The United Kingdom
While the United Kingdom was one of the first countries to propose spatial planning in the marine environment in 2002, it has only now begun to implement it. Rather than use existing authorities to initiate marine planning, the UK took five years to pass national legislation—the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009—that authorizes marine planning. The Act also established the Marine Management Organization (MMO) that has responsibility for marine planning in English territorial waters. The job of the MMO is to:
The structure and detailed content of marine plans are not prescribed by the Act. It is the MMO‘s responsibility to set out the final structure and content of Marine Plans in England‘s marine area.
The UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS), released in 2011, is the framework for preparing marine plans and taking decisions affecting the marine environment. It will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development of all UK marine area. The Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers, and the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland have jointly adopted the MPS. This is a key step towards achieving the vision shared by the UK Administrations (UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and Northern Ireland Executive) of having ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. The MPS clearly states that the marine planning process will based on an “ecosystem approach” and will manage competing demands on the marine area through an ecosystem-based approach.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 also created a new type of marine protected area called a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). MCZs protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. A Marine Conservation Zone Project is focused on the selection of additional MCZs in English inshore waters and offshore waters adjacent to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sites will be selected to protect not just the rare and threatened, but also the representative range of marine wildlife. Ministers will consider recommendations for MCZs before deciding sites to take forward for consultation in December 2012, and possible designation in 2013. Once the MCZs are formally designated by the government, the MMO will be responsible for monitoring and enforcement of these zones, together with the inshore fisheries and conservation authorities. The MMO also oversees all fishing activity around England, so is well placed to ensure restrictions for specific areas are respected.
Marine plan areas cover both inshore and offshore marine regions. Marine plans will cover a 20-year period from their adoption date, but could also look beyond this period as appropriate, e.g., climate change adaptation requires a longer planning horizon.
Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, the MMO is required to review the effects and effectiveness of marine plans and report on this review not less than every three years after each plan is adopted. The report produced will include the progress towards achieving any objectives set out for that region in a marine plan and the MPS. The report must be published and presented to Parliament. After each report is submitted a decision will be made whether or not the plan needs to be amended or replaced.