Over three sessions, you’ll discover why we need monitoring for biodiversity, how monitoring has made a difference for conservation, and how innovative techniques that may signal a new frontier for biodiversity data collection and analysis.

There’s also the opportunity to join in the discussion through workshop sessions, as well as the chance for students to submit posters. Attendees at this event will be from a variety of sectors – academia, NGO, government, agencies – giving a number of interesting opportunities for networking.

Registration is available from just £10, with discounts for members of the BES and CIEEM. More information, including draft programmes and booking forms, is available on the BES website.

Posted in BES, Biodiversity, Conference, Event, Scotland, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning up the act with the Scottish Marine Litter Strategy

Last week Scottish government published a Marine Litter Strategy outlining their commitment to reducing the amount of litter entering the marine and coastal environment. The Scottish government made a commitment to produce this strategy in 2009. The draft was consulted July to September 2013, and the voices of organisations such as Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Keep Scotland Beautiful, who played a large role in the consultation process, can be heard throughout this final report.

The Marine Litter Strategy will work in conjunction with the National Litter Strategy and implementation will be led by Marine Scotland with a review of implementation progress in 2015-2016 and 2018. Five strategic directions are outlined:

Strategic Direction 1 – Improve public and business attitudes and behaviours around marine and coastal litter, in co-ordination with the national litter strategy.

Strategic Direction 2 – Reduce marine and coastal based sources of litter, in co-ordination with land sourced litter being reduced by the national litter strategy.

Strategic Direction 3 – Contribute to a low carbon economy by treating ‘waste as a resource’ and seizing the economic and environmental opportunities associated with the Zero Waste Plan.

Strategic Direction 4 – Improve monitoring at a Scottish scale and develop measures for strategy evaluation.

Strategic Direction 5 – Maintain and strengthen stakeholder co- ordination at the UK, EU and international scales.

Details of about 40 further actions needed to achieve these aims are outlined which focus on education, behaviour change initiatives and development of more intensive monitoring programmes. As well as providing ecological and social gains, a reduction in marine litter could also save £16.8million every year. The Environment Minister Richard Lochhead highlighted the importance of this strategy: “Marine litter is a threat to our precious marine environment that needs to be addressed to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy our environment and use our seas sustainably.”

Whilst there is already extensive legislation which incorporates marine litter control, for example the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, this more targeted approach will fill in the gaps to ensure a more successful and cohesive implementation. The government hope that this strategy will help contribute to aim of achieving Good Environmental Status by 2020 as required in the MSFD.

To date Scottish government have already increased fines to crack down on littering and fly tipping as part of the National Litter Strategy as well introducing the compulsory 5p charge. In this new strategy they aim to improve education on impacts of marine litter and to encourage producers to change their product design to remove things like micro plastics and plastic cotton bud sticks. They also hope to better police and regulate marine waste dumped by ships at sea and incorporate environmental responsibilities into training of ship owners and crews. A national steering group on marine litter, led by Marine Scotland, will co-ordinate the approach and share best practice amongst Scottish Government Directorates.

Although no commitment to funding is made, the need to develop innovative clean technologies for recycling and monitoring is acknowledged. Lots of the clean-up and monitoring programmes currently running rely on the work of volunteers, for example MCSs big beach clean-up, which also monitored the volumes and types of plastics recovered from UK beaches. Another initiative from KIMO, called Fishing For Litter, is a simple and effective approach of clearing up marine litter that has been operating in Scotland since 2005.

Recently, marine pollution seems to have been receiving the attention that will be required to combat this issue. A similar strategy was published by Northern Ireland June 2013. In the 2013 Science and Technology Report on Water Quality they highlighted the need to consider the impact of micro plastics in water bodies and suggested the government encourage the phase out of micro plastics in UK companies and internationally. It was just last month that Scotland announced 30 new Marine Protected Areas, and next year Defra will begin consultation on proposed sites for the next tranche of Marine Conservation Zones.

Posted in Marine, Scotland | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Natural Capital Initiative – Valuing our Life Support Systems, 6 & 7 November 2014

Following on from their 2009 summit, the Natural Capital Initiative will be leading the natural capital dialogue once again at their two-day summit on 6 & 7 November 2014 in London. Bringing together 250 delegates from across government, business, and the third sector, the summit will consider developments over the past five years in natural capital research and leadership, and will look to improvements that could be made over the next five years.

NCI’s mission is to support decision-making that results in the sustainable management of our natural capital based on sound science. NCI’s work is steered by its partner organisations – BES, Society of Biology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the James Hutton Institute – as well as external experts in environmental science, health, and economics.

