Scotland passes comprehensive marine law

In February, the Scottish Parliament passed a comprehensive marine bill that calls for establishment of a national marine plan by the government. It also establishes a simpler licensing system for marine uses and outlines processes by which the government may plan and manage new MPAs.

"Our new marine planning system will provide better information to inform investment decisions and help attract additional investment," said Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead. "It is also a vital tool in protecting our marine flora and fauna and historical assets." The Scottish Marine Act 2010 is available at

Scotland expects its offshore production of renewable energy – wind, tidal, and wave – to grow significantly in the next decade. The new law aims to facilitate that growth through a streamlined planning and licensing process that reduces bureaucracy. Scotland holds a quarter of Europe's tidal and offshore wind resource and 10% of its potential in wave power. The government estimates that, by 2020, offshore renewables will supply nearly 50% of Scotland's electricity needs, and the development of these resources will attract investment of £30 billion (US $45 million) to the Scottish economy. (In late March, the Scottish government published a marine spatial planning framework and draft locational guidance for wave and tidal energy development in Pentland Firth and waters around the Orkney Islands, in northern Scotland. The framework and draft guidance are at

The new Scottish Marine Act follows passage last November of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, a similarly comprehensive law for English waters that also established a marine planning system, streamlined licensing, and strengthened environmental protection schemes (MEAM 3:3).

US state of Washington passes marine spatial planning law

The state of Washington in the northwestern continental US has passed a law calling for development and implementation of a marine spatial plan for its state waters, which extend 3 nm from shore. The planning process will be led by an interagency team whose goals will include reducing conflicts between user groups, aligning existing management plans, and improving management of the state's marine resources. The law aligns with federal and regional efforts to advance ocean planning. A similar planning approach for federal waters was initiated last year by US President Barack Obama.

The new Washington law leaves to the discretion of the state director of fish and wildlife what fisheries management provisions will be included in the marine spatial plan. Other activities such as energy production, habitat protection, and regulating other uses that may affect fish populations are considerations that will be included in the plan. "Fisheries management is a particularly sensitive issue in our state with the co-management role of [Native American] tribes and the intense interest among recreational and commercial fishers in any plan provision that may have implications for fisheries management," says state Senator Kevin Ranker, who sponsored the bill. "Management of fisheries generally refers to regulating the time, place, and manner of the harvest of fish. For these activities, it is appropriate to think of the Department of Fish and Wildlife director as responsible for deciding what elements go into the plan."

The Marine Waters Planning and Management Act is available at

US sets roadmap for restoring Gulf Coast ecosystems

US President Barack Obama released a roadmap in March for restoring wetland ecosystems and barrier islands along the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico, with a focus on building resiliency and sustainability. The plan calls for greater federal/state cooperation to eliminate obstacles that have hindered previous restoration efforts, such as inadequate coordination among agencies. According to the roadmap, "The Federal Government and States must work in partnership to recast river and coastal management priorities so that ecosystem restoration and sustainability are considered on a more equal footing with other priorities such as manmade navigation and structural approaches to flood protection and storm risk reduction." The roadmap is available at

Book outlines how economic tools can be applied to EBM

A new book examines the range of economic tools available and relevant to the field of marine ecosystem-based management, and describes how the tools can improve EBM implementation. Economic Analysis for Ecosystem-Based Management: Application to Marine and Coastal Environments introduces readers to how economic models can be used to explain and forecast human uses of marine resources, and to estimate the benefits produced by marine ecosystems. It also offers advice on evaluating tradeoffs among competing uses of ecosystem resources, and quantifying the costs and benefits associated with different policies. An appendix features four case studies on the application of economic tools to EBM as implemented in the US state of Massachusetts.

Authored by four economists, the book aims for an audience that includes non-economists such as resource managers and policymakers. "Through the purposeful balancing of simple concepts with operational details, we hope that this book can provide a useful and broadly applicable introduction to the appropriate use and interpretation of economics to inform ocean and coastal management," write the authors.

Economic Analysis for Ecosystem-Based Management, by Daniel Holland, James Sanchirico, Robert Johnston, and Deepak Joglekar, is available in paperback for US $39.95 at

Three new resources on marine spatial planning

The growing field of marine spatial planning (MSP) has three new information resources:

  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a website on MSP, with news on policy developments from around the world and information on basic concepts, data sources, and MSP in practice. It is at
  • A guide on best practices for marine spatial planning has been published by The Nature Conservancy, with a particular focus on MSP programs in the US. The best practices pertain to setting boundaries of the planning area; collecting and managing data; accounting for multiple objectives and uses; and other aspects of MSP. An appendix features 11 brief case studies. Best Practices for Marine Spatial Planning is available at
  • A new study that polled stakeholder involvement in marine spatial planning in the US has concluded that most existing MSP programs have been triggered by a single-sector use. "Whether the plan is aimed at ecosystem management for specific marine species of concern or favorability siting for wind energy, all of the interviewees pointed to a single issue around which efforts are galvanized," states the report. Conducted for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the publication presents recommendations for improving stakeholder involvement. The report Marine Spatial Planning Stakeholder Analysis is available at

UNEP report: East Asian seas require EBM and improved protection

A report from the UN Environment Programme states the economic future of East Asia will encounter major challenges unless the region's marine environment is managed much better. TheState of the Marine Environment Report for the East Asian Seas 2009 notes that nearly three-quarters of the region's human population depends directly or indirectly on coastal lands and waters. Meanwhile those ecosystems face multiple threats, including insensitive coastal development, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

The report recommends a more systematic, integrated approach to managing coastal and marine issues across the region, as well as improved data management and economic incentives to encourage private sector involvement in environmental protection programs. The publication is available at

Book classifies North American marine ecoregions

A new book from the trinational Commission on Environmental Cooperation (Canada, Mexico, and the US) creates a classification system for the oceanic and coastal regions of North America. Dividing the continental waters into 24 discrete ecoregions, the publication catalogs the distinct oceanographic features, habitats, and species assemblages of each one.

"The resultant framework cannot presume to be a complete, all-encompassing product that will be all things to all people," writes Hans Herrmann of the trinational commission in the book's preface. "Rather, its goal was to provide a common starting point, a scalable framework to collect and organize information, encourage further cooperation, and be used as a tool to better understand and manage our North American marine ecosystems." Marine Ecoregions of North America is available for free at

Free magazine issue on sea level rise

The latest issue of Nature Reports Climate Change, an online magazine produced by the publisher of the journal Nature, provides news, features, and comment on the topic of sea level rise. The issue (6 April 2010) is available for free at

2009 annual report available on ocean noise research and policy

The Acoustic Ecology Institute has released its 2009 yearbook on ocean noise, an annual report reviewing international science, policy, and legal developments. It guides the reader through a year's worth of news pertaining to naval active sonars, seismic surveys (by industry and academia), and shipping noise, as well as their impacts on marine ecosystems. The report is available at The Acoustic Ecology Institute is a US-based NGO that provides policymakers and the media with expertise on sound issues.

May 2011: Second International Marine Conservation Congress

The Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology will host the Second International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC2) from 14-18 May 2011 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The conference website is under construction. For more information, e-mail