Friday, April 11, 2014

A vision for marine renewable energy in Scotland....

The following is an article by Caroline Sejer Damgaard from the University of St Andrews, Department of Geography and Sustainable Development

Due to increasing human activities such as fishery, shipping, resource extraction and recreation, the ocean is becoming increasingly crowded and characterized by competition for space. Scotland has the largest offshore renewable energy resources in Europe, estimated at 200GW offshore wind- tidal and wave resources, and with the national goal of meeting 100% of Scottish electricity consumption by 2020, offshore
developments are central to the government’s energy plans. For maximisation of the Scottish potential, there is need to reframe discourses of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) from issues of competition to issues of potential and integration.

Marine renewable energy developments are regulated under Scottish Planning Policy and a range of energy-related acts and plans. The Blue Seas Green Energy Sectoral Marine Plans provide a planning framework with defined zones and areas for future offshore developments. These policies largely adhere to principles of adaptive governance, but lack concrete integration measures and institutional arrangements for successful real-world application. As Scottish marine renewables are only just developing, there’s good potential to shape a truly integrative approach to governance as it emerges.

MSP is integrative, bringing together distinct planning practices and sectors under the umbrella of a coherent spatial plan. However, a deeper, broader concept of integration is desirable. In order to facilitate more efficient, multi-level integration, a planning framework could benefit from the application of a three-tiered concept of integration (Potts et al 2012):

1) integration at the level of actors and activities
2) spatial and temporal scale integration
3) integration at the level of the full socio-ecological system

Current planning practices do well in incorporating the second tier, integrating marine plans with energy plans and national and European planning policy, while strategic plans incorporate the long-term perspective. 

At the levels of actors and activities and, to some extent, the wider social-ecological system, integrative processes could be developed further.

To ensure sustainable management of oceans while supporting offshore renewable energy developments, the concept of co-location needs to enter into planning. Stakeholder involvement is not in and of itself sufficient, rather reconceptualising marine space and functions could encourage multi-functional use of space, inspire a move from fundamentally competitive uses to integrated uses. This could involve windfarm-location within a marine conservation area, fishing-allowance in or in the vicinity of the farm, co-location of different renewable technologies, or even big co-location platforms integrating renewables, aquaculture, transport and recreation, as explored through, for example, the European TROPOS project.

Professor Richard Barnes and colleagues at the University of Hull, encourage co-location as a legally feasible spatial planning strategy. They make the case for co-location based on increasing competition for space, but also highlight potential related benefits. 

Windfarm establishments may function as automatic regulation of environmentally destructive fishing practices such as trawling, and may even result in habitat enhancement. Evidence from windfarms in Denmark and Germany, for example, shows that windfarms provide healthy habitats for blue mussels, oysters and seaweed, and potentially good breeding grounds for certain species of fish. 

The potential is there, but an enabling, supportive regulatory framework is essential. Successful co-location is highly site-specific, and will require extensive Environmental Impact Assessments, as well as stakeholder support, developer co-operation, and public support. 

Cooperation and collaboration will be fundamental to institutionalised co-location planning to a higher degree than is the case in current MSP. A regulatory framework should facilitate engagement of planning authorities, developers and stakeholders, already in the location-selection phase and throughout the project planning, design and implementation phases. This entails networking modes of governance, with maintained trust between actors as a major concern, due to the high-risk nature of the renewable energy sector. Market mechanisms and regulations could serve to encourage cooperation, build trust between stakeholders and address issues of financial risk.

In addition to such deeper processes of integration, attention should also be given to broader processes of integration. Public opinion is a central concern for renewable energy planning. 

The “not in my back yard” effect has been commonly accepted as cause of opposition to developments, but recent research indicates that, not only does that theory fail to capture important aspects of opinion formation, it prevents appropriate dialogue and solutions.

Dr Maarten Wolsink identifies the public-opinion problem as an institutional one, a problem with central planning and the framing of decision-making. Following his and other research, participation and equity are key issues to address. Participation relates to the decision-making process, and goes hand in hand with the need for deeper and more thorough stakeholder involvement, earlier in the planning process. Participation is not meaningful if reduced to simple consultation after the completion of project design and announcement.

