Marine Science - Science and Technology Committee Contents

5  Conclusion

47. Marine science is crucial to a growing number of Government initiatives, yet our understanding of the marine environment remains patchy. Given current resource restrictions, the UK must be clever about how we advance our understanding of the marine environment and improve our capability in marine science. The Government's approach to marine science and the marine environment lacks focus and, despite publication of the Marine Science Strategy, lacks strategic direction. The Marine Science Coordination Committee lacks clear a clear plan or levers to achieve its objectives and needs to start delivering results.

48. The complicated and protracted process to select Marine Conservation Zones highlights the Government's lack of focus. The Marine and Coastal Access Act passed with strong support from the public and Parliament, yet it has taken three years to reach a point where 31 zones are being consulted on for designation at an unspecified time, with management measures yet to be decided. The uncertainties caused by these delays and the lack of clarity in this process create anxiety and risks undermining public support for the project.

49. Changes to NERC funding streams could be inadvertently undermining support for strategic marine research. NERC should consider what impact restructuring its research funding towards competitive modes has had on its support for marine science and whether there are sufficient opportunities for marine scientists to bid for funding in the competitive modes. It is important that staff should be able to carry out strategic work without disadvantaging their academic careers.

50. Maintaining observations of the marine environment is essential to record changes to the environment, particularly those arising from climate change or ocean acidification.[177] Such data collection, particularly from long-term monitoring programmes, should be an essential component of the Government's strategy for marine science. The Marine Management Organisation and the Government need to go further in pressing industry to share more of their data. Efforts by the UK-Integrated Marine Observing Network,[178] and the British Oceanographic Data Centre, in Liverpool[179] to improve long-term monitoring are promising, but long-term monitoring should not be sidelined to individual projects. This monitoring should be considered core infrastructure. Defra and NERC should provide clear, long term commitment of their support of these initiatives.

177   Ev w3 para 4, Ev 99 para 6.1 Back

178   Ev 97 para 1.3 Back

179  Back

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Prepared 11 April 2013