Since NCI’s launch summit in 2009, a growing number of influential activities have emerged across all sectors within the natural capital space. This is testament to the traction the natural capital concept has gained with a variety of audiences. The 2014 NCI summit presents an excellent opportunity for all to engage with natural capital.

NCI’s summit aims to:

  1. Derive a common understanding of what natural capital really means
  2. Understand in plain language the natural and social science behind it
  3. Find and demonstrate ways in which sectors and initiatives can work, and are working, together to apply it
  4. Identify ways of ensuring that practical responses have scientific rigour
  5. Communicate recommendations for ways forward across the sectors.

With over 20 working sessions, there will be something for everyone. If not, we strongly encourage individuals to set up their own informal sessions! Attendees will also be able to hear from natural capital leaders across academia, business and government, such as Georgina Mace (UCL) and Peter Young (Aldersgate Group).

Early bird registration is available until 1 September. Individuals from registered charities also receive a discount.

For more information, including an outline of the programme so far, visit the NCI’s website.

Posted in Biodiversity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is it possible for the UK to ensure agricultural intensification is sustainable?

In an article published in the Guardian yesterday, the NFU called for more action to increase self-sufficiency in food production. Whilst they claimed that lack of support to UK farmers was a failure that should raise concerns about British food security and could even increase world poverty, this argument was heavily criticised by other groups. Charles Godfray, the director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food says “self-sufficiency is a poor measure of key agricultural policies” and does not necessarily have much to do with food security, as was implied by the NFU president, Meurig Raymond.

In Karl Mathiesen’s live review of the evidence, in reaction to the statements from the NFU he concluded that “self-sufficiency measure is a dangerous one when used out of context to create the impression of a crisis”. Without disregarding the important points made about the need to eat more seasonally and locally, it should be acknowledged that in the UK we are oversupplied (with 33% of UK’s <18s overweight or obese, can we really claim to be short of food?) and food prices are stable – we would not have run out of food this week without imports.

The policy issues surrounding UK agriculture are contentious. Farmers would claim that they do more than any other group in the country to protect the environment but face continual challenges of extreme weather conditions and restrictions on pesticide use, for example. Others would say that intensification of agriculture has led to the demise of our countryside and wildlife. The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), from which the basic structure of agricultural subsidies is created, is implemented across the EU, with each member state taking a different approach. The objectives of recent 2013 reforms have been to ensure farmer income stability, lower food prices and increase environmental gains. There has been intense debate about “greening” measures which would make the direct payments received by farmers more dependent on their ability to meet environmental criteria. Here in the UK, Defra have fought to limit CAP greening regulations.

Agri-environment schemes became compulsory in 1999, but they do not fit in well with the agricultural models of all member states. There is not total rigidity in CAP protocol, implementation and the amount of funding allocated to Pillar 2, which supports Rural Development Programs (as opposed to Pillar 1 which covers direct support payments to farmers) is decided my individual member states.

How is CAP implemented in other countries?

To see how our implementation of CAP regulations fair, let’s compare agricultural practices in the UK with that of the Netherlands, Although it’s a small country, the Netherlands is the world’s second biggest exporter of agricultural products in monetary terms. A UN report explains how this was achieved through governmental policy, innovation and technological research and arguably unsustainable intensification. Inputs including mineral fertilizer, manure, pesticides and energy, which rank among the highest in the world were increased from 1950-1980. It supplies a quarter of the vegetables that are exported from Europe. The main environmental problems that began to present themselves in the late sixties included increased ammonia concentrations in soils affecting acid depositions in forests, eutrophication of ground and surface waters air and pollution of air and water with agrochemicals such as pesticides. When the environmental implications were realised, restrictions were put in place. These restrictions were hard to implement due to high initial costs to farmers, and the Dutch government recognise they would have been much more effective if implemented earlier. The Netherlands will struggle to restore ecosystem functions that have been deteriorated; “Environmental guidelines have to be incorporated in farm policies and operations at a very early stage.” The Dutch government has now put efforts into agri-tech solutions to build more sustainability into its agricultural practices, as well as supporting the development of organic farming methods.

The agri-tech revolution: A UK strategy for agricultural technologies

After a consultation period in 2012, the government released this strategy aimed at “integrating [the UK’s] world class science base with agriculture.” They hope that Agricultural technology could halt the decline in the UK agriculture’s productivity by commercialising research so that farmers can benefit. The technology referred to is largely in the fields of genetics, agri-engineering (sensors, autonomous vehicles, robotics, precision agriculture) and crop/livestock health.