Aside from the institutional framework, other pressing issues related to ownership and equity. It is peculiar that, as greater emphasis is placed on local ownership of onshore renewable energy developments in Scotland, and with international evidence of high success rates of locally owned developments – both on and offshore – Scotland’s offshore renewable plans involve no level of community ownership or local investment possibility. The Crown Estate owns and manages the vast majority of Scottish marine territory, and explicitly prevents local management agreements when it comes to offshore renewables development.

Equity and connection to local economies play a major role in shaping public support (Wolsink 2005). 

World-leaders in offshore renewable energy such as Denmark and Germany are characterised by local ownership of the majority of wind energy establishments, and Scotland is seeing immense success and growth of onshore community renewables. This change in ownership dynamics is seen as key to meeting Scotland’s 2020 target, but marine planning policy does not reflect these trends. Financial engagement of the public, community ownership and local investment could not only benefit local economies, it could stimulate a shift in public perception of offshore windfarms from one of contestation and intrusion to one of potential and inclusion.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Emergence of Coastal Low Carbon Economies

The following is a copy of a recent seminar and blog by Tavis Potts in partnership with the University of Wollongong (Australia) Global Challenges Program: Sustaining Coastal and Marine Zones.

The emerging impacts of climate change are increasingly felt across the globe. Examples span both the northern and southern hemispheres, from the diminishing extent of Arctic summer sea ice; the extensive flooding in the south of England across January; or the increasing occurrence and intensity of bushfires in Australia.

No matter the location, the message is clear – the scientific consensus indicates a warming climate driven by human greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

The assessment highlighted that CO2 concentrations are at their highest concentration for 800,000 years with 90 per cent of the heat being absorbed by the oceans. Increased CO2 and heat absorption will increasingly effect marine and coastal environments through sea level rise, ocean acidification and impacts upon coastal habitats such as seagrass meadows, mangroves and corals.

This is a significant concern because productive coastal habitats provide a number of critical services for society including protection from flooding, fisheries and culturally important seascapes and are increasingly threatened by a combination of climate impacts and development pressure.

Our link with coastal regions is an ancient one. From the time we crawled, hopped and slithered from the sea we have established coastal populations, settlements and civilisations.
Fifteen of the 21 global mega cities of more than 10 million people are perched on areas of low coastal elevation.
It is clear that climate change will substantially impact these coastal spaces and related ecosystems and that a mix of adaptation and mitigation measures will need to be planned in the short and long term. However, despite their critical importance coastal systems tend to be decoupled from debates on economic growth or social welfare. Much of the dialogue around coasts and climate change is centred on risk minimisation – in particular, the scenarios of what will happen under sea level rise and flooding.

Recent developments hint at a change in this discourse with increasing awareness of the role of the coast in supporting low carbon growth and dialogue on the positive benefits that support societal development.This includes the transformation of traditional industries such as fisheries, shipping and coastal infrastructure and the emergence of new maritime industries such as marine renewable energy, aquaculture, eco-tourism and bio-prospecting.

‘Coastal low-carbon economies’ (C-LCEs) are defined as economies that link climate mitigation and adaptation measures to the development of coastal industries and communities. They are regionally focused innovation systems, being built upon regional specialisations that draw upon ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems and associated services, coastal infrastructure and human capital.
Europe, in particular, is embracing the concept of a coastal economy with dedicated policy programs and initiatives.
Both European legislators and their national counterparts increasingly see the economic, social and environmental advantage in investing in coastal low-carbon infrastructure across a range of scales and industries. The European Commission is building capacity through its Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) that identifies how low-carbon maritime innovation can provide a route out of the recent economic crisis through new ideas and job creation. The IMP is supported by several marine directives, which encourage growth within environmental carrying capacity and mandate marine spatial planning across the EU.

Examples are emerging from the Atlantic seaboard where countries such as Scotland recognise marine renewable energy, aquaculture and biotechnology as national policy priorities that can grow in conjunction with conservation initiatives such as marine protected areas and marine spatial planning.

In Scotland, the offshore economy is emerging with substantial investment in marine renewable energy. This is supported by legislation such as the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2010, which establishes a long-term framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, an interim target of 42 per cent by 2020 and legislates the equivalent of 100 per cent of gross electricity consumption, from renewable sources by 2020.

