Irish Sea Maritime Forum Virtual Conference 2023

Irish Sea Maritime Forum Virtual Conference 2023

Published on 1st December 2023

Written by Dr Rhoda Ballinger, Severn Estuary Partnership Chair

Rhoda Ballinger, our Chair, attended the recent Irish Sea Maritime Forum (ISMF)’s virtual conference which was chaired by our very own Emma McKinley, Cardiff University. The conference provided an interesting overview of progress in marine planning across the six administrations bordering the Irish Sea (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man). As most of the administrations have now adopted statutory marine plans, there was considerable discussion surrounding the implementation, monitoring and review of existing plans as well as the development of some quite innovative online planning portals to support decision-making (listed below). 

From an SEP perspective, the regional approach taken in Scotland through Marine Planning Partnerships, with support from Local Coastal Partnerships in facilitating stakeholder engagement, was particularly noteworthy.  It was also heartening to hear about efforts to promote cross-border compatibility between marine planning efforts.  These included the Coastal Partnership Network’s Transboundary Group (which SEP is involved with) and the recently published cross-border marine planning guide for our estuary.  This unique guide is a supplement to the two adopted plans for the estuary (Wales National Marine Plan; South West Marine Plan) and it provides additional clarity on matters relating to the management and governance of the estuary.   Anyone with interests or responsibilities related to the Severn Estuary should consult this document.  Given the scale of intensity of use in the Severn, it is interesting to note the intention of Welsh Government and the MMO to ‘optimise the use of space and incorporate opportunities for co-existence and co-operation with existing activities.’  This document also expresses their commitment to ‘ongoing and closer future collaboration within the Severn Estuary area’.

At larger geographical scales, the need to consider in-combination and cumulative effects of marine planning decisions was highlighted by the newly established Irish Sea Network, who have developed their 2030 vision for the Irish Sea.  Looking at the wider context of the Severn Estuary, upstream of the Bristol Channel, there may be lessons to be drawn from this approach, particularly in the light of possible renewed interest in offshore energy generation in the Bristol Channel.   

Given the usefulness of this meeting in providing an opportunity to learn from good practice elsewhere, and to reflect on marine planning in our own estuary, take note that next year’s ISMF’s conference, will be an in-person conference on the Isle of Man.  This will continue on the theme of marine planning, focusing on the relationship between marine planning and marine ecological quality.

Marine data and planning portals:

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