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View Points

Our vision: Thriving and resilient marine industries working in partnership with others to deliver sustainable economic growth, societal wellbeing, and contributing to marine recovery and ultimately a high quality marine environment.

Cargo Ship at Port

Current environmental legislation can work well for industry and the environment

View Point: Environmental Legislation

Industry is well used to current environmental legislation. Any change must be carefully thought through. While the SUDG wishes to see improvements in environmental regulation, it is deeply concerned by proposals for rapid sunsetting of EU-derived legislation without thorough consideration of alternative arrangements. The SUDG stresses that:

  • established practice provides a systematic approach to assessment and management of environmental impacts, understood by industry and other interested parties;


  • the existing framework has facilitated major economic developments while delivering environmental objectives;


  • the rationale for any change must be to deliver benefit for industry and the environment, rather than simply change for its own sake;


  • care is essential to avoid creating significant new uncertainties and risks of legal challenge; and

  • many of the most pressing improvements to environmental regulation could be delivered by better implementation of existing legislative regimes, including EIA and HRA regulations.

Speed Boats

Smarter, properly resourced regulatory approaches are key

View Point: Regulatory Approaches

The SUDG and its member industries work closely with regulators and conservation advisers, and there are many examples of good regulatory practice. Nevertheless, opportunities remain for quicker, more proportionate regulation focusing on the most significant environmental impacts of development and making more use of accepted standards and evidence.

In particular, environmental regulation requires increased resourcing and skilled capacity in regulators and conservation advisers. Current regulatory delay is a barrier to growth. The SUDG wants to see better service level agreements with clear routes and shorter and more predictable timescales for delivery of decisions. The SUDG already supports training of case officers on industry issues, such as the workshops held with MMO licensing staff, but would also welcome regular discussions with regulators and conservation bodies to review issues with the licensing system, promote good practice, and implement joint plans of action to deliver improvements.

Areas for improvement of existing legislation include:

  • clear protocols for regulatory processes, including streamlining assessments so that timetables are optimised and more certain, and that the regulatory process is consistently applied across all regulators;


  • proportionate assessment requirements, focusing on key environmental impacts and making better use of the scoping phase to reduce the assessment burden on regulators and developers;


  • clear expectations of information required for licence applications, including evidence;


  • considering mitigation and compensation options at an early stage, such as those currently being developed for offshore wind;


  • more use of standards and guidance, such as on mitigation techniques, and on consistent application of the precautionary principle;


  • more use of self-service licensing and exemption of low risk activities;


  • longer licenses for ongoing activities, with the potential for automatic renewal in cases where the environmental impacts of activities are known and managed; and


  • greater acceptance of adaptive management in cases where the effect of mitigation or compensation techniques is uncertain.

New Approaches

There is scope for new approaches to secure environmental, economic and social benefits

View Point: New Approaches

The SUDG supports a move to more strategic compensation for offshore wind and establishment of a Marine Recovery Fund; however, this should be applied to other industries too. Care is also needed to avoid essential activities being unduly restricted due to the environmental impacts of offshore wind. In addition, well-designed net gain has great potential for environmental improvement. The SUDG believes that:

  • strategic compensation arrangements, including pressure removal, can help delivery of priority environmental outcomes and of timely, economically beneficial development;


  • a ‘library’ of strategic compensation opportunities, available to all industries, should be identified at national, sub-national (e.g. marine plan areas) and local levels;


  • developers could deliver compensation directly or by funding others, including governments, to do so;


  • combining strategic approaches to net gain and compensation could deliver environmental improvement alongside efficient regulation; and


  • work on marine natural capital has the potential to enhance environmental, economic and social outcomes.


However, for all this to work successfully it is imperative that the regulatory systems developed are proportionate and not burdensome to either industry or regulators. The mechanisms should reflect the fact that net gain and strategic compensation will be very significant in the delivery of recovery and restoration of the marine environment and build on the environmental protection that is already provided through existing legislation.

Computer with Graph

Making use of targeted evidence and information

View Point: Evidence

Inadequate evidence can be a significant brake on development, for example if it results in a more precautionary approach than necessary. Good evidence on the state of the marine environment, on marine protected areas, and on how to manage development is essential to support growth and environmental improvement. In particular:

  • comprehensive, up to date evidence needs to be available about the state of individual marine protected areas, and about how different activities impact upon them;


  • environmental targets under the marine strategy must be regularly monitored, alongside analysis of the main factors affecting them;


  • more evidence may be needed on the effectiveness of measures to reduce, mitigate or compensate for environmental impacts, but there needs to be greater acceptance that successful measures can be more universally applied to other similar developments;


  • fragmentation and unavailability of existing evidence should be addressed, including evidence related to specific sectors;


  • better data sharing is needed, so that data collected to inform assessments, and those collected post construction, are made available for future assessments, and aligned with wider environmental monitoring; and


  • better information should be made available about developments and applications to be  included in ‘in combination’ assessments.

Joined up marine strategy

A clear vision for the marine environment and the marine economy

View Point: Joined Up Marine Strategy

The existing marine strategy, including targets for good environmental status and a programme of measures, should be reinforced. We need a joined-up strategy guiding environmental management of activities affecting our seas, including fishing, agriculture, aquaculture, and the SUDG industries, alongside recognition of the benefits these activities deliver, both directly and indirectly. Governments should clearly set out:


  • ambitious targets for good environmental status in the marine environment;


  • the most significant factors causing damage to the environment and affecting achievement of those targets;


  • measures prioritising actions to address the most significant threats to achievement of the targets;


  • opportunities for actions to improve the marine environment; and


  • the environmental objectives for individual marine protected areas.


Governments and economic development bodies should also have a vision for marine industries’ contribution to economic prosperity, societal wellbeing and the future of coastal communities, and how sustainable development of these industries can be achieved alongside environmental targets. Recognising that marine industries are key to all these is imperative if we are to develop successful and practical approaches to development.

Construction Site

Well-planned interaction between different uses of the sea and environmental goals

View Point: Marine Planning

Existing marine plans have helped to set regulatory decision making within a wider spatial context. However, the scale of future marine development, including offshore wind, combined with ambitious environmental targets, requires more analysis of spatial interactions. Current Government work on marine spatial prioritisation has a role here. Key issues include:

  • how co-location or potential competition for space between different marine activities will be managed, including displacement effects;


  • identification of sub-national opportunities for strategic environmental improvement (e.g. by marine plan area);


  • the role of participative fora bringing together industry, government, non-governmental organisations, fishers, and communities to consider priorities for the marine environment, marine economy and marine communities;


  • how to build in flexibility in planning approaches to accommodate future change, such as new industries or the environmental impacts of climate change.

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