While there is considerable work to be done to achieve these ambitious targets and many challenges remain, it is clear that Europe appears to be investing in a low carbon shift with coasts and oceans at its heart. Fundamentally, these reforms are changing the nature and identity of the coasts in Europe.
New developments are emerging – for example, a recent announcement in Scotland highlighted consent for two large offshore wind farms in the north east of the country, totalling 1866 MW of capacity providing electricity to power nearly a million homes.

There are increasing clashes between traditional users of the sea, such as fisheries, with the new kids on the block, such as renewable energy and large-scale aquaculture. Communities are also facing challenges from the industrialisation of coastal regions, particularly in areas that are remote or have cultural and scenic values.

A number of responses are emerging to the challenges. They include implementing a marine planning regime across the EU that will potentially navigate a path between traditional and emerging users of the seas; ensure the equitable flow of ecosystem services from the seas to individuals and communities and integrate the approach into policy; and ensure that communities participate in the planning process and reap the benefits as the necessity for a low carbon economy increases.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hydrodynamic insights into designing and locating effective MPAs

 Image: Tom Adams

New research has found that fish populations within the majority of marine protected areas (MPAs) studied are not significantly different to fish populations in unprotected waters. The study looked at a total of 964 sites in 87 marine protected areas (MPAs) across 40 different countries (including both tropical and temperate waters).  It also found that only 10% of those sites studied are ‘effective’ in meeting their conservation goals. ‘Effective’ MPAs were defined as those meeting at least four out of five management and planning criteria:
·      No-take (no fishing permitted)
·      Enforced well (MPA boundaries and restrictions complied with)
·      Old (more than ten years old)
·      Large (more than 100km squared)  
·      Isolated (by deep water or sand)

This latest research is likely to add fuel to an already raging debate (discussed in an earlier post on this blog) on the designation of areas to create an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the UK. Indeed, the study (discussed by the lead author here) has already been picked up on in this context in another recent article in The Conversation which takes the view that:

Evidence from UK waters may be poor, but there is ample information available from the rest of the world to provide a guide for the best way to build a biologically functional MPA…. The challenge to conservation planners, in Britain and elsewhere, is to build a series of protected areas that fulfil the criteria for successful conservation. It would help to have clearly stated biological goals for these parks that would provide a basis for their location and design.'

The problem (or one of the many problems) is that locating and designing effective MPAs is not as simple as having clearly stated biological goals. Scientific research uses mathematical models (which are informed by huge amounts of scientific data) to predict, for example, the likely changes to fish populations in an area over time. While models of both population dynamics (eg changes to fish populations) and hydrodynamic processes (such as the effects of ocean currents) are now well developed, studies that combine both are rare. Yet accounting for hydrodynamic processes is a crucial part of understanding population processes in specific environments, such as larval dispersal and settlement. If such processes are not understood, it is difficult to predict whether a designated area will be effective in maintaining or (ideally) increasing the fish population within that area.

The science of where to situate MPAs in temperate waters is still very much developing and studies have, to date, been largely based on estimated tidal movements (see here for an example). However, the situation is a lot more complex. Estimated tidal movements alone do not provide the full picture in relation to, for example, how larval dispersal takes place in a particular environment. Recent research on larval dispersal of intertidal organisms shows that differing roles of particular sites as larval ‘sinks’ and ‘sources’ need to be taken into account in order to fully understand dispersal patterns. Understanding such dispersal patterns is necessary to accurately design and locate networks of MPAs so that the biological goals of such MPAs (which will include the recovery or maintenance of fish stocks) can be achieved. However, studies such as this research have not generally been taken into consideration for MPA design and location up to now. An exception is a recent study by Marine Scotland Science. While this is a positive step forward, such work is still in its infancy and needs further refinement to work well in coastal areas.

Is this an excuse to ignore the alarming decrease in the biodiversity of the world’s oceans and to throw the precautionary principle out of the window? Not at all. The authors of the recent MPA research underline the seriousness of this decline:

‘By using effective MPAs as an unfished standard, our study allows the first global assessment of the magnitude of fishing effects on temperate as well as tropical reef communities. Fish biomass was greatly reduced overall, with 63% of all fish biomass, 80% of large fish biomass, 93% of sharks, 84% of groupers and 85% of jacks apparently removed.’ 

What I am highlighting is the need to acknowledge the complexity of designing and locating networks of effective MPAs, and to enable and encourage emerging science around population dynamics and hydrodynamic processes to be taken into account by, and incorporated into, the social, cultural, economic and political contexts which shape, and are themselves shaped by, the creation of these networks.

