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Prospects for the Channel

 - Thomas Abiven

The final PANACHE and VALMER conference has been an opportunity to discuss the tools developed and knowledge acquired within the framework of each project. These two and a half days spent sharing knowledge and know-how have brought to light several major prospects for the Channel region.

Strengthening the observation and technical and scientific cooperation programmes could be one first outcome. PANACHE and VALMER were intended to serve as observatories and laboratories for observing the Channel ecosystem, and thus contribute to scientific intelligence for the protection of specific areas of environmental importance in the Channel. Concrete examples of achievements that can be leveraged include: ecosystem services analysis and assessment; database pooling to share and publish knowledge across marine sites; MPA conservation status monitoring; and cooperation to achieve greater coherence in management schemes.

The two projects have developed and consolidated the construction of a real network among MPA managers in the Channel. Relationships of mutual support have been developed between researchers and managers and they must now be maintained by building new partnerships to continue creating shared tools. A common working platform, a technical coordination committee or a scientific and technical alliance for data exchanges are all forms that these future partnerships could take.

PANACHE and VALMER also gave MPA stakeholders in the Channel an opportunity to become key players in the marine spatial planning process. A true, innovative and pertinent bottom-up approach has been developed on which a solid, coherent network of marine protected areas can be built. It helps to integrate the socio-economic value of protected sites, enabling us to compare different geographic scales and facilitating consultation with economic stakeholders affected by marine spatial planning. This approach also simplifies implementation of governance for decision-makers, as it provides a real point of convergence with local practitioners. In terms of marine spatial planning, we have also seen the importance of working closely with the fishery industry, to defend together the conservation of the ecosystem and socio-economic services that living marine resources provide.

It is crucial that the PANACHE and VALMER project initiatives be recognised and supported by society. Therefore, the general public must absolutely be regarded as an appropriate target for the dissemination of knowledge acquired. Tools should be developed for school children, citizen sciences will be increasingly important and social networks and other new information technologies will be the best possible media.

At this stage, the two projects' work must no longer remain solely at a technical and scientific level: political and institutional support is required, to firmly establish it in Channel management strategies. In particular, we must demonstrate that this work meets our international political commitments and that it is vital for the effective application of European integrated marine policies (such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Marine Spatial Planning). Political support must therefore be sought from the appropriate players, such as decision-makers in governance bodies on either side of the Channel.

PANACHE and VALMER are indeed ending, but we are witnessing the promising start of strong technical and scientific cooperation. It is now vital that we reinforce these relationships by structuring and durably funding the joint activities conducted across the Channel ecosystem. Two options appear to emerge: either we work along the same lines as the Regional Advisory Council funding set up for fishing and financed by the Direction Générale des Affaires Maritimes et de la Pêche, or we propose a new Interreg IVA programme that takes account of development possibilities and addresses the network structuring and financial future of the two projects' initiatives.

As an operator of the French Ministry of Ecology, the French MPA Agency dedicated to marine environment protection will support all organisations that pursue the bilateral cooperation initiated by PANACHE and VALMER to protect the Channel marine environment we share.

 

Free retranscription of the talk given by Christophe Lefebvre, delegate for European and international affairs to the Agence des aires marines protégées.

 

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updated on 03/05/2015
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