Marine Protected Areas in inshore waters: guidance for undertaking Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIA)

Guidance for assessing social and economic impacts from policies and decisions relating to Marine Protected Areas.

Section 3. Step-by-step guidance

Step 1: Description of proposals

Description: The first step is to develop a detailed description of the proposals including whether proposals relate to the designation of a new MPA site and/or if they involve the implementation of fisheries management measures. A description of the MPA boundary may be provided as part of the SEA, but additional details may be required for the SEIA.

Purpose: This allows for a thorough understanding of all aspects of the proposals which could generate social and economic impacts, as well as when, where and how they might occur. The description is the starting place for engaging stakeholders on the baseline and predicted impacts.

Practical considerations:

  • Location, content and time frame of proposal:
    • o Where is the MPA or where are the measures going to be introduced?
    • o What do the proposed measures include? Provide specific details on the content of proposals.
    • o What is the environmental context to their introduction?
    • o When are the proposed measures planned to be introduced?
  • Implications of proposal:
    • o What industries currently operate within the proposed area?
    • o What economic activities will be positively or negatively affected by the measures?
    • o What other activities (including wellbeing, recreational or community) will be affected by the measures?
    • o What impact will the measures have on ecosystem services (including provisioning, regulating and cultural), now and in the future?
  • It is important to include as much detail as possible. If it is the case that details are not available, offer an indication of how the evidence gaps will be filled i.e. through engagement and impact prediction.

Step 2: Define impact area

Description: It is important to set out the geographic area(s) on land where social and economic impacts will be experienced, taking into account the locations and connections between any industries and activities occurring near or in the MPA, and how they relate to activities on land (described in step 1). Defining the impact area is informed by an understanding of who might be affected as well as what the impacts might be, and so should be done iteratively with steps 3 and 8.

Defining the impact area for a protected area in the sea can be more challenging than for protected areas on land. Marine users and industries can have social and economic ties to settlements along the coast, potentially at some distance from the MPA. The impacts will, therefore, not all be experienced within the protected area (as on land) but potentially in numerous communities in a range of locations.

Purpose: to develop a clear understanding of the locations where social and economic impacts will be experienced and to identify which will be the most appropriate population settlements and locations to cover in the SEIA. The defined impact area will determine which communities and stakeholders are involved in the impact assessment. In terms of economic impact, accurately defining the areas affected will inform understanding of the level at which impacts are likely to occur and allow for the assessment of cumulative impacts of MPA measures.

Practical considerations:

  • Activities taking place within or near the MPA, and the locations these relate to on land, will form the basis of the impact area. For example these might include the registration and landing ports of vessels that fish in or around the MPA, or the settlement where a wildlife tourism business that operates in the area where the MPA is based.
  • To capture the full impact area it may be necessary to look at secondary or supporting industries such as seafood processing, suppliers of fuel and equipment etc.
  • Proximity to the MPA should also be a factor, if appropriate. There may be communities near the MPA who experience impacts linked to the improved environmental status of the area, and there may be new opportunities that arise, that are not linked to existing activities.
  • There are a number of different types of community that should be considered, which affect the definition of the impact area:
    • "Communities of place": the people who are connected through living in a particular place – in this case living in communities near an MPA.
    • "Community of practice": those who are connected through activities or livelihoods that they have in common even if they do not share the place. For example, fishers may live in a variety of coastal locations, but are linked through the practice of fishing (See Annex 1).
    • "Community of interest": a community of people who share a common interest or passion, but may not be linked in any other way. For example this may include those with an interest in marine conservation.
  • Level: some impacts may occur at different geographical levels i.e. local, regional, Scotland or UK. There may be a mix of positive or negative impacts at different levels.
  • There is a risk that some communities or people who feel they should have a say, are missed out of the impact assessment if the impact area is too narrowly defined. An inclusive approach should therefore be taken when defining the area of impact.
  • In defining the impact area, it may be useful to consider boundaries or units of area for which there is data available both on land and at sea, such as datazones, settlements, localities or nations, and ICES rectangles.