I am grateful to Dr Tom Adams for comments on this piece.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bringing the arts and culture into Scotland's marine planning process

Photo: Amanda MacQuarrie, Barra

From July to November 2013, MarineScotland (the arm of the Scottish Government responsible for the integrated management of Scotland's seas) carried out a mammoth consultation process (PlanningScotland’s Seas) to take forward integrated marine planning for Scotland’s seas. As part of this process, they sought the views of the public on a National Marine Plan, offshore renewable energy and a proposed network of marine protected areas.

At one of the many consultation meetings delivered around Scotland during this 16 week period, a colleague of mine advised Marine Scotland to ‘sex up’ their consultation process in order to get the public more engaged in this important debate on the management of their seas. I’m not entirely sure if this suggestion is now floating its way along the corridors of Victoria Quay in Edinburgh, where Marine Scotland is currently analysing the results of this consultation process. I do know, however, that some of the 14,000 responses to the consultation on a proposed network of 33 marine protected areas for Scotland's seas arrived in the form of poetry, drawings and paintings. Fortunately, one of the members of Marine Scotland’s Marine Analytic Unit is an anthropology graduate.

It is heartening to hear about these imaginative responses to the consultation. It was also encouraging to be invited, as a social ecologist, to deliver a lunchtime seminar at Marine Scotland last week about my understanding, from a cultural perspective, of a conflict around the creation of two marine special areas of conservation off the coast of Barra, a small island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. My co-speaker was Ruth Little (Associate Director of Cape Farewell), an Australian dramaturg, teacher, writer and former academic who has developed ‘a philosophy and methodology of ‘metabolic’ dramaturgy: the dramaturgy of non-linear living systems, which considers the biological, cognitive and social realms in the creation and interpretation of performance works, and attends to patterns, processes and emergent moments in dramatic structure and human experience.’ Ruth spoke from an artistic perspective about the islands of
Fair Isle, Shetland and Orkney (in Scotland's northern waters) in relation to marine spatial planning issues and relationships between local communities and fisheries/energy.

Ruth Little and I share a common belief in the importance of acknowledging and embracing culture as an aspect of local ecologies, and extending the ecosystem approach to encompass the specific kinds of relationship that people have with their marine environment, and the ways in which they perceive and express those relationships. We offered the Marine Scotland audience visually illustrated cultural and artistic perspectives on many of the issues within the Planning Scotland’s Seas consultation process. From the lively discussion which followed, it was evident that Marine Scotland (at least the 25 people who attended the seminar) are open to engaging with these different ways of knowing and relating to the seas around Scotland – and indeed many of them hail from the coastal and island communities we were talking about.

It is important for artistic and cultural perspectives to weave their way through the ‘integrated’ marine planning process for Scotland’s seas. Beyond the realm of marine planning, and in a broader sense, some of these perspectives currently find expression in publications such as The Island Review, an imaginative and beautifully illustrated online magazine which describes itself as ‘a haven in the vast and stormy online ocean…bringing together great writing and visual arts from islands all over the world.’

Without local cultural and artistic perspectives, the marine planning process for Scotland's seas, quite simply, won’t be integrated. The specific kinds of relationship that people have with their marine environment, and the ways in which they perceive and express those relationships, form the glue that does the integrating.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Marine Conservation Zones Declared in England.

Today DEFRA announced the designation of 27 new Marine Conservation Zones in English inshore and offshore waters. 

It has been a long and controversial process. Initially the MCZ regional pilot programs, that brought together scientists and stakeholders in four regional projects , recommended the creation of 127 sites that formed the basis of an ecologically coherent network. This stakeholder driven process was challenging but managed to bring together diverse opinions and perspectives to build a constituency over MPA sites. The process was praised by a JNCC and Natural England scientific review, particularly in light of the ability to raise awareness and support for the extensive proposed network. The scientific review by the agencies endorsed the  proposed MPA network citing that it makes 'good progress to an ecologically coherent network and minimises impacts of socio-economic interests' but noted, alongside the UK government Marine Protected Areas Science Advisory Panel that considerable data gaps existed in understanding the condition of sites.

