Wild seaweed harvesting: strategic environmental assessment - environmental report

Investigates the sustainability and potential environmental impacts of wild seaweed and seagrass harvesting, maerl extraction and removal of beach-cast seaweed.

15. Appendix B: Environmental Protection Objectives

Table B1: Review of environmental protection objectives

Plan, Programme or Strategy


Implications/ Comments

General Marine


UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 ( UNCLOS) [32]

Defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of natural resources. It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole. Includes the framework for the establishment of territorial waters to 12 nautical miles.

This framework emphasises the need to balance competing interests and objectives within the marine environment.


European Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008 ( MSFD) [33]

The MSFD is the most recent marine obligation on EU Member States. It extends the requirements of the WFD into seas beyond 1nm. The MSFD requires Member States to 'take necessary measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by the year 2020 at the latest'. Coastal waters are also covered by the directive, and the Directive sets out the requirement for member states to develop a marine strategy.

Important overarching protective policy for the marine environment, and the new licensing regime for wild harvesting of seaweed and seagrass should seek to ensure that it supports the objectives of good environmental status.

European Integrated Maritime Policy 2007 [34]

Aims to deliver a sustainable development approach for Europe's oceans and seas. Its scope includes: a marine transport strategy and new ports policy; research and data collection and management strategies, and work to mitigate climate change and reduce the impact of and adapt to the effects of climate change on coastal regions. It aims to promote the development of an environmentally safe aquaculture industry.

Recognises the conflicting demands on the marine environment and supports improved management. This provides an important framework for the consenting mechanism for wild harvesting.

United Kingdom

Coast Protection Act 1949 (as amended by The Coast Protection (Notices) (Scotland) Regulations 1988 [35] and The Coast Protection (Notices) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1996) [36]

Sets out the licensing and regulatory framework within which activities including navigation and flood defences are set. Aims to protect the coast from erosion and encroachment and to ensure safety in navigation. Excludes some tidal waters in Scotland. Local authorities which include coastline within their boundaries are designated as coastal protection authorities and given specific duties and powers to undertake coastal defence works where necessary.

The potential changes in coastal processes associated with harvesting industry activities suggest that the the aims of the legislation (coastal and navigational protection) should be considered in licensing decisions.

Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 [37]

The key issues covered by the Act comprise: the creation of a Marine Management Organisation ( MMO); planning in the marine area; licensing activities in the marine area; marine nature conservation; managing marine fisheries; reform of inland and migratory fisheries; modernisation and streamlining of enforcement powers; administrative penalties scheme for domestic fisheries offences; and access to coastal land. Applies outside 12 NM in Scotland.

This sets out the broader policy context within which the licensing decisions should be made.

Our seas - a shared resource - High level marine objectives for the UK [38]

Sets out high level objectives for the UK marine environment. This includes achieving a sustainable marine economy, ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, living within environmental limits, promoting good governance and using sound science responsibly.

This provides a broader framework for licensing decisions, supporting sustainable development of the marine environment.

UK Marine Policy Statement (2011) [39]

The Marine Policy Statement ( MPS) is the framework for preparing Marine Plans and taking decisions affecting the marine environment. It will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom marine area. It has been prepared and adopted for the purposes of section 44 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

This provides a broader framework for licensing decisions, supporting sustainable development of the marine environment.


Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 [40]

Provides a framework to manage activities with Scotland's marine environment in a sustainable way. Notes the importance of protecting seas whilst facilitating sustainable economic growth. Introduces a new statutory marine planning system, a simpler licensing system, improved marine nature and historic conservation with new powers to protect and manage areas of importance for marine wildlife, habitats and historic monuments; improved protection for seals and enforcement powers.

This provides a broader framework for licensing decisions.

National Marine Plan (2015) [41]

This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nm) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nm). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and devolved functions.

This provides a broader framework for licensing decisions.

