A Student Perspective: Implementation of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (the Act) has a number of elements, such as enabling the Marine Management Organisation and develop marine planning. The primary aim is to strengthen the protection of the marine environment, which includes marine conservation zones and the management of fish stocks.

The Act is the primary legislation, which will be the starting point for a number of secondary legislative processes that will put the purpose(s) of the Act into action. This Act is seen as ground breaking, because it is truly unique. This is because it provides a single regulatory model and body to protect the ‘living seas’ (Wildlife Trust).

The development of the Act is that it will directly counter the problems of overexploitation, which has been a significant issue in the marine environment (and the rationale for the legislative process created). The Act is a culmination of policy review and development from 2001, which inevitably required legislation as the protection of the seas would only be achievable through legal obligations.
The Act has brought some important changes, which include the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) being put into action. There has also be drafting of marine plans in the East and Southern Coasts, as well as a marine licensing regime in place to ensure that any exploitation is based on ensuring sustainable fisheries management. One of the most important factors is the development of marine protected areas, which will limit exploitation in some of the most vulnerable coastal areas.

The main problem with the Act is that it may have enabled potentially substantive organisation and planning, but putting these elements in practice has been less than effective. For example, the MMO has a low value added service; as well as a slow uptake for marine planning. Another example is the ineffectiveness of the marine licensing and fisheries conservation system. This illustrates that the Act has in fact made little practical change, which is due to the ineffectiveness of the practical implementation of the legislation and not the statute itself. This means that the purposes of the Act will not be met; hence there needs to be more effective practical implementation to meet the end goals (especially meeting the Marine Protection Area targets).

The implication is that the Act can be seen as a potentially effective tool to protect the marine environment off the English coast. The implementation seems to be poor, which will mean a mixed bag in meeting the end-goals in immediate and medium future. The consequence of this is that there needs to be special reconsideration of the implementation, in order to create a better model. This may not be necessary; as the Act is relatively new the practical issues may be rectified as the ‘kinks’ are ironed out. As Pliny the Elder identifies “the only certainty is that nothing is certain.” However, it stands to reason that if a system is failing that it is reconfigured to improve the effectiveness of implementation.

Faisal Idris, MA International Maritime Policy Student