‘The Solway Firth is a unique and special place. The impression it gives is of a vast, undeveloped and remote landscape within which lies an outstanding natural, cultural and economic heritage.’ (Solway Firth Partnership, 1996)
In 1996 an ambitious piece of work was undertaken by Solway Firth Partnership in the form of the ‘Solway Firth Review’, sometimes referred to as the ‘State of the Solway Review’. This landmark piece of work in the area of marine management sought many aims. It aimed to establish the baseline suite of information which exists for the Solway, to be used as a basis for future management, planning, and monitoring, identifying conflicts between sectors in a space of increasing use, identifying data gaps needing filled, and providing increased data accessibility.
Despite the success of this document, the review is now over 20 years old, and is in need of updating. Since 1996 there has been a range of developments and changes in legislation, technology, environmental, and socio-economic changes.
The aim of the Solway Marine Information, Learning and Environment (SMILE) Project is to update the 1996 ‘State of the Solway Review’, using innovative communication methods to gather pan-estuary information, learn from stakeholders and promote a better understanding of the Solway Firth ecosystem. The update is required in the light of new demands made on the estuary’s resources and in the context of marine planning. The Review will provide some of the evidence by which a sustainable approach to planning and management may be achieved; thereby helping to deliver the ecosystem based marine planning frameworks developed for the Solway.
The new review is intended to provide updated information in an online easily accessible and easy to navigate ‘story map’ style. This new assessment seeks to fulfil all of the original aims of the 1996 review, while adding in newly developed topics such as climate change, or updating those which are now outdated. It also provides a new platform on which to develop an updatable, interactive, and more accessible version of the review for increased use.
This review uses Scotland’s Marine Atlas, as well as the Clyde Marine Region Assessment as basis for structure and content, in addition to the basis of the 1996 Solway Review.
The Solway Firth has long been an important part of the UK’s marine space. Not only does it have unique characteristics, such as the second largest tidal range in the UK, flourishing biodiversity and protected areas, and an array of socio-economic activities, it also hosts the jurisdictional border between Scotland (in the north) and England’s (in the south) inshore marine areas. The jurisdictional boundary within the cross border firth continues onto land via the River Sark. Furthermore, the Scottish side of the Firth is its own marine region for inshore marine planning purposes under the Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015. This review is cross-border, featuring information for both the Scottish and English sides. This is in keeping with the UK Marine Policy Statement which outlines the commitment to co-ordination across administrative boundaries. Ecosystems and wildlife do not adhere to jurisdictional boundaries and plans which work together and have regard for both sides of the border will lead to a more cohesively and effectively planned marine area.
This document seeks to establish the baseline of existing characteristics for the Solway Firth. This is key to effective and sustainable marine management and planning.
Image; Bowness-on-Solway. © Solway Firth Partnership.