Step 3: Stakeholder mapping

Description: Identify groups and individuals who may be affected by or have an interest in the proposals.

Purpose: Knowing who might be affected by an MPA or fisheries management measures is important for gaining a thorough understanding of potential impacts, and is essential for enabling stakeholder engagement and participation.

Practical considerations:

  • Stakeholder mapping and defining the impact area are linked and will likely feed into each other, and so these steps should be carried out iteratively.
  • It may be useful to get a small group of people with knowledge of the MPA, with diverse interests and perspectives, to put together a list of relevant stakeholders, or check over any list produced. This ensures that any 'blind spots' are accounted for, and that the list is comprehensive.
  • The stakeholder list or map should include any marine users, industries or businesses operating within the MPA boundary or nearby.
  • It may be helpful to look at the legal implications of the designation and management measures to identify who might be affected.
  • Stakeholder groups may include, but not be limited to, commercial sea fishing, recreational fishing, tourism, aquaculture, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE), community groups and NGOs, and nature restoration and research projects.
  • Efforts should be made to include all those who might be affected by the MPA and associated management measures, especially lesser heard voices.
  • The wider public living in communities near the MPA should also be included as stakeholders i.e. some people feel sense of wellbeing knowing the MPA exists, equally they may be aware if the local economy has been affected negatively.
  • It may be helpful to categorise stakeholder e.g. by level of impact primary (direct), secondary (indirect), tertiary (induced).
  • While it is important to include all stakeholders that may be impacted, positively or negatively, by the MPA and management measures, some groups may be affected more than others. This will vary on a case by case basis, and should be captured in the subsequent stages of data collection and analysis.

Step 4: Engage with stakeholders

Description: This step is important and should continue throughout the entire SEIA process. It involves ensuring there are appropriate governance structures to enable effective engagement with communities and other stakeholders which will help to manage competing needs or divergent views where these exist. This step should include holding participatory engagement and consultation events.

Purpose: To ensure that effective engagement processes are put in place so that community members and other stakeholders are fully informed about:

  • details of the proposals;
  • how they can be involved in the SEIA;
  • their rights with regard to the project; and
  • their access to grievance and feedback mechanisms.

By devising inclusive participatory processes and deliberative spaces, community members and other stakeholders will be able to:

  • understand how they might be impacted;
  • understand if and how they can influence and contribute to decisions being made;
  • contribute to mitigation and monitoring plans; and
  • prepare for change.

This will also enable those carrying out the SEIA to develop a detailed understanding of the impacted communities and other stakeholders through data collection and research about:

  • the needs, values and interests of stakeholders;
  • the relevant history of the community; and
  • who the relevant groups are and any connections or dependencies between them.

Practical considerations:

Note that the following are considerations for engagement throughout the full SEIA process. Not all are relevant at every stage.

  • Early engagement is very important in order to ensure that there are good relationships between stakeholders and officials. Meaningful engagement should include good communication around why and when decisions are made, which increases likelihood of public acceptance.
  • Engagement should take place throughout the SEIA process and will be required in some form for steps 5-9. The practitioner/consultant can decide how best to arrange the engagement to achieve the objectives of the SEIA and take account of the considerations listed here.
  • Engagement should be done sensitively, taking account of past experiences and stakeholder relationships: poor engagement can be an impact in itself, and so can the uncertainty that often accompanies it.
  • It is vital that communication is two-way and that stakeholders understand the opportunities and limitations around how they can influence the process.
  • Stakeholders should be given ample warning of events so that they have time to prepare and make plans to attend.
  • Care should be taken to organise events in such a way that all those who want to can take part e.g. making sure that scheduling takes account of working hours, child care commitments, accessibility (disabled access, availability of internet etc.).
  • Certain industries (e.g. fishing) have irregular hours which need to be taken into consideration.
  • Engagement should be designed so that lesser heard voices are included and that those who are particularly vocal, concerned or well organised do not dominate the exercise.
  • Make use of existing groups and forums where relevant or feasible such as Regional Marine Planning Partnerships, residents' associations, community councils or networks.
  • The views and suggestions made during the stakeholder engagement process should be captured and reported, along with information about how the feedback was dealt with.
  • Explaining why decisions have been made, and why some feedback has been acted on, and others have not, is an important part of introducing transparency to the process.
  • Stakeholder engagement will also include data gathering using interviews and surveys. This will provide important detail and context for Steps 5, 6 and 7.

