Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA): monitoring strategy

The Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy outlines an approach to MPA-related survey and monitoring to ensure that sufficient information is collected to underpin assessment and reporting obligations.

2. Introduction

2.1 The need for a Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy

There are a number of legislative and policy drivers for MPA monitoring, assessment and reporting. The principal ones for which information should be gathered on MPAs are:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention)
  • Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA)
  • EU Directives (Habitats, Birds, Water Framework, and Marine Strategy Framework)

More information on these drivers can be found in Table 1. See also JNCC (2016).

To meet these reporting and assessment obligations, there is a need to gather appropriate evidence to assess the condition of sites, and determine whether any implemented management measures are proving effective. The Strategy provides a basis for gathering relevant information, and using it for assessment and reporting purposes.

The Strategy provides the direction for a new approach to site-based monitoring in the Scottish marine environment. Some work has already been undertaken to monitor feature condition at a site level, particularly in relation to European Marine Sites. However, the addition of Nature Conservation MPAs to the network and ongoing implementation of fisheries management measures has stimulated the development of this Strategy to ensure that future work is targeted accordingly. The Strategy provides the direction for future MPA-related monitoring in Scottish waters. The detailed monitoring programme for all marine biodiversity will be incorporated into future iterations of the annexes.

2.2 The Strategy’s purpose

The purpose of this Strategy is to develop a long-term approach to MPA-related survey and monitoring effort. It does so by:

  • Setting out a Scottish policy position and direction in relation to future MPA monitoring.
  • Identifying principles to prioritise future MPA monitoring.
  • Determining respective roles and responsibilities of Government and Public Bodies to optimise MPA-related monitoring, assessment and reporting delivery.
  • Promoting collaborations with industry, academia, local coastal communities and other marine stakeholders to deliver better co-ordination of monitoring activities.
  • Developing links to other relevant strategies and work streams.
  • Highlighting the need for monitoring and reporting of relevant human activities.
  • Promoting the application of the most appropriate monitoring and assessment methods including the testing of novel techniques to gather the required evidence.
  • Ensuring that appropriate data standards and management systems are in place, and that data are accessible for other users.
Table 1. The main MPA-related policy drivers, including reporting and assessment requirements and reporting cycle frequency. Adapted from the “Review of marine biodiversity assessment obligations in the UK” (Hinchen, 2014).
International Conventions UK Legislation European Legislation
OSPAR Convention Convention on Biological Diversity Marine Scotland Act Marine and Coastal Access Act Habitats Directive Birds Directive Water Framework Directive Marine Strategy Framework Directive
High level aspirations Take the necessary measures to protect the maritime area against the adverse effects of human activities so as to safeguard human health and to conserve marine ecosystems, and where practical, restore marine areas that have been adversely affected. Conserve biological diversity, ensure sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources…..” Help ensure clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environments that meet the long term needs of people and nature. Puts in place a system for improved management and protection. Define objectives for marine conservation. Designate MCZs to contribute to an ecologically coherent network of MPAs. Maintain or restore natural habitats and species of Community interest to FCS. Establish Natura 2000 network of SACs. Conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state. Provisions for protection, management and control of these species and rules for their exploitation, including establishing SPAs. Establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters (rivers and lakes), transitional waters (estuaries), coastal waters and groundwater. To ensure that all aquatic ecosystems meet 'good status' by 2015. Achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in marine waters by 2020.
Assessment and reporting requirements Article 6 - “CPs [Contracting Parties] shall… a) undertake and publish at regular intervals joint assessments of the status of the marine environment and of its development, for the maritime area, or for the regions thereof.” Article 26 - “Each CP shall...present reports on the measures taken for the implementation of the provisions of this Convention and their effectiveness in meeting the objectives.” Section 103 - “Before the end of each relevant period…., Scottish Ministers must lay before Parliament a report…” Section 124 - “Before the end of every relevant period…., the appropriate authority must lay before the appropriate legislature (Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly) a report…” Article 17 - “Every six years…..MSs [Member States] shall draw up a report on the implementation of the measures taken under this Directive…..” Article 12(1) - “MSs shall….report on the implementation of national provisions taken under this Directive.” Article 15 - “MSs shall submit … summary reports of the monitoring programmes designed under Article 8…. a report describing progress in the implementation of the planned programme of measures.” Article 8 - “In respect of each marine region or subregion, MSs shall make an initial assessment of their marine waters…” Article 17 -“MSs shall review…their marine strategies every six years …”
Reporting cycle frequency Regular intervals. Intervals determined by the COPs. Every 6 years - next reporting in Dec 2018. Every 6 years - next reporting in Dec 2018. Every 6 years - next reporting 2019. Every 6 years - next reporting in 2019. Every 6 years - next reporting in July 2018. Every 6 years - next reporting in July 2018.

The Strategy provides a framework for gathering the necessary evidence to meet all current reporting and assessment obligations. Figure 1 outlines the roles of monitoring and assessment within the MPA management cycle. This information will allow managers to take an adaptive approach to the management of Scottish MPA’s in response to human activities. It will also provide evidence to monitor progress towards achieving the Scottish Government’s vision of having “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environments that meet the long term needs of people and nature” (Marine Scotland, 2011).

It is essential that the Strategy considers all opportunities for gathering and accessing evidence beyond direct survey and monitoring, making best possible use of existing evidence sources. This will enable available economic resources to be targeted appropriately.

Figure 1. The adaptive management cycle[2]
A diagram showing the adaptive management cycle: 1. Define overall strategy and objectives. 2. Develop framework for assessment; define targets. 3. Collect evidence (through direct and indirect monitoirng) on current state and pressures, and changes over time. 4. Undertake assessment of status against objectives. 5. Provide advice on management needed to achieve objectives. 6. Implement measures and policies; monitor their success.

2.3 Links to other strategies and work streams

The Strategy needs to consider a number of ongoing work streams including:

  • UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS)
    • UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Strategy;
    • Advice on monitoring options for habitats and species[3];
    • Work by JNCC to collate and disseminate monitoring standards and guidelines via the Marine Method Finder web portal.
  • Scottish Marine Science Strategy
  • CAMERAS Environmental Monitoring Strategy and the development of a Marine Monitoring Action Plan (Marine MAP)
  • Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (and associate route map and evidence plan)
  • Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP)[4] - gathering data to help assess the impact climate change is having on our seas (Objective N1/N1-6)

The Strategy complements these existing strategies and work streams, by promoting better co-ordination to deliver a more robust process.

2.4 Implementation of the Strategy

Marine Scotland will drive forward delivery of the Strategy, supported principally by SNH and JNCC. There is also a key role for the wider marine community and stakeholders to help provide the evidence base needed to fulfil the Strategy.



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