In December 2012 the UK Environment minister announced the launch of the MCZ consultation,  proposing 31 sites across England and a considerably smaller number of sites as identified in the regional programs. The reasoning purportedly lay in the lack of an evidence base to identify and manage the full suite of sites and that the proposals would be designated in tranches. 'No take reference areas'  have virtually been dropped from the process. Despite public outcry over the streamlined number of sites that number has been cut further with today's final designation of 27 Nature Conservation Zones. 

Disappointing considering the enormous effort of the regional programs that developed consensus over 127 sites? Yes. Publicly controversial? Yes. Something still to celebrate? Yes. Despite only a fifth of recommended sites surviving the process, these are still locally important areas that will improve management of the marine environment. The critical question is do they form an ecologically coherent network? That's highly unlikely. The positive impact will more likely be local rather than national. Looking forward, the appetite for future designations will be low, at least in the immediate future. However the ongoing pressure for marine conservation outcomes that restore the health of our seas will be an important driver for the management of existing sites and designation of new areas. But for now... 27 new MPAs have come into existence and will form part of the toolbox that protects and manages UK seas. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories: Barra

The small island of Barra forms part of the Outer Hebrides, a long chain of islands off the west coast of Scotland, stretching through the North Atlantic Ocean for a hundred miles. It takes over five hours to make the 70 nautical mile ferry crossing from the mainland to the island.

On Saturday 16th November 2013, a unique cultural map of the sea was launched at the Heritage Centre on Barra.

Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories, an online cultural mapping project for Barra, has engaged with local people over the past year and a half to develop an online cultural map featuring sound, image, story and naming, that reveals the rich local knowledge, language and culture based on their relationships with the sea around Barra and Vatersay.

The project team of artist Stephen Hurrel and social ecologist Ruth Brennan have been working in partnership with VoluntaryAction Barra & Vatersay and Castlebay Community School in the recording and editing of audio-visual material for the online cultural map. As the older people of Barra are the main focus for gathering local names, stories, etc. this has created an interesting cross-generational oral history project.   

A detailed view of the map below shows some of the icons used on the map (in this case, navigational buoys, mussel & pearl, red dots). Each icon can contain names and active media (such as video, audio, photos, text, animations).

The marker buoy icons (below) indicate 'fishing marks'. Once the buoy is clicked blue lines are drawn. These lines connect to features on land that local fishermenuse to triangulate their position at sea, and to find their 'fishing marks'.

The story of the Rusty Lobsters (which you can find on the map by clicking on the shipwreck called the 'Cullen') is an animated text and audio piece based on an anecdote from a local fisherman.
If you click a navigation buoy called Bo a' Chleirich (the Reef of the Priest) on the east coast of the map, you will find the story of how that reef got its name. The story, called the Altair Mor, is narrated by local historian Calum MacNeil and is illustrated in an adventure-comic-book-style.
The Sea Stories online cultural map was officially handed over at the launch event on Saturday 16th November and is now a permanent feature within the Barra community. It will continue to be added to as further 'sea stories' are gathered by Castlebay School’s media students and the wider community throughout the years. It will also be accessible to the public at local cultural events and to the wider world via the Internet.

Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories grew out of collaborative research undertaken by social ecologists Ruth Brennan and Iain MacKinnon and audio-visual material generated by artist Stephen Hurrel, for the publication Dùthchas na Mara/Belonging to theSea (Authors: MacKinnon and Brennan. Photographs: Hurrel).

The idea of a dynamic map - to reflect intergenerational knowledge, fishermen’s ways of knowing the sea and the intangible cultural heritage* of the marine environment - had been discussed by Brennan and MacKinnon, and Hurrel proposed the idea of an interactive digital map. This was subsequently developed by Hurrel and Brennan as a way of bringing to life, and making visible, what is often invisible to most people. Hurrel and Brennan decided to collaborate on a Barra-related project following their participation in Cape Farewell’s Scottish Islands Expedition 2011.

The best way to experience this unique interactive cultural map of the sea is to explore it for yourself. Enjoy!

*The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003 provides international protection for the intangible aspects of cultural diversity.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The European discards ban - a counter-productive measure?

A new paper published in the journal Fish and Fisheries questions whether the discard ban proposed by the European Commission as part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy will effectively contribute to the sustainable management of marine resources. Discards, or discarded catch, is the portion of plant or animal material (dead or alive) which is dumped at sea for a variety of reasons, for example -  exceeding fishing quota, unwanted catch due to small size, immaturity or little or no commercial value. The European discard ban enforces the landing of fishing discards as a means of encouraging their reduction.

