The UK has built its history throughout the exploration and exploitation of the sea on a global scale. Goods, spices, raw materials, food, animals, labour force and so on, help us to obtain a clear view of what this island would have been, without its predominance above the oceans. In spite of the normal flow of time, the UK still today would not be able to cope with a lack of imports that probably might lead to cripple. Just think that the 15% of GDP relies on fishing! UK has been an island, is still an island and will remain an island. As a result, a good management of the sea and its resources still appear crucial for the country’s wealth and safety especially now where the North Sea is considered will be a fundamental crossroad for shipping. Now, the Maritime and Costal Access Act 2009 (the Act) guidelines framework can be summarized as follow:
a) Marine Management Organisation
b) Marine Planning
c) Marine Licensing
d) Marine Nature Conservation
e) Fisheries Management and Marine Enforcement
f) Environmental Data and Information
g) Migratory and Freshwater Fisheries
h) Coastal Access
i) Coastal and Estuary Management
From this framework lots of organizations at regional and national level have been spreading, which have the aim of implementing the Act in the manner that best suits them and that reflect the guidelines. For instance, there is a common thought within the Maritime Actors that the UK’s Marine System is full of flaws and as a result “Marine planning will be the hot topic in the next decade” and, as we can see from the range of topics covered by the Act, there are few doubts about it.
However, perplexities arise and the ambitious goals of the Act, seems to me quite pretentious. Firstly, being a long term plan, most of the NGO promoters involved in, may find on their way impediments in fund raising and therefore in the implementation. In detail, most of NGO are self-funded by their members, but who ensure that the amount of resources is going to be sufficient?
Secondly, due to the number of actors involved and to the absence of an authority and/or strict deadlines for implementation, what may occur is not a collaboration but conflicts amongst scholars, entrepreneurs, policy makers, councils and so on.
Thirdly, what is important is the development of a common communication system in order to avoid misunderstanding and promote clarity. UK is formed by different people, speaking different languages and having slightly different cultures. I think that the need of intercommunication and understanding of each other are the key words for establishing a better functioning teamwork.
Fourthly, there are still big data gaps. What is really interesting is that only 10% of the UK seabed is mapped.
Fifthly, most of the outcomes been forecasted turn out to be “no more than a guess”, whilst the risk is higher as well as the cost.
According to my opinion, Marine Sea Planning is certainly a good idea, actually a very good one. However, it seems to me that we are still in a theoretical stage instead of a practical one, due basically to the impediments and the lack of clarity concerning the implementation. Nevertheless, the numbers of actors involved and the efforts being made not only demonstrate the importance of the sea and coast for the UK but provide a substantial guarantee for the success of the whole work, as well.
Andrea Giannotti, MA International Maritime Policy Student