Step 5: Gather contextual information

Description: Develop a social and economic profile of the area including history, culture and context.

Purpose: To develop a full and complete understanding of the communities and stakeholders in question and the context that the MPA and management measures will be fitting into. This will help to reduce the potential for conflict and misunderstandings.

Practical considerations:

  • Information may come from a desk-based study and from engaging with the community (i.e. interviews and surveys etc.) (See Annex 4).
  • This step could be carried out in parallel with Step 4.
  • This step may include collecting evidence and data on the following as required:
    • the history of the area and its communities;
    • current trends in communities;
    • demographic profile and any equalities issues;
    • local industrial structure/ major industries in the area (e.g. extent of dependence on industries such as fishing);
    • profile of local skills and qualifications;
    • the impacts of previous marine developments and designations, how this was experienced and how this is currently viewed;
    • social and cultural values;
    • community assets, strengths and weaknesses;
    • trends in natural capital and ecosystem services (See Annex 2).
  • It may be helpful to enlist the help of key stakeholders (as determined during stakeholder mapping exercise) to advise and to check interpretations.

Step 6: Scoping

Description: Scoping involves identifying the range of potential social and economic impacts, or issues, associated with proposals in order to identify those that require further, more detailed assessment.

Purpose: Scoping is a preliminary process that produces an interim list of issues to be further considered during Steps 7 and 8. This two stage process ensures transparency and inclusivity, especially as it may not immediately be obvious what the social or economic impacts might be. At this stage all impacts are considered and those that are pertinent are scoped in for further consideration in Steps 7 and 8.

Practical considerations:

  • Anything can be a potential impact if it is valued by a specific group of people and is related directly or indirectly to the proposal. It is important to emphasise that any assessment must include the issues that stakeholders themselves deem to be important relating to the MPA and management measures.
  • Scoping should also include the potential impact of proposals on natural capital and ecosystem services (see Annex 2).
  • Information should be gathered from a range of sources including a desk based study of similar cases, expert opinion and suggestions from relevant stakeholders.
  • A combination of technical (literature and expertise) participatory and social research approaches are, therefore, required (See Annex 4).
  • It may be helpful to develop a framework to assess the potential impacts. This could include a preliminary assessment of the following:
    • level at which the impacts will occur, covering local, regional, and national levels;
    • probability of the anticipated impact occurring;
    • duration that the impacts are expected to last for;
    • benefits and costs associated with the impact;
    • reversibility of the impacts;
    • likelihood of cumulative or secondary impacts; relevance to policy decisions;
    • uncertainty of effects;
    • disagreement or opposing views about an issue.
  • It is also important to consider how impacts may affect the well-being of various stakeholders. This may include less tangible impacts such as:
    • culture and heritage;
    • connection to nature or landscape;
    • fears and aspirations;
    • identity;
    • values;
    • way of life.
  • It is important to be transparent about why some impacts are included and others are not and this should be clearly communicated to all stakeholders as required.
  • Scoping should include coverage of impacts on related sectors that use or rely on the marine space for their business such as (eco-)tourism, commercial sea fishing (including displacement and loss of opportunities), recreational fishing, water-sports, aquaculture, wild swimming, nature restoration, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and so on.

