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White Paper: Marine Environmental Net Gain

If we are serious about achieving our objectives for the marine environment, we need to change our approach.

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White Paper: Why we need a Statutory System of Marine Environmental Net Gain

UK marine habitats and species continue to experience some notable declines. This represents a serious failure of existing marine conservation policy and practice. Our latest White Paper outlines why we need a statutory system of marine environmental net gain.


The 2011 Natural Environment White Paper, 'The natural choice', aspired for "this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited." However, existing legislative and policy drivers have proven too weak to stem the tide of marine biodiversity decline, let alone reverse it (see European Environment Agency's 'State of Europe’s Seas' report).

Business as usual is not an option

The sea is a public resource. While public and private rights exist in the sea, management of this resource should be in the public interest. Management which contributes to a continuing decline in natural capital assets, and the many benefits that society derives from them, is not sustainable.

If we are serious about achieving our objectives for the marine environment, we need to change our approach to management. As the Natural Capital Committee observes in its sixth report, "Business as usual is going to lead to failure."

The 25 Year Environment Plan is committed to embedding Environment Net Gain (ENG) for development "to deliver environmental improvements locally and nationally."

It further specifies that "in future, we want to expand the net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits, such as flood protection, recreation and improved water and air quality. Those approaches will sit alongside existing regulations that protect our most threatened or valuable habitats and species."

Marine commitments were also included in the 25 Year Plan, though these did not mention net gain, instead pledging to "reverse the loss of marine biodiversity and, where practicable, restoring it."

At ABPmer we recognise that concepts such as ENG present an opportunity to make a real difference. A wider and clearer ENG duty on marine decision-makers could help ensure all residual environmental impacts, both from development projects and wider marine activities, were offset to deliver marine ENG.

To learn more, download our related White Paper