In their response to the 2012 Consultation, RSPB expressed concern that although safeguarding biodiversity is mentioned, it is not incorporated in many of the report’s aims. The word ‘sustainable’ is squeezed in – just before the word ‘intensification’ – early on in the 2013 report. There is, however, not much indication of how sustainability will be guaranteed. “Unsustainable systems of food production are themselves a long-term threat to food security” say the RSPB, “Intensification is unlikely to address the challenges of long term environmental sustainability in terms of reducing total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, reactive nitrogen pollution or halting local and global biodiversity losses.” Furthermore, it is crucial that the impact of new technologies on biodiversity, for example biotechnologies,  are rigorously tested before wide scale implementation, to avoid the repeats of the neonicotinoid disaster. However, new research and technological advancements will be a key step in progressing from outdated farming methods that require large amounts of unnatural fertilisers and pesticides.

In the 2009 Making Space for Nature Report  states that “Agriculture has changed large areas of our landscape by ploughing, draining and fertilising what were semi-natural heaths, chalk grasslands and lowland wet grasslands.” In 2008, for instance 78% of Biodiversity Action Plan Habitats were degraded due to agriculture. Yet an EU survey found that over 85% of respondents across the EU are supportive of the new objectives for agriculture and rural development, including preserving the countryside and facing the consequences of climate change. Several organisations have collaborated on a report of what they think sustainable food security should look like.

The UK government seems all too tempted by the prospect of intensification and sensational remarks about the state of our food security won’t do much to help. There is a need to keep up with demands of the growing population. However if the issue of sustainability is not taken seriously, then, as the Dutch government have discovered, cleaning up the environmental mess further down the line would present a much bigger task.

Posted in Agri-Environment Scheme, Agriculture, Common Agricultural Policy, Defra, Environment, EU, Food Security, Government, Green Technology, Land Use, Pesticides | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New protection for Scottish seas

A victory for the Scottish marine environment came in the form of 30 Marine Protected Areas on 24 July, as the Scottish government accepted recommendations of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Sottish Natural Heritage (SNH) The consultation considered species, habitat and geology in selecting the final areas. Amongst the 30 MPAs is the North-east Faroe Shetland Channel MPA, which at 26,807 sq. km is thought to be the largest in the EU.

Of the 30 designated  areas, 17 were recommended by SNH for inshore waters and 13 by the JNCC  for offshore waters. The areas have been designated to protect  habitats and fauna such as deep sea sponges, sand eels and quahogs.

The news was welcomed by marine ecologists, although RSPB said more needed to be done to protect seabirds by including them in the MPAs and extending areas to cover the feeding grounds of birds such as kittiwakes, Arctic terns and Arctic skuas. In the hope of achieving this, draft proposals for new special protected areas have been put forward for consideration – 14 for seabirds and an additional 4 for basking shark and certain whale and dolphin species.

To create a coherent network of SPAs for seabirds and waterfowl across the UK the JNCC has been working over the past decade on behalf of all the country Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs). Provided with data from the JNCC on possible sites Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and the Department of Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI) are considering several possible marine SPAs in English, Welsh and Northern Irish inshore waters, including extensions to existing seabird colony SPAs and entirely marine SPAs.

Fishing won’t necessarily be prohibited in these protected areas. Each area will be managed with different priorities, depending what it was designated for. Making sure that sound management plans and proper enforcement is in place will be the next challenge. Licensed activities at sea will be subject to the new nature conservation MPA designation orders that come into force on August 7th. Fisheries management measures for all of the sites will be developed during an intensive two years process.

The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive was put in place in 2008, with the aim of stopping degradation of the marine habitats and achieving a Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020. Member states are supposed to have a monitoring programme to measure progress in place by July 2014.

In November 2013, Defra announced the creation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs, a type of MPA) in English waters. Many were disappointed that this fell so short of the 127 areas that were recommended, but there was a promise that there would be further MCZs allocations. The next round of areas will be discussed in a consultation in early 2015.

The recommended areas in Scottish seas went through a five stage selection process to asses their suitability. Priority Marine Features were considered and some locations changed in size and shape as they have progressed through the assessment process. The network of areas  in the Scottish seas will add to the 194 special sites designated for the protection of seals earlier this month , and a Marine Planning consultation has been drafted. So it seems Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead is living up to his claim of putting that “Scotland’s seas are fundamental to our way of life.”

Evidence drawn from marine scientists has shown that something must be done to change the management of seas if we want to halt degradation. “By setting up these MPAs the government has wisely placed its confidence in that verdict,” said Callum Duncan of Marine Conservation Society. “The work does not stop here – for the time-being these MPAs are just lines on maps, so careful management will be needed to ensure they actively help recover our sealife.”

Posted in Birds, Ecology, Environment, Habitat Loss, Marine, Marine Act, Scotland, UK, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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