Plymouth’s plans to be the first National Marine Park in the UK moved forward today with a funding bid being submitted for a feasibility study.
The bid – which was sent to the EU and DEFRA today along with a covering letter to Hilary Florek, Chair of the Marine Management Organisation – was developed by Plymouth City Council and follows a meeting in the summer between Council Leader Councillor Tudor Evans, Nigel Gooding, Head of EU and International Fisheries, and Anne Freeman, Deputy Director, Domestic Fisheries and Reform at DEFRA. The Council wants to work with local partners through the Marine Management Organisation, and with DEFRA and the European Union to carry out the feasibility study and engage with key stakeholders.
The bid highlights the main aims of a potential National Marine Park, which are to:
- Encourage the community to understand, enjoy, value and care for the marine and coastal environment
- Strengthen existing marine conservation objectives and involve the local community in this
- Establish a world leading demonstration centre for a range of marine technologies including marine autonomous systems
- Ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the same opportunities to access the marine environment as others
- Improve and enhance sustainable tourism, commercial fishing, recreation, shipping and marine services
- Improve community health and wellbeing by increasing access for recreation
The bid has been endorsed with supporting letters from a range of partners including Natural England, University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratories, Blue Marine Foundation, Marine Biological Association, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth Growth Board, Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership, and Plymouth Trawler Agents.
Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of the Council, said: “I am delighted to be able to have submitted this bid and to have had all the support from all our partners – Plymouth is the natural choice for the UK’s first National Marine Park.
“We are Britain’s Ocean city, with a stunning and vibrant waterfront and a huge natural harbour. We have an unparalleled and rich maritime heritage and a successful and productive fishing industry, which ranges from small inshore boats to large pelagic vessels. Plymouth is one of the largest fishing ports in England. We are world-renowned for marine science and engineering, offering expertise and experience from law, economics, policy, ecology, marine planning and social sciences. Our business community is dynamic, innovative and creative, and Plymouth is host to the largest operational naval base in Western Europe.”
The bid will aim to build on the success of the national conference, ‘Marine Parks: Bringing it all back home’, organised in association with the Blue Marine Foundation and held in Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium in June 2018, which agreed, overwhelmingly, that Plymouth Sound and its environs were the natural home for the UK’s first marine park.
Councillor Sue Dann, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and the Environment, said: “National Marine Park status would put Plymouth on the map and give recognition as an area with so much to offer and all the fantastic work that we do here with our partners. Caring for our marine environment and helping people to understand how it plays a large part in all our lives is important to us. We are the home of the National Marine Aquarium and our marine environment is host to two Special Areas of Conservation, one Special Protection Area, two Marine Conservation Zones, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and numerous historic Wreck Sites.”
If the funding for the feasibility study is approved, it will be used to:
- develop the purpose, objectives and boundaries of the National Marine Park
- create a marine management plan to ensure sustainable management of the Sound taking into account the needs of the environmental commercial and military uses and recreation
- promote the Marine Park concept and develop a Visitor and Marketing Strategy
All this work will be developed through thorough engagement with key stakeholders, user groups and the local community