Recreation : Management : Tools : Need for information

The need for information to help the decision making process

Information required for effective decision making


The availability of high quality, reliable information is a key requirement for the effective development and implementation of management in marine areas. Previous sections have already outlined the need for such information in relation to feature and recreation characteristics, type and intensity of recreational activities and feature sensitivity.

Although a considerable body of knowledge exists concerning some of these issues, there are large information gaps, as outlined in previous sections. It is not always accessible or may not be applicable to different sites. Whether the information is useful or not, management decisions will invariably be based, at least in part, on value judgements.

The use of value judgements is a fundamental part of decision making, even where scientific information is readily available. However, the way in which these judgements are made, and are seen to be made, is of importance to the management process. If the process is less than transparent it can lead to a great deal of disagreement between those individuals and organisations affected by the subsequent decision.

Effective planning and management of recreational activities in mSAC areas should, therefore, be based on the best available scientific information complemented by the input of organisations and local individuals.

In cases where there is insufficient data, the value judgements may be based on the precautionary principle. This states that:

Where it is assumed that there are real threats of serious damage to the environment, lack of full scientific information should not be used as a justification for postponing measures to prevent such damage occurring. (DETR 1998)

When considering the application of the principle, regard should be given to the magnitude of the impact and the risk of the impact happening. However, the precautionary principle can be exploited by some individuals to find support for their position. The consultation process for this project has highlighted this as a concern of many recreational representatives who feel it is being used to limit their activities in certain areas. It should, however, be stressed that the precautionary principle, as promoted by government, is not designed to curtail those activities which cannot be shown to be harmless. It is more a ‘stop gap’ policy mechanism which gives decision makers ‘breathing space’ to assess more fully the costs and benefits of potential management decisions and, where necessary, to undertake further research.

The authors suggest that a consideration of historic, present and future trend data is instrumental in enabling effective decision making. This will help to place current activities in the context of long term natural and human influences and suggest possible future outcomes. Table 8.2 outlines some of these data sets.


Information Required for Effective Decision Making

Category of Data set

Data set

Sub set



Quality, quantity and location



Types, levels, and location



Sediment, formation and location


Feature sensitivity

Estuary, inlets, sea caves etc.


Recreational use of site

Water side and land side


Industrial use of site

Type, location


Urban use of site

Type and location


Rural use of site

Type and location


Water regimes

Depth, currents, temperature, salinity


Sediment transport

Direction, intensity, duration


Management strategies

Voluntary, regulatory



Types, levels and location


The table of information above is by no means exhaustive. As sensitivity assessment and management decision methods improve, the relevance of other additional forms of data will become apparent.

During the course of this project it has become evident that, although there is a variety of information available regarding the types and levels of recreational activities currently occurring in mSAC sites, this information is often not comparable between sites. This is largely because the information collection and evaluation methods differ greatly. In addition, there are a number of examples of one-off surveys of recreational activities which are methodologically flawed.

Future recreational management in European marine sites would benefit greatly from the development of a standardised survey methodology which could be used in all future reviews of mSAC sites. There are many methods available for the evaluation of recreational types and levels with two example of good practice shown below.




Next Section