There are a number of developing policies (international and national) aimed at both marine economic activity and the management of the impacts of those activities that will help to shape the future of economic activity and monitoring on the UKCS. These include Sustainable Development policies; the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and similar marine legislation in Northern Ireland; sectoral policies such as the EU Common Fisheries Policy and various EU Directives (such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats and Birds Directive).
The increasing use of impact assessment as part of policy development across Government is improving the information base on the economic and social values generated by human activity as well as their environmental costs and benefits. The adoption of an ecosystem goods and services approach to valuation is developing through initiatives such as the National Ecosystem Assessment. Such information is likely to be increasingly influential in informing policy choices and can make a substantial contribution to sustainable development.
Finally, the new Marine Management Organisation (under the Marine and Coastal Access Act), Marine Scotland and marine planning throughout the UK will be important vehicles for coordinating research and collating information to enable a better understanding of the extent of pressures. For example, studies are currently being conducted on the distribution of current and potential economic value in relation to aquaculture, renewable energy and inshore fisheries to help inform planning for the development of Marine Protected Areas.
These policy developments will require a better understanding of market value and the direct causal relationship between impacts, pressures and the environment along with better access to such information.
Key future research areas are as follows:
- Greater understanding is required in some areas to support the assessment of Good Environmental Status for the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. For example, knowledge of the distribution and status of seabed features and the spatial and temporal distribution of noise sources, litter and invasive species in the marine environment and their significance to marine ecosystem functioning.
- Summary assessments of pressures related to each activity are based on expert judgement and a range of pressure indicators. In order to improve these assessments we need to better understand cumulative pressures.
- We need better centralised collation of data on the distribution of pressures associated with activities such as aquaculture, leisure and recreation, and shipping.
- We need to agree a methodology on how to spatially allocate socio-economic data to support regional analyses although the assumptions made here have been broadly agreed by industry in reviewing this report.
- Primary research on the economic value of some ecosystem goods and services and on understanding the non-use and option values of the marine environment would also be valuable.
- Greater discussion is needed regarding the market value of some activities that to date are poorly quantified, for example, leisure and recreation, waste disposal, telecommunications and power transmission.
- Certain activities and uses of the marine environment have benefits that are hard to quantify. For example, we need a better understanding of the contribution that marine activities make to social values, such as upholding cultural traditions in local fishing communities. Evidence on the cultural and historic values of the marine environment is patchy and to some extent dependent on information from extractive industries.