A Victory for Marine Science in the House of Lords

The Marine & Coastal Access Bill, potentially the most important and far-reaching marine legislation ever passed in the UK, is continuing its slow but methodical progress through the House of Lords, where it is currently at report stage (the penultimate stage required before it can be sent to the Commons). The BES has been closely monitoring developments in the Bill, and it is a pleasure to be able to share some good news.

There were widespread concerns that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the new body which the Bill will establish to manage the UK marine environment, was going to have an insufficient focus on marine science in its decision-making processes. However, the Government has responded to our concerns by agreeing to several key new amendments.

Most importantly, the MMO will now have to employ a Chief Scientific Advisor at all times, and is under a new obligation to take account of all relevant scientific evidence when carrying out its duties. This comes on top of the Government’s recent undertaking that they would establish a science advisory committee for the MMO, and goes a long way to reassure us that the MMO will follow an evidence-based approach in its work.

The BES is still working to ensure that other parts of the Bill, particularly that establishing a network of marine reserves in UK waters, attach equal importance to the use of sound marine science. Nevertheless, the changes to the MMO represent a clear move in the right direction and are a significant improvement to the Bill.

If you are interested in the Society’s work on UK marine issues and would like to get more involved, we are currently in the process of responding to the Government’s draft strategy on the designation of marine protected areas. Please e-mail the Policy Team at policy@britishecologicalsociety.org if you would like to contribute to our response.