All rivers flow to the sea

On Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th January 2013, the Coastal Futures conference was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

The conference, which included delegates from the Environment Agency, Natural England, DEFRA, the MMO, the RSPB, UK Oil and Gas, CEFAS, DECC and consultants such as Royal Haskonings, is in its 20th year.

The conference focused upon marine spatial planning. The talks were diverse (from psychology and well-being to offshore wind farm development) and interesting, although seldom directly relevant to river management.

I was one of approximately 25 Environment Agency staff attending, with the majority of the people I went with being coastal geomorphologists.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the conference itself, but I thought I would pick out some of the key take-home messages and also highlight some of the main similarities and differences between marine and river management.

  • The management of the marine environment has historically been disconnected from the management of the terrestrial environment – this is changing
  • One of the most important platforms for reconnection is the IFCA’s – the Inshore Fisheries and Conversation Authorities
  • The marine equivalent of the Water Framework Directive is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • The marine equivalent of the River Basin Management Plans are the Marine Plans, of which there are due to be 10 in total by 2021 – the first and only existing plan is for the East of England
  • Other important designations and legislation includes the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009, the Common Fisheries Policy, European Marine Sites and the Marine Conservation Zones
  • The strategic management of the marine environment is several years behind that of the freshwater environment, principally because the regulatory body for the marine environment, The MMO, was only recently incepted
  • All rivers flow to the sea – despite our obviously different spheres of interest, responsibility and influence to the MMO and the IFCA’s, there is a need for river managers to be aware of the links to, and importance of, the marine environment

I also picked up some interesting statistics that have nothing to do with rivers:

  • 18 of the 25 most deprived areas in England are situated on the coast
  • 35% of all marine fish caught in Europe are discarded
  • The most common cause of death for marine mammals stranded on our coasts is by catch (where animals are caught due to fishing activities and then discarded as they are unwanted)
  • Of all the fish discarded, 22% are because fishermen exceed their quotas, 36% because those fish have no market, 18% because they do not meet the minimum size requirements for sale (too small/too young) and 24% because the fish are not the right quality/type/sort
  • Properties on the coast are approximately 10% more expensive than their non-coastal equivalent
  • The Severn Barrage could provide 5% of the UK’s energy
  • 75% of marine litter is plastic
  • The marine industry contributes 4% of our GDP (£47 billion annually)

You can see my tweets and others from the Coastal Futures conference by searching for the hashtag #coastalfutures. I’ve also included a number of useful links below:

The DEFRA website – everything to do with the marine environment –

The Marine Planning Portal – an interactive map of the marine environment around the UK –

The East of England Marine Plan – the first marine management plan –

Information on IFCA’s –

About Trevor Bond

A Geomorphology Technical Officer at the Environment Agency. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessary reflect the views of my employer.
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