Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Habitats Directive

The Habitats Directive (together with the birds Directive) forms an integral part of the European conservation policy. The Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection form the two pillars that the directive is built around. The directive protects 1000 animals and plant species and around 200 “habitat types of European importance”, such as forest, wetlands and meadow.

The Nature 2000 network of protected sites include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and these form a national and internationally important network of protected areas around the European Union.

The Habitats Directive has now been transposed into an English and Welsh law as the Habitats Regulations and the Environment Agency is acting as one of the Competent Authorities responsible for implementing them.

The Habitats Directive is an essential piece of legislation. It enable us to honor and protect the natural world, giving us the tools to holistically manage our environment and sustain features of biological and geological importance. Without such legislation there is the potential for environmental degradation and exploitation and it is in my opinion that more areas need to be classified under the protection and conservation status, and the limits to which we are aloud classify such areas be extended.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Precautionary Principle

"In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."

The Precautionary Principle is seen as an integral principle of sustainable development, that is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their needs. It has become an underlying rationale for a large and increasing number of international treaties and declarations in the fields of sustainable development, environmental protection, health, trade and food safety.

Within the United Nations system, the Precautionary Principle is included in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environmental Development, and in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management

The basic function of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is to adopt integrated solutions to complex and inter-related coastal issues. This method of management is aimed at resolving conflicting issues and pressures on the coast.

The UK government defines ICZM as "a process that brings together all those involved in the development, management and use of the coast within a framework that facilitates the integration of their interests and responsibilities. The objective is to establish sustainable levels of economic and social activity in our coastal areas while protecting the coastal environment. ICZM is central to the ecosystem-based approach."

To put it simply, ICZM is a process that promotes the sustainable management of the coastal zone, as well as the integration of social, economic and environmental interests.

The Environmental Liability Directive

The Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) is a directive that follows the polluter pays principle. This means that an operator whose activity has caused environmental damage or the imminent threat of such damage is held financially liable. The directive aims to induce operators to adopt measures and develop practices to minimise the risks of environmental damage so that their exposure to financial liabilities is reduced.

Environmental Damage

Environmental damage can be defined as a measurable adverse change in a natural resource or a measurable impairment or a natural resource. This may include damage to a protected species or natural habitat, water damage, or damage to land, which may cause contamination that may risk human health.

Protected Species

Protected species can be defined as the species and their habitats listed in the annex of the directive.

Conservation Status

Conservation status can be defined as the sum of influences acting on a natural habitat and its typical species that may effect its long-term natural distribution, structure and functions as well as the long-term survival of its typical species within.


Waters are defined as all waters covered by the directive.

Preventative Measures

Preventative measures can be defined as any measures taken in response to an event, act or omission that has created an imminent threat of environmental damage , with a view to preventing or minimising that damage.

Remedial Measures

Remedial measures can be defined as any action, or combination of actions to restore, rehabilitate or replace damaged natural resources.

Baseline Condition

Baseline conditions can be defined as the condition at the time of damage of the natural resources and services that would have existed had the environmental damage not occurred, estimating on the basis of the best information available.

Competent Authority

The competent authority or authorities are defined as authorities which the Member States designate as responsible for performing the duties arising from the ELD.

Critiques of the ELD

When looking at the opinion of organizations such as the RSPB and other conservation groups , there seems to be a lot of skepticism as to whether existing conservation and environmental laws will be strengthened or possibly even weakened by the EDL's implementation.

Some areas of particular importance are:
  • Member States have the discretion as to whether or not to implement a number of the provisions. The way one of these discretions is exercised could effect the effectiveness of the ELD
  • The overlapping of EU and national legislation could result in intentional or inadvertent weakness of existing laws
  • There are many complex definitions within the ELD that need clarification but also provide an opportunity to look for practical solutions to strengthen existing conservation laws
In a nutshell it is the belief of many conservation organizations that the government should work to transpose the legislation to ensure that conservation objectives are enhanced rather that compromised.

Beach Management

As a nation surrounded by water it essential for us to monitor and protect our beaches. They are an integral part of our coastal defenses and with so many coastal areas our seaside towns and villages are faced with a multitude of threats, such as coastal erosion, storm surges and other natural forces. Dependant on their location, beaches can be used as a tool to generate revenue for the local economy, by means of recreation and tourism, and there is also a need to protect our beaches, by monitoring pollution, plant and animal health, and human interactions. These three factors can be summarized in the classifications of Sustainability, health and profitability, and are the fundamental reason for creating a BMP (Beach Management Plan).

It is only by balancing all three of these factors with a strategic approach or co-ordinated plan that we can effectively and holistically manage our beaches. In essence, the question for particular local authorities is “how to deal with the combination of beach usage and users, and their associated conflicts in an environmentally, economic and socially responsible way, whilst allowing for the sustained enjoyment of beach’s desirable features” (Polzeath Beach Management Plan 2006).