There is agreement across the board (including from fishermen) that discards are undesirable and wasteful. From an ecological and ethical point of view discards are highly controversial. For a start, they are wasted food. Discards can also lead to the underestimation of fishing mortality where large quantities of a stock that is subject to Total Allowable Catch (TAC) regulations is discarded - this underestimation impairs sustainable management of that stock. However there is disagreement as to the best way to address the problem.

The authors of the paper argue that the following impacts of the new discard ban have been overlooked:

1. Effects of the ban at different levels of biological organisation:
a. Several marine species (eg seabirds and bottom-dwelling invertebrates) have, for decades, adapted to the 'unnatural' source of food provided by discards. A substantial reduction in discards in the marine environment through forcing such discards to be landed will have direct and indirect effects on such species which are as yet unknown;
b. As discarded biomass is a source of energy which is removed and then immediately returned to the ecosystem, landing the discards increases the net loss of biomass and production which could impact the resilience of the ecosystem and accelerate its deterioration by reducing secondary production and recycling of energy.

2. Economic, operational and technical challenges of the ban:
a. The landing of discards could create new fishmeal markets (for aquaculture and agriculture) so perversely, the discard ban could encourage rather than discourage the production of discards (to take advantage of such new markets);
b. Fishers will have additional operational costs from landing discards and storing them onboard which means a reduced capacity to land products of higher economic value and these costs are likely to be covered by subsidies. Public subsidies to fishing which have long been heavily criticised as detrimental for the ecosystem and for the profitability of European fisheries.
c. Enforcement of the ban will be very difficult especially if there are little or no economic incentives to land discards with little market value.

The authors state that it is contradictory to avoid discards by promoting their landing and not by reducing discards at source. They suggest that a real reduction in discards can be achieved more effectively through (a) a focus on developing more selective and non-destructive fishing gear (eg to allow identification of target species in the water before capture); (b) the enforcement of regulations; (c) reducing overall fishing capacity. They conclude by calling for an investigation of the impacts of the discard ban from a scientific and technical perspective before it is implemented.

I think it is important that the impacts of the ban should be investigated from more than just a scientific and technical perspective. The authors argue that the Ecosystem Approach is being disregarded by the discard ban's failure to take into account the potential negative effects of the ban on different levels of biological hierarchy within an ecosystem. However, their call for investigation of  the impacts of the ban from a 'scientific and technical perspective' with 'a rigorous and open scientific debate on key issues'  is too narrow. The Ecosystem Approach is not limited to biological science. The definition of the Ecosystem Approach by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) takes us away from the idea of an ecosystem as a tangible biophysical unit by recognising that that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems. The application of the Ecosystem Approach is supposed to help reach a balance of the three objectives of the CBD: (i) biodiversity; (ii) sustainable development; and  (iii) equitable sharing of benefits. Application of the 12 principles of the Ecosystem Approach is supposed to follow five points of operational guidance:

1. Focus on the relationships and processes within the ecosystem
2. Enhance benefit sharing (which provides the basis of human environmental security and sustainability)
3. Use adaptive management practices
4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralisation to the lowest level, as appropriate
5. Ensure intersectoral co-operation

If the Ecosystem Approach is being diregarded by the discard ban, it is important not to disregard this very approach in tackling the issues. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

People and the Sea - relationships which call for more than rational thinking

My love affair with the marine environment really began 10 years ago. I was coming to the end of a year's travelling around Latin America and south-east Asia and had signed up for a 4 day liveaboard trip to go diving off the south-west coast of Thailand in the Similan Islands National Park (an area which, only a year later, was devastated by the South Asian tsunami/Sumatra-Andaman earthquake). I had left my backpack with my cousin who lived in Songkhla near the Malaysian border and was travelling with literally one change of clothes for what I thought would be a 4 day trip spent mainly underwater. Six weeks later, my backpack was gathering dust in Songkhla, my one change of clothes was wearing thin and I had completed my PADI Divemaster training with Sea Dragon Dive Centre in Khao Lak - a completely unexpected twist at the end of a year's travelling. The following year I returned to Central America to work as a divemaster - in Utila off the coast of Honduras, and also in Guatemala and Belize. My eyes were opened more and more to the breathtaking natural beauty of this underwater environment which I had rarely thought about up to this point. As my confidence underwater grew, and as I relaxed more and more into guiding holiday divers and introducing them to the underwater flora and fauna, I slowly became aware of a deep sense of peace and stillness which this environment evoked within me when I was immersed in its watery depths. Without realising it at the time, I was tasting the peace and stillness of my inner world, which, a few years later, I learnt to access by diving within myself  - to explore my own inner seas.

