Tomorrow I will publish the first Marine Stewardship Report-Safeguarding Our Seas: A Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of our Marine Environment.
The report sets out our vision for the marine environment—clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. It is underpinned by the principles of sustainable development, integrated management, the conservation of biological diversity, robust science, the precautionary principle and stakeholder involvement.
It outlines how we are adopting an ecosystem-based approach to marine management to better integrate marine protection objectives with sustainable social and economic goals. It covers the broad spectrum of policies that affect the marine environment. As well as describing past achievements and progress made, it contains new ideas and initiatives to turn our vision into reality.
Our initiatives will improve marine conservation. We will undertake our proposed regional seas pilot scheme in the Irish Sea as the next stage of our review of Marine Nature Conservation. The report also commits us to consult later this year on the regulations to extend the Habitats and Birds Directives out to limit of jurisdiction of UK waters. It also contains a commitment to explore with other countries the case for, and feasibility of, marine protected areas on the high seas.
The report announces our intention to review the regulations that affect development in coastal waters with a view to simplifying the regulatory system and protecting the marine environment. It also includes initiatives to explore the role of spatial planning for our seas at the regional level and provide a focal point to build on existing seabed mapping.
In addition, Safeguarding Our Seas commits us to review current arrangements for marine scientific research to ensure that we have the proper science base to deliver our vision. It underlines our commitment to develop our framework for environmental monitoring and that we will produce an integrated assessment of our seas by 2004.
The report emphasises the importance of involving stakeholders in making the decisions that affect them. It announces that we will hold a joint conference of the English, Scottish and Welsh coastal fora, together with stakeholders from Northern Ireland, on how to implement the EC Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
Some policy matters covered in the report are the responsibility of the devolved Administrations. The Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales were integral to the preparation of the report. The Northern Ireland Executive has monitored progress of the report and will consider the implications for Northern Ireland.
The report is a valuable first step in turning our vision into reality. I will place copies of the report in the Library of the House. It will also be available at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/.