To summarise, the BMP should have a conclusive, positive and long-term impact on the beach that it is being applied to. To achieve this we need a comprehensive co-operation of the local community to provide long-term sustainability of the project. The only way this can be delivered is by productive partnerships, committed ownership by deliverers, sustainable planning, and biodiversity appreciation. In tern this should create a better place to live work or visit, with lasting benefits for future generations.

Management options for Mullion Harbour

In 2004 the National Trust, owners of Mullion Harbour, commissioned a study to investigate management strategies for the next 100 years. It was structures within the harbour, sustaining a significant amount of damage in the 1990s and general concerns about the increasing frequency of such damage with rising waters and global changes in the Earth's climate that prompted the study. It's purpose was to assist the National Trust in selecting an appropriate strategy for managing the harbour over the next 100 years.

The study objectives were:

  • To identify practicable strategy options using information on the present harbour condition and predicted wave conditions for the next 100 years.
  • To provide a technical, environmental and cost assessment of the strategy options and to select with the Trust the most appropriate strategy.
  • To incorporate stakeholder views in the study and to provide a strategy that is acceptable to the majority of the local community and stakeholders.
The study has included the following elements:

  • Data collection, incorporating a review of the archive information on the harbour, desk-based review of environmental information and obtaining wave level data.
  • Field investigations including; bathymetric and topographic surveys, geological investigation, environmental inspection, hydrological investigation, condition assessment using boreholes through the harbour structures and underwater inspection and a survey of the local community.
  • Analysis of the issue facing the harbour by assessing the wave force acting on the harbour at present and over the next 100 years (with sea level rise) and considering the harbour's present condition.
  • development of strategy option, which divide into three generic types; major embellishment, repair and maintenance and retreat.
  • Assessment of the strategy options over the next 100 years, considering sea level rise.
  • Option selection using a matrix approach to rank the relative merits of the strategy options.
  • Consultation via a stakeholder group with the local community, regulatory authorities, statutory consultees and regional groups. the consultation has continued throughout the study.
The conclusion to the study is that the maintain and repair until failure option is the preferred management strategy for Mullion over the next 100 years. This option will allow visitors and Trust members to enjoy the harbour for as long as practicable while recognising that the Trust does not have the resources to sustain the harbour indefinitely.

View the full report on the Mullion Harbour study, or visit the National Trust homepage for other related issues.

A group of us from the Marine College went over to Mullion Harbour on the 16th of April to talk with Justin Whitehouse, the Natural Trust warden for The Lizard. He explained in detail how the commissioned study had been conducted and how it had led to the conclusions and recommendations for the future management of the harbour. He talked about the various options and the processes that they have to go through to come up with the recommendations. One of the things that I picked up on was the lack of money available to help maintain and protect the harbour, but as global warming and sea level rise are both contributing factors in the damage sustained to the harbour structures, we have to understand that Mullion is just one part in the whole scheme of things. Global warming and sea level rise is threatening nearly every coastal town, village and city on national, international and global level. The funding From organisations such as the National Trust can only stretch so far and we must understand that priority for funding has to be given to the areas with heavy populations, or which have economic importance. It's a harsh realisation to think that our future generations may not get to enjoy these beautiful and historic places the same as we have, but we are the ones creating our future and we are only ones that have the power to change things for the better.

Port Falmouth Marina development

In the up and coming months Falmouth in Cornwall will see a new and exciting development on the horizon. Port of Falmouth Marina promises to offer 300 births and currently under assessment a new new cruise ship terminal, which will enable the larger and more exclusive cruise ships to enter the harbour and visit the historic town. The marina will be protected by a six meter wide floating breakwater, with high freeboard, large power outlets a drive on facility for the provision of Superyachts.

This new development promises to be the first vital phase in a major regeneration programme for the area which will see new investment bringing benefits, not just for Falmouth, but the whole of Cornwall.

Drystan Jones has been appointed manager. He previously managed the Ocean Village Marina at Southhampton and the Mylor Yacht Harbour Marina in Cornwall and one of his first responsibilities is to represent Falmouth Port Marina at Collins Stewart London Boat Show at ExCel, where interest in the new facility is expected to be strong.

A talk, tour and graphical presentation of the proposed Marina development conducted by the marina manager (Drystan Jones) on the 23rd of April, provided my environmental management colleagues and I with a clear understanding of where this development is actually going. It's hard to be cynical about the development, because it is so exciting and it will bring many benefit to the community. My only worry is the potential for environmental and biological Degradation. Firstly the need to dredge the harbour to give the larger ship access seems to me like a recipe for disaster, also Large ships have the potential to not only cause damage to the sea bed and sediment, but also bring with them in ballast, a range of invasive and potentially harmful species. My worry is how this development will affect not only the environment, but also the livelihoods of those dependent on the natural resources within the Fal River and surrounding areas.