My diving continued, inner and outer, as a year studying marine policy at the University of Plymouth revealed another layer to these watery realms - they are not only inhabited by marine flora and fauna, but also by people, through complex and multi-layered human relationships with this environment, be that through work, play or simply breathing this environment through the pores of their skin. My work at SAMS over the past 5 years has reinforced and expanded my awareness of the complexity of these human-nature relationships with/in/through the marine environment. For coastal communities in particular, these relationships are vast and deep - they are bound up with a sense of identity and belonging and not always rational or even conscious.
Relationships between people and 'their' sea extend beyond the rational, thinking mind and encompass also feelings, intuition and embodied knowing. In the Gaelic context, the sense of belonging to a home place, and of responsibility for that place - described by the great Gaelic scholar John MacInnes as a form of 'emotional energy' - is encapsulated by the not easily translatable Scottish Gaelic word dùthchas.
dùthchas is a word of the land - it is derived from the Gaelic word dùth which can mean 'earth' or 'land' - recent research suggests that the emotional energy of belonging and responsibility that word conveys extends to the waters around the homeland. In a more general context, transdisciplinary philosopher Glenn Albrecht has created the term 'endemophilia' to encapsulate the 'particular love of the locally and regionally distinctive in the people of that place'. Albrecht describes endemophilia or 'homewellness' as similar to Relph's 'existential insideness' - 'the deep, satisfying feeling of being truly at home within one's place and culture'.

 In Dùthchas na Mara/Belonging to the Sea the authors ask questions about the deeper nature of maritime conflict that two separate Gaelic-speaking coastal communities - one in Ireland and one in Scotland - have become embroiled in during recent years. The work neither justifies nor invalidates the island people's feelings of being under threat; nor does it argue for or against they way in which they have responded to the threat they are feeling. Instead, the research looks behind the political antagonism to explore shared maritime traditions and principles of belief and conduct in these two communities that may be motivating the resistance manifest on both islands to the legislation of the states that rule them.

This is the kind of territory being navigated, perilously, by marine policy-makers right now - a watery realm of lovers, replete with culturally-specific nuances; humans (individuals, institutions, political processes) and nature continuously responding to and shaping each other. Is it any wonder that trying to manage this environment by means of a 'right' and 'wrong' logic alone is simply not enough?


Friday, September 20, 2013

It’s time to draw a line in the Arctic ice over oil and gas

It's time to draw a line in the Arctic ice over oil and gas

By Tavis Potts, Scottish Association for Marine Science

I have a great respect for National Geographic. I’m a card-carrying member with an annual subscription, and I appreciate the balance, depth and understanding they bring to revealing the links between the natural and human world.

So the latest issue had prepared me for a recent debate at the Royal Society in London which examined the question of the Science of Change in the Arctic. It painted a stark and disturbing picture of our planet’s future in terms of the impact of global sea level rise on coastal cities. It dramatically brought home the message that a fossil fuel-driven civilisation has profoundly altered the planet, which by 2070 will put some 150m people and US$35 trillion worth of assets in the world’s coastal cities at risk from flooding. Our desire for carbon intensive energy has raised sea level by 60mm since 1994 and the draft fifth IPCC report predicts a one metre rise by the end of the century. That is a lot of coast underwater.

So to the debate at the Royal Society, part of the joint National Geographic and Shell Great Energy Challenge. I have to admit I felt rather uncomfortable heading into an event sponsored by Shell, considering some of their recent activity in the Arctic and Alaska. There was an implicit feeling that oil development in the Arctic marine environment was inevitable, with continued offshore exploration, despite limited success, and terrestrial extraction well established in places such as the North Slope of Alaska or the Russian Yamal Peninsula.

