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Exploring practical actions for stakeholders

The PISCES project explored potential practical actions through:

  • Structured interviews with PISCES core stakeholders to identify examples of existing initiatives that have led to sustainability benefits and have the potential to be replicated or adopted more widely.
  • Presentations at workshops by core stakeholders to provide more detail on the initiatives, benefits and challenges involved in implementation.
  • Group discussions to explore the potential for replicating or expanding the use and/or application of identified examples within the Celtic Sea.
  • Literature review by the PISCES team to identify further relevant examples.
  • Ideas and comments from advisory group members.

“Using the ecosystem approach to manage what people do in the sea should result in there being more and bigger fish for sports anglers to target. But what will also happen is that as anglers see that happening, they will be more open to looking at their impacts on the environment. Where they fish, how they fish, what they fish for. It will make them more open to considering changes that will be better for the environment, whilst still allowing them to do what they like, which is fishing.” (Recreational angling sector)

A wide range of potential stakeholder actions were identified. The following were considered to be most relevant.

Participating in and supporting stakeholder forums

Stakeholder forums exist in numerous forms, from small-scale, issue-specific arrangements to larger integrated coastal management partnerships. Participating in and supporting them (e.g. financially or in kind) can provide many benefits, including reduced costs and resource use (see case study 10); access to marine stakeholder contacts; opportunities to attend events; advice and guidance; dissemination of information; engagement with government; marketing opportunities; and exchange of knowledge, data and ideas.

As detailed in the previous section, PISCES recommends the creation of a transnational multi-sectoral forum (building on PISCES) for the Celtic Seas sub-region. Industry, government and civil society (e.g. NGOs) must be involved and ensure that is well supported, accessible and inclusive.

Case study 10: Financial benefits of coastal partnerships in the UK

E.ON began construction work on the Robin Rigg wind farm in the Solway Firth, UK, in 2007. The company became a funding member of the Solway Firth Partnership for two years (2007-2008), recognising that it could use some of the core services offered to help raise public awareness of its wind farm activities. Providing £10,600 over the two years, E.ON was able to publish information in the Partnership’s quarterly newsletter, as well as present at a number of partnership events – opportunities calculated to be worth around £40,000-£60,000 over the two years. Making contacts at events also saved time, valued at up to £4,500 per year. E.ON also gained useful knowledge through the Partnership, especially in relation to conservation issues.

Further information:

Developing new solutions to sharing marine space

Finding space for the rapidly growing range of marine activities is becoming increasingly difficult. Physical or temporal sharing of space can reduce costs as well as footprints if done successfully. While this is commonplace on land, it is seldom seen at sea. Stakeholders know where the opportunities lie and have the technical knowledge to work out ways of accommodating other activities in the same space. Sectors should work together to explore and proactively implement practical solutions.

Exploring innovative ways of working together

Partnerships that deliver environmental improvements include those between industry and government, business and NGO coalitions, and public-private partnerships (see case study 11). They can be a cost-effective way of meeting government targets and making environmental responsibility an integral part of business decision-making. Partnerships are often structured around specific initiatives, such as technical improvement programmes, certification schemes, environmental agreements and codes of conduct.

Case study 11: Sustainable Shipping Initiative

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) is a partnership between leading companies from around the world and the NGOs Forum for the Future and WWF. The cross-industry group represents ship owners and charterers, shipbuilders, engineers and service providers, banking, insurance, and classification societies. Initiated in 2001, SSI aims to tackle some of the systemic challenges in modern shipping: navigating a changing economic context, increased scrutiny and high expectations in terms of environmental performance, and the future of energy and climate change.

Four work streams will develop new knowledge, tools and processes for the industry (up until 2013):

  • Developing systems and practices for closed-loop management of ship-building materials.
  • Developing new approaches for the financing of sustainable ships.
  • Leading efforts to make low-energy technologies more affordable and available.
  • Improved beyond-compliance sustainability rating schemes in shipping.