Step 7: Baseline analysis

Description: Baseline analysis involves collecting evidence to describe the situation that would follow in the absence of intervention. In this case, this would consider the outcome of not designating a new MPA and/or introducing proposed fisheries management measures. The baseline is sometimes referred to as the counterfactual, do nothing or business as usual scenario.The quality of the baseline analysis will have a significant effect on the accuracy of the SEIA.

Purpose: This step provides a reference point in the analysis that can be used to compare predicted impacts against. This allows changes associated with the intervention to be identified. The baseline is used to assess the expected net impact of the proposals.

Practical Considerations:

  • It is important that appropriate measures are chosen for the baseline and subsequent impact prediction. Appropriateness is linked to where impacts are expected. See Box 1 for examples of measures that could be used.
  • The data used can be quantitative or qualitative (see Annex 4 for relevant data sources).
  • The analysis may draw on a combination of existing datasets (secondary data) or primary data collected using appropriate research methodologies.
  • The baseline analysis should cover all the relevant issues as far as possible and as is proportionate, not just things for which data are easily available. It is worth considering and reporting on the accuracy of the evidence and whether the use of proxy indicators is appropriate.
  • The baseline should include an assessment of the local industrial structure, focusing on areas of expected impact.
  • Where measures are likely to affect commercial or recreational fishing, baseline analysis should provide information on the current and predicted future levels (in the absence of intervention) of fishing activity within the proposed area, including important measures such as: landings by gear type, number of vessels, nearby port activity, employment and GVA (see Annex 1 for more info on fishing data).
  • Uncertainties and assumptions made during the baseline analysis should be clearly identified (e.g. if it is assumed that an indicator remains constant over the relevant time period for the proposal).
  • Exceptional years, due to factors such as COVID-19 or EU Exit, will need to be accounted for when developing the baseline. For example, this may involve using an average of prior years or using a different baseline year. Sensitivity analysis will be helpful when trying to determine how much exceptional years cause values to fluctuate (see Annex 3 for more details on sensitivity analysis)
  • It is important to recognise that, under any scenario, the marine environment is highly unlikely to remain in a steady state so it is important to consider trends over an appropriate timescale. The baseline should include information on the types of natural capital assets and ecosystem services that exist within the proposed area.
  • Baseline analysis should use the best available evidence to provide an assessment of how natural capital assets and ecosystem services are likely to change over an appropriate period of time, under a do nothing scenario (see Annex 2 for further guidance on incorporating a natural capital approach into the SEIA).
  • Stakeholders, including communities, may know of local, relevant datasets, which could supplement the core data used in the assessment, and so could be asked to input at this stage.
  • When choosing measures or indicators, consider the frequency with which the data is collected and updated. It is also important to consider the level at which data is available and how relevant it is to the expected impacts.
  • Where trends are being forecast, this should cover an appropriate time frame for the proposal.

Box 1: Variables

Some examples of variables that could be used in the SEIA are listed here, although these need to be adjusted on a case by case basis:

A variable is an element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change. A number of terms can be used to describe the change in a variable and so monitor that change e.g. measure, indicator, index. The degree of change in a variable can be estimated qualitatively or quantitatively and either through direct or indirect measurements:

  • A measure is a direct measurement of a change in a variable e.g. average age of the population;
  • An indicator is something that points to, measures or defines a concept in a practical way e.g. attendance at local events can be used as an indicator of social cohesion;
  • A combination of indicators into a single score is called an index e.g. the social capital index.

There is considerable overlap in some social and economic impacts and the variables that are used to monitor them. For example, employment is a key social and economic impact but for different reasons. From an economic perspective, the variables would cover number and location of jobs, implications for other industries in the area (e.g. in terms of wages, worker availability), the relationship between employment and disposable income, and the broader socio-economic consequences for the area. From a social perspective there would be greater focus on the types and quality of jobs available, if they were evenly shared across the community, and the implications for health, wellbeing, security, identity and community cohesion.

Sometimes the same variable covers both social and economic impacts. We have therefore listed socio-economic variables without distinguishing between social and economic impacts. This is a long list and not all measures will be appropriate. The appropriate mix of variables to inform a baseline analysis will depend on the outputs from the prior steps in this guidance. It is likely that for each proposal there will be a more limited set of key performance indicators (KPIs).