In my view the questions for the debate seemed skewed towards how oil companies could gain a social licence for developing oil and gas in the Arctic. I’m glad that several voices raised concerns about the viability of establishing offshore operations in the extreme Arctic environment and these concerns were captured. But at the forefront of my mind were recent debates over the idea of the carbon bubble, where essentially, in order to have a realistic chance of avoiding a 2°C rise, 80% of proven fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. So exploring and developing new reserves, particularly in places such as the Arctic, makes neither ecological nor economic sense. The direction should be towards de-carbonisation, not further development.

I enjoyed being able to discuss the future of energy with one of the world’s major oil companies and I would do it again. The industry needs to be at the table discussing the future of a carbon-constrained world. It has the experience and expertise to drive this transition, but other voices are needed: scientists, the Arctic’s indigenous peoples, and industries such as fisheries and tourism. The perspective from the view of the renewable energy industry was as silent as the pack ice.

My point is that when debates about the Arctic are sponsored by oil companies such as Shell, there will be a natural tendency to be steered into a discourse around fossil fuel expansion into the Arctic. It is what these companies do. In light of the scientific evidence I was determined to present an alternative, where the Arctic ocean is free from fossil fuel development.

Arctic death spiral: it’s going the wrong way. Andy Lee Robinson

My experience of Arctic policy meetings, including the recent Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May, reflects a type of institutional schizophrenia, where fossil fuel development is discussed alongside the emerging impacts of climate change. With warnings of an ice-free Arctic, as beautifully presented by the Arctic death spiral graph showing rapid decline of sea ice, Arctic specialists should be calling for and putting forward more concrete and practical solutions in the face of global meandering. A recent UK Parliamentary report, Protecting the Arctic, highlights this irony, outlining how fossil fuel exploration is being undertaken in full knowledge that emissions need to be reduced.

In a previous article, I identified that fossil fuel development in the offshore Arctic was facing a difficult time. It still is. No commercial finds have been found in Greenland, the Shtokman Russian gas project has been shelved, and drilling the recent commercial discovery in the Norwegian Barents Sea, the Johan Castberg field, has been delayed due to costs pushing the project to the margins of viability. Oil company Total has been the first to publically state that operating is the Arctic is too high risk.

In light of the science and the fact that we need to keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground, exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic is irresponsible and unnecessary. There are already excessive amounts of proven fossil fuel reserves, and Arctic development appears ecologically, technically and economically foolhardy. Perhaps it is time to draw a line in the ice and recognise there are some places that we should not drill.

Tavis Potts receives funding from the European Union (FP7, LIFE+); the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and consults on marine policy to the UK and Scottish Government.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Can ecosystem services be the bridge between Marine Protected Areas and Human Welfare?

Marine Protected Areas are an important policy approach for protecting marine biodiversity. The dominant reason for MPA development is environmental protection where marine species and habitats are spatially protected from 'damaging' activity'. They act as a insurance policy protecting biodiversity from future changes in the earths climate and act as reservoirs of biodiversity in the context of increasing use and industrialisation of the oceans. In the UK networks of MPA sites have been recently proposed in England and Scotland.

A new paper in the journal Marine Policy "Do marine protected areas deliver flows of ecosystem services to support human welfare?" based on a report from the Valuing Nature network explores how can the concept of ecosystem services can be linked to the development of MPAs. Ecosystem services are the goods and benefits that people derive from ecosystems, and include a range of benefits including provisioning services e.g. fisheries, marine plants and natural resources; regulatory services including absorption of CO2 and wastes; and cultural services such as recreation, sense of place, and education. Increasingly monetary values are attached to services in the provisioning and regulatory classes, representing the economic benefits derived from natural systems. A debate exists over how we can value cultural services through monetary or other qualitative means, but overall it is recognised that these services are critically important for society. MPAs can improve the delivery of services from marine systems as habitats and species, on which the flow of services depends, are improved or restored by the spatial protection and associated management measures. Clearly scale is an issue here.... small unconnected sites will deliver little while large ecologically coherent networks could provide substantial services to society.

The paper takes the discussion over ecosystem services a step forward by identifying the specific services that are provided by marine habitats and species. It opens a debate on how marine protected areas can be managed - both in terms of their primary function for conserving biodiversity and in terms of providing a suite of services for human beings. While we are at an early stage in terms of understanding and capturing the concept of value from ecosystem services, acknowledging the contribution of MPAs in supporting human welfare is an integral step in building public support for their designation.