After 2013, the project will seek wider implementation, helping the industry make long-term plans for future success. An industry with long-lived assets needs long-term thinking. The SSI aims to help members think beyond the next regulation or design tweak.

Further information: www.forumforthefuture.org/project/sustainable-shipping-initiative/overview

Modifying marine activities

Individual operators and businesses can make a number of relatively small changes to their activities to improve sustainability. The location and timing of activities can be altered to limit environmental impacts (e.g. to avoid wildlife breeding seasons), the intensity of extracting resources can be reduced (e.g. through voluntary bag limits on recreational fisheries), and areas can be closed to activities through voluntary agreements (e.g. voluntary no-take zones). Stakeholders are often best placed to identify suitable actions and modifications. They will need to communicate these to governments and share learning with other stakeholders to increase take-up across their sector or area.

“We try to get there ahead of the legislation so we’re not always reacting and so we’re conducting ourselves responsibly.” (Ports sector)

Incorporating ecosystem services into business decision-making

Many businesses depend on ecosystem goods and services, and many also affect them. The risks and opportunities posed by business interaction with the ecosystem can be directly integrated into internal management systems, including EIAs, corporate strategy development, environmental management systems, contingency plans, biodiversity action plans, sustainability reporting procedures and stakeholder engagement strategies. Guidance on many of these has been produced (see case study 11).

Managing activities for the provision of ecosystem services is increasingly being encouraged by industry associations (e.g. IPIECA: a global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues) and other bodies (e.g. the Global Reporting Initiative and International Organization for Standardization (ISO))xx.

Case study 12: Nature in performance

The World Resources Institute has recently launched a guide for business managers on how to integrate ecosystem service considerations into their business performance systems. The guide describes:

  • The business value of ecosystem services.
  • Simple methods to assess how ecosystem services affect corporate performance.
  • Basic principles for integrating ecosystem service considerations into business performance systems.
  • Specific guidance on ecosystem services considerations in ISO-14001 compliant environmental management systems, as well as in sustainability reporting procedures conforming to the Global Reporting Initiative.

Further information: www.wri.org/publication/nature-in-performance

Considering ecosystem services within EIAs helps to ensure that outcomes are more sustainable, by enhancing the economic, social and environmental performance of projects. Few EIAs address ecosystem services explicitly, but it is increasingly seen as best practice and is now required by some lending agencies and government institutionsxxi.

The process of integrating environmental, social and economic issues more clearly can also help a business by demonstrating transparency to stakeholders and regulators; enhancing evaluation of alternatives; identifying mitigation/compensation measures; providing opportunities to save costs and raise revenues; and enhancing brand value and reputation.

Supporting sustainable markets

Certification and eco-labelling schemes can provide commercial benefits while helping to meet environmental improvements through the creation of markets for more sustainable products. This also benefits governments by enabling market forces to promote sustainability, reducing the need for regulatory control. Over the past decade, numerous seafood certification schemes have been developed including the Marine Stewardship Council, South West Handline Fishermen’s Association, Responsible Irish Fish (see case study 13) and Seafish’s Responsible Fishing scheme.

Marine stakeholders should identify the relevant labels and certification schemes for their products and attempt to gain accreditation. The financial cost of the accreditation process can act as barrier to achieving certification. However, efforts are under way to help address this (e.g. UK Seafish’s Project Inshore).

Case study 13: Responsible Irish Fish

Responsible Irish Fish (RIF) is a certification scheme that encourages and rewards responsible fishing by Irish vessels. The primary objectives of the scheme are to help vessel owners achieve certification for their fish/shellfish, develop a brand to allow Irish fishermen to differentiate their products in the marketplace and promote Irish fish caught in a responsible manner.