Examples of socio-economic variables:

  • Demographics – age and gender split
  • Population change
  • House prices
  • Housing availability
  • Education attainment
  • Crime and fear of crime
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Deprivation
  • Public satisfaction with local decision making
  • Attitudes of ambition and aspiration for the community
  • Community and cultural assets
  • Local cohesion and solidarity (bonding social capital) e.g. attendance at local events, social capital index
  • Communication and network building (bridging and linking social capital)
  • % working age population in work
  • % unemployment of economically active population
  • % with no qualifications
  • % with elementary occupations (SOC)
  • Proportion of full time vs part time employment
  • Median income, and range
  • Employment density (jobs per 100 working age residents)
  • Qualitative assessment or monetary valuation of natural capital
  • Total GVA
  • GVA, turnover and employment of relevant and related sectors
  • Labour market conditions: employment/unemployment/skills shortages
  • Education/skills levels in the relevant areas
  • Quality of infrastructure available
  • Employees' retail expenditure (induced)
  • Planned development of existing commercial activities (e.g. tourism, fishing activity)
  • Planned industrial development in relevant areas
  • Extent and condition of natural capital assets
  • Flows of ecosystem services

Step 8: Predict impacts

Description: Through analysis, estimate the social and economic changes and impacts that will likely result from the proposals. Predicting impacts[15] is also sometimes known as impact assessment or options appraisal.

Purpose: predicting the impacts and assessing their significance allows Scottish Ministers determine whether the impacts identified are acceptable and whether mitigation or adjustments may need to be developed.

Practical considerations:

  • This step may involve using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • It will be important to use relevant socio-economic indicators and measures capable of capturing the impacts under assessment.
  • It may be helpful to consult with those carrying out the impact assessments for other receptors in the SEA and to consider the impacts on natural capital assets and ecosystem services. Changes in the physical environment often have positive or negative socio-economic consequences e.g. impacts on wildlife and seascape could have an effect on tourism, employment, sense of place, wellbeing, any impacts on spawning grounds could affect the fishing industry with knock on effects for employment, identity, social cohesion, cultural heritage.
  • Stakeholders and communities may have local knowledge about particular impact pathways and so should be engaged.
  • When assessing the economic impact it is important to determine the value of the direct, indirect and induced impacts, as well as short-term and long-term.
  • Assessment of cumulative impacts will be necessary where there are a number of activities and marine users operating in the same area.
  • Impact prediction should consider the potential displacement and knock-on socio-economic implications of fishing displacement, including on natural capital and ecosystem services, which proposals may result in.
  • It is important to identify the distribution of positive and negative impacts among different groups and sections of society. Distributional impacts may be considered in terms of geographical area, urban/rural, socio-economic group, as well as the relevant protected equalities characteristics (e.g. age, gender, disability).
  • Assessing the significance of impacts will be different in each case. What is significant will in part depend on the priorities and individual values of the stakeholders. There are a number of different methods used to assess significance. These may include, looking at the likelihood and potential scale of the impacts, and talking with stakeholders about their values. (see Annex 4)
  • Uncertainty and assumptions should be clearly communicated.

Step 9: Management and monitoring

Description: The development of a management plan and monitoring strategy are considered best practice in relation to SEIA. This stage involves the use of relevant indicators or measures, as developed at step 7 and 8, plus any other data collection methods required, and a strategy for monitoring and auditing the social and economic impacts of the development.

Purpose: To monitor whether the impacts and any mitigation strategies are operating as expected; to ensure that all impacts, whether positive or negative are within the acceptable bounds; to check that the assumptions made when predicting and assigning significance to impacts have not changed; to enable those responsible to respond quickly and effectively to change, as needed; to compare predictions with actual impacts; and to build the evidence base in this area and maximise the opportunities to learn for the future.

