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2. Key Messages

  • The ecosystem approach should be used to help make decisions to manage our activities in a more sustainable way. We are part of the ecosystem: we affect it and depend on the goods and services it provides. The ecosystem approach aims to ensure that these services are maintained so that our industries, jobs and economies, as well as the natural world, continue to thrive. It matters to us all.

  • The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) should be implemented using the ecosystem approach. This is a legal requirement of the MSFD, which acts as a strong driver for implementation of the ecosystem approach especially: integrated management of human activities at a regional scale, maintenance of ecosystem goods and services and stakeholder participation. European countries must identify how these aspects of the ecosystem approach are achieved.
  • A range of new governance mechanisms are required to fully implement the ecosystem approach in the marine environment, particularly marine spatial planning, which is urgently required across our seas as a process for achieving integrated management of all marine activities. In the meantime, many reinforcing actions can be taken to help align implementation of the MSFD as closely as possible with the ecosystem approach, particularly improving stakeholder participation.
  • Collaborative, effective stakeholder participation is essential and should begin early. Formal consultation at the end of each step is not enough. Involving stakeholders early on can save governments money and is more likely to result in measures that are effective, equitable, affordable and supported. This will benefit everybody.
  • Stakeholders can play an important role in MSFD implementation, for example, by providing and collecting data; identifying and evaluating measures; supporting monitoring and compliance; and evaluating marine strategies. Achieving this sort of input will require greater collaboration and communication between stakeholders and between stakeholders and government, at national and transboundary levels.
  • Governments should engage proactively with stakeholders early in the MSFD implementation process. Developing clear and transparent stakeholder engagement strategies should be a priority in the future, recognising the longer-term benefits of a fully inclusive approach that balances stakeholder participation requirements across a range of closely related policy areas.
  • Stakeholders need to be assertive and organised to maximise participation opportunities. Stakeholders should seek opportunities to guide and influence decision-making themselves. They should engage proactively with other sectors, make contact with government, and advocate and participate in multi-sector forums and discussions where possible.
  • Multi-sector, regional stakeholder forums should be established as a mechanism for engagement in policy implementation and sharing knowledge and experience across sectors and borders. Forums can enable stakeholders to explore interactions and conflicts, understand different perspectives and gain knowledge and information about other sectors’ activities. Such forums need to be impartially-led, representative, adequately funded and formally recognised through statutory measures.
  • Stakeholders should continue to seek new ways to implement voluntary measures to improve the sustainability of their own activities, and encourage others to do so. Implementing voluntary measures may help to reduce the regulatory burden and help meet policy targets. It also increasingly makes commercial sense as sustainability becomes more important to shareholders and consumers. Collaborating and partnering with others can help to identify win-win outcomes.

“When we work with other stakeholders we find a lot of common ground and have many of the same issues. By working together, we have a more powerful voice to influence decision-makers at national and EU level to take notice of us.” (Marine leisure sector)

Celtic Sea Coast

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