RIF has been developed by the fishing industry, with the backing of state bodies such as Bord Iascaigh Mhara (Irish Sea Fisheries Board). Vessel owners work with both regulatory bodies and those based in the industry to meet the label criteria which are based on three main pillars of quality (ensuring good practice during handling and storage of the catch), provenance (the fish/shellfish sold under the label is fully traceable back to an Irish vessel) and responsibility (environmental responsibility).

The RIF label is helping retain jobs in a sector of significant value to coastal communities, opening up new market demand, and ensuring the environmental cost of fisheries is kept to a minimum.

Further information: responsibleirishfish.ie

Developing and following codes of conduct

Codes of conduct and other so-called ‘soft law’ approaches (principles, guidelines etc.) are increasingly used to encourage certain behaviour. While not statutory, codes of conduct can help those following them to ensure they comply with environmental legislation. They can also highlight ways of avoiding or reducing environmental impacts, improving and benchmarking environmental performance, and improving business credentials.

Some sectors have developed codes of conduct in the Celtic Sea project area, including the boating, angling and port sectors (e.g. the Pembrokeshire Marine Code, the British Marine Federation’s Environmental Code of Practice, and the UK Port Marine Safety Code). There is scope for wider development.

Case study 14: Marine leisure codes of conduct in Wales, UK

The Pembrokeshire Marine Code exists in addition to legislation as a recommendation for good practice. The code has had input from conservationists, and also from all major local wildlife tour boat operators, diving organisations, jet ski organisations, sailors and sea kayakers to make it accurate and reasonable to follow. Wildlife habitats which are particularly sensitive to disturbance, at particular times of year or all year round, are clearly marked on maps.

The Irish Sea Marine Leisure Knowledge Network, in association with Wildlife Trusts Wales, the Marine Conservation Society, The Green Blue and Visit Wales, has also produced nine Marine Wildlife Appreciation sheets for the Welsh coast. These laminated A4 sheets have a map showing the best locations to view the local wildlife on one side, and the codes of conduct for engaging with the various species on the reverse. Some 14,000 sheets have been distributed to every yacht club and marina in Wales.

Further information: www.pembrokeshiremarinecode.org.uk and www.irish-sea.org/wales-marine-wildlife-appreciation

Voluntary agreements

Voluntary agreements can be effective if the incentives are right. Typically these are agreements between sea users and government, in which responsibility for identifying solutions is delegated to the sea user. The government is usually only involved in compliance monitoring and enforcement. Sea users avoid additional regulation and have greater flexibility to choose measures that are cost-effective and commercially advantageous, while still improving sustainability. For governments, voluntary agreements can be a cost-effective way of achieving targets. There is ongoing debate about the potential for voluntary agreements within the MSFD programmes of measures.

“As the number of marine uses increases, there are likely to be more conflicts to be resolved between interested parties and more focus towards sustainable coexistence.” (Statutory agency)

Sharing information and data

Sharing data across the Celtic Sea could improve understanding and avoid duplication of effort. Data sharing can be challenging due to the variation in format, unwillingness to share potentially sensitive information, and the need for accuracy and current information.

A regional data portal and agreements on how data is shared could improve data sharing in the Celtic Sea. The EU Water Information System for Europe (WISE) – Marine should facilitate this. This system will include publicly available information reported by member states and submitted to the EC on delivery of the MSFD.

Promoting responsible individual behaviour

Personal actions can benefit marine conservation at little cost – and responsible behaviour can be contagious. Examples include using fewer plastic bottles and bags; reusing shopping bags, cups, and other containers; participating in beach clean-ups; eating only sustainable seafood; reducing chemical runoff; disposing of hazardous materials responsibly.


  1. xx.   Long, E (2010) The role of Regional Advisory Councils in the European Common Fisheries Policy: legal constraints and future options. The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 25:289-346.
  2. xxi.   World Resources Institute, Hanson, C., Van der Lugt, C. and S. Ozmen (2011) Nature in Performance: initial recommendations for integrating ecosystem services into business performance systems. 32 pp.

Fishing boats

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