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Protecting Britain’s marine environment.....

By [email protected] - 8th April 2009 - 03:26

....through the Marine and Coastal Access Bill \"SeaZone acts on Marine Bill!\" The Company is offering a ready-made information solution to help organisations affected by the UK governmentâs Marine and Coastal Access Bill. BELOW IS A DETAILED INSIGHT INTO THE BROADER ISSUE.
The UK has one of the worldâs richest marine environments. As an island the UKâs seas are over three times larger than the land area. The seas are home to a huge variety of plants and animals and contain 50 per cent of the UKâs biodiversity, but human activities such a shipping, fishing, oil exploration and offshore wind farms can have negative consequences for the health and sustainability of the seas. Pressures from commercial activities have also caused a decline in a number of species.The grounding of the container ship MSC Napoli off the Jurassic Coast in 2007 highlighted some real concerns about the protection of the marine environment. Some of the busiest shipping routes pass across or near important and sensitive areas such as Lyme Bay - a World Heritage site renowned for its internationally important wintering bird populations and reefs, which are rich in wildlife. In actual fact the floundering MSC Napoli was grounded off the Jurassic coast for safety reasons, however, at the time environmentalists argued that if the UK had a proper marine planning system at the time, potentially damaging activities could be sited further away from environmentally and economically valuable areas.Such concerns have resulted in the UKâs Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which will put in place legislation to protect marine life. In an area largely unregulated, the Bill marks the first step towards coordinated UK marine law, with a new marine planning system and marine conservation powers. In the words of the Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who are responsible for the Billâs implementation, it aims to: âdeliver our vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.âCentral to the Marine Bill is a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which will act as a one-stop shop for all marine matters. Operating from a network of coastal offices and providing a centre of excellence in marine regulation and enforcement, the MMO will provide a consistent approach to delivering improved data, providing advice and a new streamlined licensing system for marine developments and activities. The main elements of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill are: Marine Planning - The Bill will create a strategic marine planning system to help ensure efficient, sustainable use and protection of marine resources. This new planning strategy is aimed at planning the long term objectives for the sea, and in particular the sea bed. Marine Licensing - The Bill aims to simplify and streamline the current licensing rules in order to make the system quicker, easier to use and more consistent. The MMO meanwhile will provide a vital link in the chain from planning to enforcement. Marine Nature Conservation - The Government is looking to introduce a network of marine conservation zones around the coast. These zones would exist alongside existing nature reserves and will ensure environmental considerations are at the heart of decision making processes. The aim is to halt the deterioration of the UKâs marine biodiversity. Fisheries Management and Marine Enforcement - Fisheries and environmental management arrangements will be strengthened by the Bill so that more effective action can be taken to conserve marine ecosystems and help achieve a sustainable and profitable fisheries sector. The 12 current Sea Fisheries Committees that regulate inshore fishing activities will, in England, be replaced by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities. These will have more clearly defined duties, including protection of the marine environment and greater powers for enforcement.Environmental Data and Information - The Bill highlights the importance of high quality marine data and the need for a sound evidence base for making informed policy and management decisions. The MMO will provide a centre of expertise for the collection, storage and dissemination of up-to-date data and information relating to the marine area. Migratory and Freshwater Fisheries - The Bill modernises powers for the management of migratory and freshwater fisheries to better protect national and local biodiversity. It will introduce a new licensing and authorisation system for fishing activities and gives the Environment Agency powers to make emergency byelaws to respond to unforeseen threats to fish stocks. Coastal Access - Government is looking to improve coastal access with the aim of creating a coastal path encircling the UK. Walking is the single most popular activity along the coast but at present 30% of the coast has no access. The Bill could potentially involve the compulsory purchase of certain tracts of land. Coastal and Estuary Management - Current arrangements for coordinating activities in busy estuaries and other coastal areas are poor. The Bill aims to ensure that there is coherence to provide integrated coastal zone management. The Marine Bill is aimed at improving the UKâs marine environment by making the most of the UKâs marine resources and ensures that they are managed in a sustainable way. Industry should benefit from more accessible information and clear policies as well as a simpler, more flexible marine licensing system. The Bill however will put a much greater emphasis on informed evidence based decision making. Until now information on the coastal zone and marine environment has been limited. The absence of regulations has meant that many developments and activities have been able to proceed without proper planning and a limited requirement to collect and present information. Where information has been needed it has been collected purely on a project by project basis with little incentive to share with the wider community and contribute to at the national level The Bill will change this and in particular the new marine planning system will require applications be supported by the appropriate information. For stakeholders such as ports, fishermen, local authorities, energy companies and coastal developers access to information is going to become essential.The Government has already been addressing the information requirement though SeaZone, who are a subsidiary of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO). The UKHOâs own navigational charts have long been the primary source of marine mapping but since they are designed as a navigational aid they fall well short of the wider mapping requirement. As a result SeaZone has developed the worldâs first digital marine mapping; SeaZone HydroSpatial.SeaZone HydroSpatial has been designed for use in desktop and web Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It provides easy access to a wide range of marine and coastal zone information and has multiple topic layers to which additional data can be added. Within HydroSpatial, SeaZone maintains and updates a comprehensive database of best available, authoritatively sourced marine and coastal zone information. This provides a single and consistent source of marine mapping that is being improved over time.The Government recognises GIS as a key tool in providing access to and analysis of complex data and that this information is crucial to Marine Spatial Planning. Maps are essential to the planning process and to communicate plans effectively. HydroSpatial is therefore very important in view of the Marine Bill. It provides a platform for managing marine information allowing analysis and presentation of spatial information that will be vital to support marine planning and enforcement. âThe Marine Bill acknowledges the need for authoritative, comprehensive and maintained marine information as essential in delivering effective evidence based decisions within the marine environment. SeaZone HydroSpatial is the ideal starting point,â says Dr Mike Osborne, Managing Director of SeaZone. âSeaZone already supplies over 600 customers with a range of data products, software and services designed to improve data management and decision making in the marine environment and coastal zone.âThis approach is enabling organisations to collaborate in the use of existing data and expertise to avoid replication of effort and expense. HydroSpatial is designed as a very open and flexible reference base, offering an ideal platform for building digital map layers and records to meet future Marine Bill requirements.

Author: Alison Smith

Bio.: Marketing & Sales Manager, SeaZone

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SeaZone new generation marine data software

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