Regional Marine Plans

The Marine (Scotland) Act in 2010 introduced a new era for the management of Scotland's seas and the resulting National Marine Plan sets the wider context for planning within Scotland, including what should be considered when creating local, regional marine plans. Scottish Marine Regions have been created which cover sea areas extending out to 12 nm. Regional Marine Plans will be developed in turn by Marine Planning Partnerships, allowing more local ownership and decision making about specific issues within their area. The Clyde and Shetland Isles will be the first regions to take forward regional marine planning.

This provides a broader framework for licensing decisions.

Biodiversity, Flora & Fauna


UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) [42]

The three main objectives of the CBD are:

  • the conservation of biodiversity;
  • the sustainable use of biodiversity; and
  • the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources (including by
  • appropriate access to these resources).

Article 6 requires that all parties to the Convention develop national biodiversity strategies, plans or programmes, and that they seek to integrate the provisions of these across other policy sectors. Article 7 requires the identification of key resources and their protection. Monitoring of potentially damaging processes and activities should also be undertaken.

Two policy decisions came from the 1995 Conference of the Parties known as the Jakarta Mandate on marine and coastal biodiversity. Commitments include the development of a global system of marine and coastal protected areas, blocking the pathways of invasions of alien species, increasing ecosystem resilience to climate change, and developing, encouraging, and enhancing implementation of wide-ranging integrated marine and coastal area management. [43]

This broader framework sets the context within which specific environmental protection objectives have been developed. The principles defined within the Convention should be supported by licensing decisions.

Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals 1979 [44]

Aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian species throughout their range through international co-operation.

As with the previous Convention, these conservation objectives should be considered in the development of the new conseting regime.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance 1971 (amended 1982/87) [45]

Otherwise known as the Ramsar Convention, this emphasises the special value of wetlands, particularly as a key habitat for waterfowl, and this includes estuaries, tidal flats and near shore marine areas. The Convention resulted in designation of sites for management, sustainable use and conservation.

Licensing decisions should uphold commitments to environmental protection.

Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North- East Atlantic ( OSPAR Convention) (1992) [46] and Council Decision 2000/340/ EC of 8 May 2000 concerning the approval, on behalf of the Community, of the new Annex V to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North- East Atlantic [47]

The aim of the Oslo and Paris Convention ( OSPAR Convention) is to prevent and eliminate pollution and to protect the maritime area against the adverse effects of human activities. This Convention led to establishment of a cross‑regional commission promoting an ecosystems approach to marine management, including establishment of a network of Marine Protected Areas. Its five work areas are biodiversity and ecosystems, eutrophication, hazardous substances, offshore industry, and radioactive substances). Climate change is also a key cross-cutting theme. Also includes a Biological Diversity and Ecosystems Strategy.

The scope of the OSPAR Convention was limited to four main areas defined in four Annexes (on the prevention and elimination of pollution from land-based sources, by dumping or incineration, and from offshore sources, and on the assessment of the quality of the marine environment). A new Annex V was prepared, on the protection and conservation of the ecosystems and biological diversity of the maritime area. Under it, the Contracting Parties must adopt the necessary measures in order to protect and conserve the ecosystems and the biological diversity of the maritime area, and to restore, where practicable, maritime areas which have been adversely affected.

The ecosystems approach to marine planning should be considered in decision making.

Agreement on the Conservation of African- Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds 1995 ( AEWA) [48]

An independent international treaty developed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme ( UNEP)/Convention on Migratory Species. The AEWA covers 255 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle, including species of divers, grebes, cormorants, herons, ducks, swans, geese, waders, gulls, and terns. An action plan addresses issues including: species and habitat conservation, management of human activities, research, monitoring, education and implementation.

Licensing decisions should take into account the priority afforded to the protection of bird species present within the Scottish terrestrial, coastal and marine environment.

Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas 1992 ( ASCOBANS) [49]

An agreement on the protection of small cetaceans, noting that the migratory nature of dolphins, porpoises and whales means that they can be vulnerable to a range of marine activities and issues including marine pollution and by-catch.

As noted above, the high priority given to protection of these species should be taken into account in licensing decisions.


Council Directive 92/43/ EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the Habitats Directive) [50]

Established a commitment to designating networks of sites of ecological importance across Europe. These are known as Natura 2000 sites and include special protection areas ( SPAs designated under the Birds Directive - see following paragraph) and special areas of conservation ( SACs).

