ABPmer was commissioned by Natural Resources Wales to carry out a desk-based study to understand and explore options for the implementation of the ‘enhancement’ aspect of Welsh National Marine Plan Policy ENV01. This policy states that ‘Proposals should demonstrate how they contribute to the protection, restoration and/or enhancement of marine ecosystems’.
The study explored the legislative and policy context of ‘marine enhancement’ and reviewed potential opportunities/techniques which could be employed by the different sectors which tend to apply for marine licences in Wales.
The context review demonstrated that there is a wide variety of relevant legislation and policy which refers to environmental measures related to the enhancement concept, be it in a wider or more restricted sense. Furthermore, while there is a lot of aspiration to deliver ecological enhancement in the marine environment, there are limited practical examples, avenues for enforcing such actions, or indeed guidance for undertaking/choosing specific measures.
A wide range of examples of environmental enhancement measures were identified through the literature review. This included both onsite and offsite measures.
In developing principles for proportionate implementation of the policy on ‘resilient marine ecosystems’, the study considered how far to pursue ‘within project’ enhancements or to encourage broader enhancement activity within a wider context of environmental net gain.
In contrast to terrestrial ecosystems, marine systems are more open and dynamic, with ecosystem processes generally working over much larger spatial and a range of temporal scales. Thus, the principle of ‘working with natural processes’/’nature-based solutions’ was considered to be particularly important in relation to the resilience of marine ecosystems.