Highly Protected Marine Areas - policy framework and site selection guidelines: sustainability appraisal

Drafted by marine consultants ABPmer, the sustainability appraisal provides assessment of any cumulative impacts of the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) policy and is based upon the draft policy framework and site selection guidelines.

3 Approach to the Sustainability Appraisal

3.1 Introduction

3.1.1 The following sections set out a brief overview of the processes used in the SEA and SEIA. Full details are provided in the SEA ER[22] and SEIA[23].

3.2 SEA approach

3.2.1 The SEA has built on the following previous and ongoing SEAs of relevant Scottish Government marine conservation work:

  • The designation of Nature Conservation MPAs (assessed in 2013)[24]
  • Phase one (assessed in 2014)[25],[26] and proposals for phase two (due to be assessed) of the implementation of management measures for inshore MPAs
  • The designation of an additional suite of marine SPAs (assessed in 2018) [27]
  • The designation of four additional MPAs (assessed in 2019)[28]
  • The designation of a deep sea marine reserve as an offshore MPA (assessed in 2019)[29]
  • Proposals for management measures applying to Priority Marine Features (PMFs) (due to be assessed)[30]; and
  • Proposals for management measures in offshore MPAs (currently under assessment).

3.2.2 The SEA presents a high-level and qualitative account of the potential environmental effects that might be expected to arise from the proposed Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines and reasonable alternatives.

3.2.3 The location of HPMAs have not yet been identified and, therefore, it is only possible to undertake an initial SEA at this stage involving a preliminary consideration of the type of impacts that could arise from the future designation of HPMAs and restriction/limitation placed on activities within HPMAs. Once sites have been selected and are proposed to be taken forward for designation, it will be possible to undertake an updated SEA involving a more detailed site specific assessment of the potential environmental effects.

3.2.4 The SEA objectives that were developed to reflect the proposed scope of the SEA and the environmental protection objectives are set out below.

SEA Objectives

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna; Soil; Water; and Climatic Factors

  • To protect and recover marine ecosystems, including species, habitats, and their interactions[31]
  • To maintain and protect the character and integrity of the seabed
  • To avoid the pollution of seabed strata and/or bottom sediments
  • To avoid pollution of the marine water environment
  • To maintain or work towards achieving 'Good Environmental Status' of the marine environment
  • To preserve and enhance existing marine carbon stocks and carbon sequestration potential.

3.2.5 Information about the existing marine environment was used to inform the assessment and define the SEA objectives. The assessment identified the individual and collective effects of the proposals on a number of topics scoped into the SEA, specifically Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna, Soil (geodiversity), Water (the ecological status of WFD water bodies and environmental status of marine region) and Climatic Factors (carbon cycling, storage and sequestration). In order to recognise the interlinkages of these SEA topics, these were collectively given consideration under the overarching Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna topic.

3.2.6 The SEA identified beneficial and adverse effects, including 'cumulative' effects. The scope of any potentially significant environmental effects was largely limited to beneficial effects to the marine environment within the HPMAs, spillover benefits beyond the boundaries of HPMAs, and potential adverse effects as a result of the displacement of any activities that are excluded or restricted, as well as from the extension of any new cable or pipeline routes that need to avoid transecting HPMAs.

Reasonable alternatives

3.2.7 In accordance with the 2005 Act, there is a requirement to consider reasonable alternatives that fulfil the objective of the plan as part of the SEA. The reasonable alternatives that have been identified as part of the development of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs have been assessed.

3.2.8 In advance of identifying any potential HPMAs, reasonable alternatives are considered to be high-level considerations of alternative management options that meet the aims of HPMAs, for example options for different activities that are not considered compatible with HPMAs and activities that are allowed at non-damaging levels. As part of the process for selecting HPMAs, the options considered for where sites are located could be considered reasonable alternatives. It is expected that the suitability of alternative management scenarios and alternative decisions on where sites are located will be explored and informed by the SEA as the assessment progresses.

3.3 SEIA approach

3.3.1 The proposed methodology to be applied once the locations of the HPMAs have been selected will build on previous marine socio-economic assessments for MPAs, particularly the assessment of Scottish Nature Conservation MPAs[32], the draft assessment of phase 2 fisheries management measures in Nature Conservation MPAs[33], the assessment of four new Nature Conservation MPAs[34], the assessment of a proposed deep sea marine reserve[35] and the assessment of fisheries management measures in offshore MPAs[36]. It will be consistent with Better Regulation Executive guidance on impact assessment, the Green Book methodology[37] for economic assessment and Scottish Government guidance on Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA)[38]. It will also seek to incorporate forthcoming guidance on SEIA for inshore MPAs proportionately.

3.3.2 The SEIA will seek to estimate the effects of the designation and management of the HPMAs both at site level and for the suite of HPMAs as a whole in terms of:

  • Potential economic impacts to marine activities;
  • Potential social impacts;
  • Potential impacts on the public sector; and
  • Potential environmental impacts (costs and benefits, including social benefits through ecosystem services).

3.3.3 Lower, intermediate and upper estimates will be developed to assess the potential range of impacts, reflecting a range of assumptions and possible management options that may be applied.

3.3.4 The estimates are used to assess the potential range in impacts associated with designation of the proposed sites. The assessment period for considering the impacts of designation is 60 years, in line with HM Treasury Green Book guidance. Within this timeframe, costs to industry are quantified and valued over a period of 20 years.

3.3.5 The following activities and communities are considered:

  • Aggregate Dredging
  • Aquaculture (finfish)
  • Aquaculture (shellfish and seaweed)
  • Aviation
  • Carbon Capture and Undersea Storage
  • Coast Protection and Flood Defence
  • Commercial Fisheries (including salmon and sea trout)
  • Energy Generation
  • Military and Defence
  • Oil and Gas (including exploration, production, interconnectors, gas storage)
  • Ports and Harbours
  • Power Interconnectors and Transmission Lines
  • Recreational Angling
  • Recreational Boating
  • Seabed Mining
  • Wild Seaweed Harvesting
  • Shipping
  • Telecom Cables
  • Tourism (including heritage assets)
  • Water Sports (including surfing, windsurfing, sea kayaking, small sail boat activities (such as dinghy sailing) and scuba diving); and
  • The wider community

3.3.6 A series of appendices to the SEIA provide the outcome of the scoping assessment, proposed methodologies for assessing cost impacts to sectors, and a template of the site assessment tables for reporting results for each individual proposed HPMA.


Email: HPMA@gov.scot

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