Commitments to protecting habitats and species should be upheld by licensing decisions.

Council Directive 2009/147/ EC (as amended) on the conservation of wild birds (the Birds Directive) [51]

Protects all wild birds (together with their nests and eggs) and their associated habitats. Commitment to designation of SPAs (included in Natura 2000 sites - see preceding paragraph).

Objectives to protect important species and habitats, including internationally designated sites, should be supported by licensing decisions.

Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (1979) [52]

Aims to ensure conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats and to promote co-operation between European states to protect biodiversity. Implemented in UK law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981 and as amended).

The broader framework for environmental protection across Europe should be supported by licensing decisions.

Water Framework Directive ( WFD) 2000/60/ EC [53]

This provides an overarching strategy, including a requirement for EU Member States to ensure that they achieve 'good ecological status' by 2015. River Bain Management Plans ( RBMP) were defined as the key means of achieving this. The Recent Marine Strategy Directive will extend coverage of coastal waters beyond 1 nm.

Licensing decisions should take account of the implications of harvesting on meeting 'good ecological status'.

The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (1995) [54]

The Strategy aims to reverse the decline of landscape and biological diversity, by promoting innovation and proactive policy making. It supports preceding measures for protecting natural heritage, and aims to supplement this by further promoting a number of action themes relating to different environmentalresources. The long-term objectives of the strategy are:

  • The establishment of a Pan-European Ecological Network to conserve ecosystems, habitats, species and landscapes that are of European importance;
  • The sustainable management and use of Europe's biodiversity;
  • Integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainability into the activities of other sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, industry, transport and tourism;
  • Improving information on and awareness of biodiversity and increasing public participation in conservation actions;
  • Improving our understanding of the state of Europe's biodiversity; and
  • Assuring that adequate funds are made available to implement the strategy.

Licensing decisions should support the objectives of conservation and sustainability.

Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 [55]

The strategy has six main targets and 20 actions to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. The six targets cover:

  • Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity;
  • Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure;
  • More sustainable agriculture and forestry;
  • Better management of fish stocks;
  • Tighter controls on invasive alien species; and
  • A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

Licensing decisions should support these targets by taking into account integration of biodiversity protection and enhancement.

United Kingdom

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) [56]

Provides the framework for protection of species other than European Protected Species. Sets out protection objectives for specified birds and wild animals. The Act's various schedules detail the species that are protected under the Act, including dolphins, porpoises, and numerous birds such as geese and ducks. This was reviewed and updated in December 2008 and it was recommended that several further species of marine fish should be added to the lists attached to the Act, including shark, seahorse and ray species.

Licensing decisions should take into account the particular protection afforded to key terrestrial, coastal and marine species.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994 [57]

Transposes the requirements for protection of designated sites under the Habitats and Birds Directives, and the framework for protection of European Protected Species. Applies within 12nm. Several marine species are protected by various development consenting regimes covered by the Act. This includes marine turtles, all species of dolphins, porpoise and whale, seals and several types of marine fish (Atlantic salmon etc.).

Licensing decisions should take into account the particular protection afforded to key terrestrial, coastal and marine species.

UK Biodiversity Action Plan 1994 ( UKBAP) (Since the creation of the UK BAP devolution has led the four countries of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) to produce their own country biodiversity groups and country biodiversity strategies. In 2007, however, a shared vision for UK biodiversity conservation was adopted by the devolved administrations and the UK governments, and is described in 'Conserving Biodiversity - the UK Approach' (see paragraph below)

In response to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity ( CBD), this describes the UK's biological resources, commits a detailed plan for the protection of these resources. Sets out 1150 species and 65 habitats which are priorities for conservation action in the UK. The list was last updated in 2007 and includes 87 species in the marine group. Numerous habitats are also relevant to Scotland's marine environment, including several which are specific to coastal areas (saltmarsh, sand dunes) or the marine environment (including machair, maerl beds, kelp and seaweed communities, and sea loch egg wrack beds amongst others).