Monitoring and management of MPAs is undertaken at a network level. Potential regional management approaches are being explored further under the Interreg-funded Marine Protected Area Management and Monitoring (MarPAMM) project[16].

Site condition monitoring is also undertaken at the network level and is guided by the Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy[17]. Monitoring of the economic impacts has been undertaken and a report of the socio-economic impacts of MPAs was published in November 2020.[18]

Practical considerations:

  • Indicators benefit from being "SMART", that is:
    • Specific to the issue under consideration
    • Measurable in the sense that the data must be available
    • Action-oriented in the sense that the indicator must be linked to a response mechanism
    • Relevant to the issue and accurate
    • Time-sensitive, so that it is possible to track changes over a relevant period of time.
  • Indicators should also be developed together with relevant stakeholders, for example by considering
    • whether the indicators are relevant;
    • do they measure what they are supposed to measure;
    • is there a better way to measure the issue based on local knowledge;
    • is anything missing that would be important to measure but is not covered in the monitoring plan.
  • They should be interpretable and communicable to stakeholders and interested groups.
  • Where possible indicators should be developed so that they can crosschecked and compared with other data and other contexts.
  • The frequency of measurement of each social indicator needs to be appropriate to each indicator and the severity (or significance in EIA terms) of the underlying issue.
  • The key stakeholders need to agree on the key monitoring issues: the method by which measurement will happen, frequency of monitoring, responsible people, and most importantly, on the way that the results will be reported to all stakeholders.
  • Once the indicators have been developed, they need to be collated into a monitoring plan. Monitoring plans need to be developed in a participatory way, and there needs to be careful consideration given to the governance and oversight of the monitoring process if it is to have legitimacy.
  • The monitoring plan should be a dynamic, working document, and should be reviewed on a regular basis to determine whether all the indicators are still relevant, whether the methods of measurement remain appropriate (especially in the context of technological advances), and whether any new issues have emerged that should be included in the monitoring plan.
  • The monitoring plan and performance against it should be openly available and accessible to the affected stakeholders. This is likely to be provided online.

Step 10: Complete SEIA

Description: Where it is deemed necessary, the SEIA should be completed before the MPA is designated or management measures are implemented. This should set out the results of the steps described previously in this guidance.

Purpose: To allow Scottish Ministers to take into account the predicted impacts as part of their decision making process, and to collect all of the outcomes of the previous steps in one place.

Practical considerations:

  • The report should clearly describe the methods used during the impact assessment, justifications for decisions made, an outline of any uncertainties and assumptions, and the results of the analysis.
  • Analysis or information which is specific to social or economic impacts should be presented separately, but the links between the two should be highlighted and explained.
  • Where social and economic impacts overlap, they should be presented together and reviewed holistically.
  • The final report should be clearly structured and include the following sections:
    • Introduction and description of the development
    • Description of the impact area and the method used for defining it
    • List of stakeholders and methods used for identifying them
    • Description of the stakeholder engagement strategy, including how marginalised groups are included
    • Profiles and contextual information for the relevant communities or regions within the impact area
    • Scoping assessment, including methods and data used
      • Section on economic impacts scoped in/out and justification
      • Section on social impacts scoped in/out and justification
      • Section on natural capital scoped in/out and justification
      • This section will largely be informed by the scoping report.
    • Baseline analysis, including methods, data used, and any assumptions/limitations
      • Section on economic baseline analysis
      • Section on social baseline analysis
      • Section on natural capital baseline analysis
      • Section summarising and combiningeconomic, social and natural capital baseline analysis
    • Impact prediction, including methods, data used and any assumptions/limitations
      • Section on economic impact prediction
      • Section on social impact prediction
      • Section on natural capital impact prediction
      • Section summarising and combining economic, social and natural capital impact prediction
    • Summary and overview of social, economic and natural capital impacts and their distribution – socially and geographically. When combining these elements, care should be taken to avoid double counting.
    • Section on recommended management and monitoring.



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