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ABPmer to develop marine recreation activity maps to help decision-making

Delivering insight into non-licensable marine activities at highest-risk MPAs.

To ensure the conservation objectives of England's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are met, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) wants to better understand the location and intensity of non-licensable (recreational) activities, to inform assessments and management decisions.

Whilst previous studies have indicated which type of recreational activities may be occurring within MPAs, they are often not well described, either in terms of their location or intensity in time and space. This in turn makes it difficult to consider their potential impacts on protected conservation features and identify where management may be required.

To support MPA site-level assessments and inform management decision-making, the MMO has commissioned ABPmer to provide detailed insight into marine recreational activities occurring in those MPAs that have features most at risk from such activities.

The work will add to prior studies by identifying the timeframes, locations and intensities of each activity.

Chris Jackson, ABPmer’s Data and GIS Solutions business manager said:

“Delivering comprehensive activity information will ensure the MMO has the best evidence on which to base MPA management decisions. We will begin by collating available spatial data to help identify what we know and don’t know. This will be validated by stakeholders who will also be asked to help fill gaps on understanding activity levels over time.”

Activities being reviewed in the study are mooring, anchoring, launching and recovery sites used by powerboats or sailing vessels, marine areas used by these craft, marine areas used by motorised and non-motorised personal water-craft, and recreational SCUBA diving sites.

The project is expected to complete in Spring 2021 and will provide spatial maps for each activity, together with information about the intensity and temporal distribution.

Update: The project completed in May 2021. The data spatial data are now being used to formulate the approach to recreational management in MPAs, including the Studland Bay MCZ Habitat Protection Strategy, published in September.

ABPmer routinely advises Governments, advisory bodies and NGOs on marine environmental policy matters, and has a long history researching and developing the evidence base against which decisions are made.