Recreation : Management : Marine environment

Summary of managing recreation in the marine environment

Approach to management



Education and interpretation

Integration of management plans

The voluntary approach

The regulatory approach

Implementation of management plans

Approach to Management

In many areas, there is little consensus on whether a problem exists in the first place which needs to be managed. Where a problem is generally recognised, it is difficult to reach agreement as to the best way to solve it.

Management can often be seen by participants as an excuse to bring in controls on all activities, irrespective of their impacts or lack of them. Managers may view recreational participants as an impediment to achieving effective conservation practices.

These problems are compounded in the case of the Habitats Directive and the designation of SACs by limited promotion of its purpose and objectives. Therefore there is limited understanding of the benefits of designation by the end user.

The designation of mSAC areas has taken place within the context of existing patterns of use. It should not be assumed therefore that the requirement to maintain the conservation interest is necessarily incompatible with existing activities within mSAC areas.


Early consultation on the need for particular management techniques and the method by which it will be achieved, including funding and policing, will improve the chances of successful implementation.

From a recreation perspective, it is clearly important for the relevant governing bodies, clubs and individuals to be fully involved in this process from the outset.

It is vital that, prior to the development of new management strategies, an attempt is made to reach a consensus between relevant authorities, site managers and recreational interests on the need for management

It is particularly important that the maxim ‘if it is not broken, there is no need to fix it’ should be the starting point for management.

If new management measures are required for a site, a clear and thorough explanation should be given as to why a particular course of action has been chosen. This should include an explanation of why new methods are required, what they hope to achieve, what the implications are for the end user and, perhaps most importantly, what direct benefits there are for the environment and also the end user.


The availability of high quality, reliable information is a key requirement for the effective development and implementation of management in marine areas. Consideration of historic, present and future trend data is instrumental in enabling effective decision making.

Organisations other than those in traditional policy making positions should be encouraged to become involved in the decision making process through the effective transfer and translation of scientific information.

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.

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.

Rather than being seen as a threat, the identification of gaps in information can provide an important opportunity to facilitate an informed discussion over issues of management. It can also promote the formulation of attempts to address such gaps by, for example, joint commissioning of research.

Education and Interpretation

Leisure activities are a major opportunity to engage with the public on environmental issues in general and specific policy issues, such as the Habitats Directive, in particular. This will help to engender popular support for the management policies.

Whether the management technique employed at the site is voluntary or regulatory, education and interpretation are a valuable tool in achieving policy goals. Effective awareness raising at site level can be used to overcome some of the obstacles associated with the acceptance and support of new management schemes.

The effective targeting and continuous monitoring of educational information is of vital importance.

Integration of Management Plans

Where the need for management has been identified, it is essential for relevant authorities and site managers to be aware of management schemes that are already in place at site level, whether for conservation objectives or for safety and amenity purposes. The latter may well be contributing indirectly to conservation objectives

It is vital that management for conservation purposes does not conflict with, or in any way prejudice, existing safety or navigational measures.

Where possible, the mSAC management framework should build on existing management structures, for example estuary management initiatives, and should avoid duplication and/or conflict with existing structures.

It is vital that all relevant authorities are brought together at an early stage, and continue to work together in the development of management measures

Before looking to set up new regulatory controls, it is important to determine what controls already exist, how effective they are and what statutory powers are vested amongst existing bodies in the area.

Often a number of different management methods can work together to provide effective site management. This is particularly the case for techniques such as voluntary zoning, regulatory bylaws and education and interpretation. Often education can be used to support other practical methods of nature conservation at site level.

The Voluntary Approach

The value of encouraging people to support voluntarily conservation and management measures, rather than being required to do so, is widely recognised. Successful management schemes for mSAC areas rely on the support and collaboration of the recreational users of the area.

Zoning is increasingly being considered for managing recreational activities for nature conservation purposes. Many recreational representative groups have expressed concern, however, about the use of zoning for purposes other than vessel safety. The latter includes internationally agreed terms and definitions which are used throughout the world. It is felt that the extension of zoning for nature conservation purposes may compromise safety requirements.

Environmental codes of practice are useful tools for voluntary management. If effectively developed and followed by the end user, such codes can be a cost-effective method for minimising the effects of recreation. The provision of such codes can also encourage recreational participants to become interested in the marine environment as well as motivate them to look after it.

The Regulatory Approach

Before looking to set up new regulatory controls it is important to determine what controls already exist, how effective they are and what statutory powers are vested amongst existing bodies in the area.

Prior to the development of new regulatory management schemes, relevant authorities, site managers and recreational participants themselves must reach agreement on the methods, implementation, funding and policing of such schemes.

Regulatory control should be supported with educational and communication strategies which outline the need for management and the benefits of management for the end user.

Implementation of Management Plans

Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the information on which management decisions are based is essential to ensure judgements based on this information remain relevant.

In addition to monitoring the quality of information prior to the development of management initiatives, it is also essential that the management techniques themselves are continually reviewed and evaluated once implemented.

It is important that a degree of flexibility is built into management regimes to enable a response to changes in the level, seasonality and location of recreational activities.


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