Thursday, 15 December 2016

Brexit: and A Blueprint for Sustainable Seas

This month's newsletter from the Devon Maritime Forum looks at Brexit from several angles:
· UK’s major environmental organisations unite to highlight “once in generation opportunity” for the environment as UK exits the EU (Wildlife Trusts)
· European nature laws declared fit for purpose (Wildlife Trusts)
· UK fishermen’s federations adopt united stance on Brexit (NFFO)

On particular link of interest is the latest thinking about fisheries post-Brexit:

A Brexit Blueprint for Sustainable Seas (A new White Paper from Dr Steve Hull ABPmer)

A Brexit Blueprint for Sustainable Seas 

November 2016


Much of the early debate on the implications of Brexit for the marine environment has been negative and focused on the potential risks. This has been based on a perception that the UK government will seek to water down protection of the marine environment upon leaving the EU, although this has been strenuously denied by Defra (1) . 

While there will undoubtedly be challenges associated with Brexit, there will also be opportunities to address some of the failings of the current legal and policy framework. However, while various bodies including the Environment Agency1 , the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), (2) and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) (3) have indicated that there could be opportunities associated with Brexit, there has been little, if any, exploration of what those might be. In this White Paper I therefore focus on the potential opportunities that Brexit may provide for better management of the marine environment in seeking to achieve the UK’s vision of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’ (4) . 

This paper has been written to stimulate debate about Brexit opportunities. The views expressed are solely those of the author. 


While Brexit may pose some threats to existing arrangements for marine management, it also provides opportunities. The Brexit debate should be widened from the early focus on threats to consider how the opportunity for change might be used to improve on current management arrangements. 

In particular, there are some significant weaknesses in the existing legal and policy framework for the marine environment which might be more easily addressed once the UK leaves the EU. 

To halt biodiversity decline, I argue that we need stronger policies supporting maintenance and enhancement of natural capital rather than continuing with a somewhat myopic focus on managing negative impacts. Placing the ‘maintenance and enhancement of natural capital’ at the heart of a new marine legal and policy framework could be an important step forward and provide the impetus and resources to restore marine natural capital. 

To support sustainable development of our seas, I suggest there needs to be a greater focus on delivering public benefit by those that make use of this public resource. This could be achieved by placing a duty on decision-makers to determine public benefit. 

Further integration of marine planning regimes could support better implementation of an ecosystem approach to management. Rationalisation and simplification of existing legislation and establishment of a single consistent set of environmental standards would reduce inconsistencies and promote understanding of environmental requirements.


The author works for ABP Mer:

We are a leading marine consultancy that has been advising clients and undertaking applied research for over 60 years.
We are known for our knowledge of the marine environment, technical ability and emphasis on service excellence.

Home - ABP Mer

See also:
DMF December e-Newsletter | Devon Maritime Forum

Futures Forum: The Blue New Deal from the New Economics Foundation > launching an action plan for coastal communities
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the price of fish
Futures Forum: Brexit: and 'looking to get increases in fishing quotas'

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