The UKBAP specifically identified numerous habitats and species in the coastal and marine environment which should be protected. Licensing decisions should seek to ensure that harvesting activity does not adversely affect these priorities.

Conserving Biodiversity -the UK Approach (2007) [58]

A framework document for biodiversity identifies six priorities for implementing biodiversity objectives within the integrating framework of an ecosystem approach:

  • Protecting the best sites for wildlife;
  • Targeting action on priority species and habitats;
  • Embedding proper consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in all relevant sectors of policy and decision-making;
  • Engaging people, and encouraging behaviour change;
  • Developing and interpreting the evidence base; and
  • Ensuring that the UK plays a proactive role in influencing the development of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and contributes fully to their domestic delivery.

Emphasises an ecosystem approach to managing biodiversity, and recognises the need to allow for the impacts of climate change within the network of marine protected areas.


Nature Conservation (Scotland ) Act 2004 [59]

Introduced a 'duty to further the conservation of biodiversity' for all public bodies, and sets out more specific provisions within this including for Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Also states a requirement for the preparation of a Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, to which all public bodies should pay regard. Applies to 12 nm around Scotland and includes protection measures for marine species

Biodiversity protection objectives cover the coast and the immediate offshore environment. Licensing decisions should take account of biodiversity protection objectives.

Scotland's Biodiversity - It's In Your Hands. A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland (2004) [60]

Sets out Scottish aims relating to biodiversity over 25 year period. Seeks to go beyond a previous emphasis on protecting individual sites to achieve conservation at a broader scale. Aims to halt loss and reverse decline of key species, to raise awareness of biodiversity value at a landscape or ecosystem scale, and to promote knowledge, understanding and involvement amongst people. The Strategy notes the importance and health of Scotland's ecosystems, and summarises key trends.

Licensing decisions should note and aim to support recognised ecosystems and recognise potential impacts on these.

2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity - A Strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland [61]

The 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity is Scotland's response to the Aichi Targets set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the European Union's Biodiversity Strategy for 2020. It is a supplement to the Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands (2004). The two documents together comprise the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. The 2020 Challenge document provides greater detail in some areas, responds to the new international targets, and updates some elements of the 2004 document.

Licensing decisions should help to maintain and enhance marine and coastal biodiversity.

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (the Act) repealed the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 on 31st January 2011

On 31 January 2011, Part 6 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 came into force. Part 6 seeks to balance seal conservation with sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and its introduction means:

  • It is an offence to kill or injure a seal except under licence or for welfare reasons, outlawing unregulated seal shooting that was permitted under previous legislation;
  • A number of seal conservation areas around Scotland will begin to be introduced, designed to protect vulnerable, declining common seal populations; and
  • A new seal licensing system, providing a well regulated and monitored context for seal management in Scotland has been introduced.

Licensing decisions should take into account the particular protection afforded to seals.

A Strategy for Marine Nature Conservation in Scotland's Seas [62]

The strategy sets out aims and objectives for protecting and, where appropriate, enhancing valuable marine biodiversity in the marine area where Scottish Ministers have devolved responsibility (Scottish territorial waters and the Scottish offshore region). The strategy is designed to facilitate co-operation in pursuit of shared marine objectives in the UK and to meet national and international obligations. These include the achievement of Good Environmental Status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD).

Licensing decisions should help to maintain and enhance marine biodiversity.

Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (as amended) [63]

River Basin Management Plans for the Scotland and Solway Tweed River Basin Districts 2009 - 2015 [64]

Notes the key pressures and their environmental impacts on Scottish water bodies including coastal areas. Key issues affecting coastal areas include diffuse and point source pollution, organic matter and ammonia, faecal pathogens, toxic substances, and loss of intertidal areas. Some of these issues may be exacerbated by climate change. Environmental objectives for coastal waters include improving the status of coastal waters and estuaries, and improving the structure and condition of the bed and shores of coastal water bodies.

The objectives defined by RBMP covering Scotland are of indirect relevance to licensing decisions.

Climatic Factors


Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 [65]

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act includes a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050 and an interim target of 42% by 2020. Proposals include setting of targets for 2050 and interim periods, requirement for annual reporting, and provisions for meeting targets through additional policies and legislation. The targets include emissions from the aviation and shipping sectors.

