Supporting Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in the Celtic Seas (SIMCelt) was a cross-border project, which Solway Firth Partnership was part of, looking at implementing the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive in the Irish Sea. This European Union (EU) funded project took place between 2015 and 2017 to promote cross-border co-operation between EU member states. Part of this Directive requires Member States to create plans accounting for social and economic aspects of the marine area being planned for, in addition to environmental aspects, as part of the minimal requirements (Article 6). The establishment of marine plans also includes taking account of sectoral interactions of uses relevant to the area. Sectoral interactions explains how different sectors interact while actively or potentially functioning within the same marine space. To achieve goals of marine planning such as sustainable growth, managing increasing demands and shared use, and to use information from stakeholder engagement in the planning process, sectoral interactions are very important.
Part of the SIMCelt Project work was a the ‘Report on Sectoral Interactions around the Solway Firth in relation to marine planning‘ (the SIMCelt report) (Baruah, et al, 2017) exploring interactions within the Solway. Considering the shared use of the Solway Firth between a variety of sectors, sometimes within the same area, these sectoral interactions are highly relevant to the ‘Productive’ section of the Solway Review as they impact the placement of new sectors and activities. Given that planning for the marine environment can mean the placement of multiple activities within the same spatial area or time period or seeking the same resources, the interactions between the activities is key to ensuring maximum sustainable use and minimum conflict. Furthermore, the identification of spatial areas being utilised by multiple sectors forms an informational basis to consider the cumulative impacts of the uses.
The findings of the report will be outlined below to supplement the ‘Productive‘ socio-economic chapter of the Solway Review. The SIMCelt report looks at a 5 year ‘snapshot’ between 2011 and 2017. Sectoral interaction work was undertaken by Solway Firth Partnership in 2011 and this could be used comparatively for the SIMCelt report, repeating the study in 2016/17 in light of changes over time, and the initiation of the marine planning process in Scotland and England.
Activities may have one of five different interactions with another marine sector/use; competitive, conflicting, incompatible, neutral, or positive. The ‘Report on Sectoral Interactions around the Solway Firth in relation to marine planning‘ (the SIMCelt report) (Baruah, et al, 2017) found that the majority of sectoral interactions in the Solway Firth are ‘neutral’, meaning they neither positively or negatively impact each other. It is worth noting that interactions are subjective based on experience and opinion, and not always the same in both directions. This means that one sector (sector A) may see their interaction with another sector (sector B) as neutral, whereas sector B may view their interaction with sector A as conflicting. There can also be a mixture of interactions as sectors may have a variety of actions related to their activities, for example in the 2016/17 research the sector of ‘Natural heritage management’ had both a conflicting and positive interaction with the sub-sector of ‘Shellfish Aquaculture’ due to conflict through possible disruption, and the positive use of marker buoys as roots respectively.
This is not only important for the sustainable use of marine resources, but also to protect people from potentially dangerous outcomes. Some interactions can also be dangerous. A reminder of the potential danger which exists in interacting sectors is an example of the 2019 ‘near-miss’ of a nuclear submarine and Stena Line passenger ferry on the crossing between Cainryan and Northern Ireland (ITV News, 2019).
Of course many interactions have the potential to be exacerbated or improved through mechanisms, management and cooperation efforts, these efforts can also be cross-border efforts between Scotland/England.
Image; Kirkcudbright © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; Kim Ayres.