Licensing decisions should take into account the need to meet emissions targets.

Climate Change Delivery Plan: meeting Scotland's statutory climate change targets (2009) [66]

Sets out the measures required to meet Scotland's targets for climate change mitigation included in the Act (above). Includes commitments to the development of the renewable energy sector, including marine renewables. Also aims to reduce emissions from aviation and shipping. Further reductions could arise from the use of biofuels in shipping and improved energy efficiency measures, but interventions will be required to achieve this. Notes that shipping can be an efficient mode of freight transport, despite the recorded emissions from the sector.

Licensing decisions should take into account the measures required to meet targets for climate change mitigation.

Climate Change Sector Adaptation Action Plan: Marine and Fisheries (2011) [67]

Sets out a number of objectives including raising awareness of climate change to the wider marine stakeholder community (through the Marine Strategy Forum). Also aims to build evidence to support future adaptation action and build further policies that respond to impacts.

Licensing decisions should take into account the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future.

Climate Ready Scotland Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (2014) [68]

This is the first Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme as required by section 53 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. It addresses the impacts identified for Scotland in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment ( CCRA) published under section 56 of the UK Climate Change Act 2008. It sets out Scottish Ministers objectives in relation to adaptation to climate change, their proposals and policies for meeting those objectives, and the period within which those proposals and policies will be introduced. The Programme also sets out the arrangements for wider engagement in meeting those objectives.

Licensing decisions should take into account the commitment to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 [69]

Includes new measures for sustainable flood risk management. This includes co-ordination and co-operation between relevant organisations, development of flood risk assessment and planning and tools for delivery and enforcement. Applicable to coastal flood protection measures.

Licensing decisions should consider this, particularly as harvesting could have potential impacts on the natural coastal protection afforded by seaweeds and seagrasses.

Cultural Heritage


UNCLOS 1982 was ratified by the UK in 1997 [70]

Article 303 stipulates that 'states have the duty to protect objects of an archaeological and historical nature found at sea and shall co-operate for this purpose' and provides for coastal states to exert a degree of control over the archaeological heritage to 24 nm.

Licensing decisions should support commitments to protect the offshore historic environment.

United Kingdom

Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 [71]

The 1973 Act provides protection for designated wrecks and for the designation of dangerous sites.

Licensing decisions should take into account effects on protected wrecks.

Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 [72]

Provides for the protection of archaeological heritage, including the scheduling of 'monuments'. The Act, which is administered by Historic Scotland, primarily deals with terrestrial locations but there is provision to designate nautical sites.

Licensing decisions should take into account potential impacts on nautical archaeology as a result of harvesting activities.

Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 [73]

Identifies scope for protected places and controlled sites, covering vessels. This reflects the status of these sites as war graves.

Licensing decisions should take into account the protection afforded to these types of sites.


Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014 [74]

The Act establishes Historic Environment Scotland ( HES) as a new Non Departmental Public Body ( NDPB) which will take over the functions of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland ( RCAHMS). In addition to changes to legislation reflecting HES' role and legal status, the Act changes processes for the designation of sites and buildings (by scheduling and listing) and for scheduled monuments, listed buildings and conservation areas consent. It also creates new rights of appeal against certain HES decisions.

Licensing decisions should take into account the protection afforded to these types of sites.

Our Place In Time - The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland (2014) [75]

Scotland's first ever Historic Environment Strategy is a high level framework which sets out a 10 year vision for the historic environment. The key outcome is to ensure that the cultural, social, environmental and economic value of Scotland's historic environment continues to make a strong contribution to the wellbeing of the nation and its people. It was developed collaboratively and identified the need for strategic priorities to help align and prioritise sector activity towards a common goal.

Licensing decisions should take account of the aims of protecting the historic environment.

Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 (as amended) [76]

The Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 (as amended) gives crofters access to reasonable use of seaweed under Common Grazings regulations, although rights are not general but attached to particular tenancies.

Licensing decisions will need to take account of the rights of crofters.


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