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An international LIFE+ project

The Celtic Seas Partnership began in 2013 and brought together people that use the Celtic Seas to set up collaborative and innovative approaches to managing their marine environment. It put the people that use the sea at the heart of management and gave them the opportunity to influence how their marine environment will be managed in the years to come.

The four year EC LIFE+ project involved France, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and the Isle of Man. It’s been supported by all the national governments in the area, and worked with more than 1,500 people, empowering them to shape a more sustainable future for everybody – and, of course, for the Celtic Seas.

The partnership involved people working across national boundaries and sectors to address the big picture, taking the whole ecosystem into account.

Why are the Celtic Seas important?

Fishing boats at Newlyn harbour in Cornwall © Jiri Rezac / WWF

The Celtic Seas surround the UK, Ireland and north-western France. This area includes a wide range of habitats and is home to some amazing wildlife, from whales, dolphins, sharks and seals to cold-water corals and slow-growing maerl beds. Some 23 million people live in the Celtic Seas region, and many more across Europe depend on the area for their livelihoods and wellbeing.

It is estimated that the region supports 400,000 jobs and is worth £15 billion per year to the economies of France, Ireland and the UK.

The Celtic Seas have some of the busiest shipping routes in the world and provide a home to commercially important fisheries such as mackerel and sea bass. There is a thriving tourism industry and huge potential for wind, wave and tidal power.

Despite their importance, so far they’ve not been managed in the most sustainable way. Increasing demand for resources, ineffective management and climate change have all caused environmental damage and put some vulnerable species and habitats at risk. This then puts industries and peoples’ jobs at risk as a healthy economy needs healthy seas.

What did the project achieve?

Building relationships and trust

The Celtic Seas Partnership helped to build relationships and create partnerships between scientists, governments and the people who use and love the sea – from fishers to divers to the energy industry. For example, groups were set up to find solutions for some of the key challenges facing the Celtic Seas – themes included marine litter, invasive non-native species and sea-users collecting data that could be used to inform management. Find out more about these groups

A pilot project was also set up with Scottish fisheries, Scottish government and environmental organisations to see whether mediation could be used as a way of building trust between groups with challenging relationships and break down the barriers that stop them working together. This was considered as a positive step in building these relationships and a similar scoping project is taking place in France. Find out more about the mediation pilot

Guidance for better management

A number of best practice guidelines have been produced to support people in better managing their activities in the Celtic Seas. Guidelines include advice on the difficulties of working across borders and sectors, as well as more tailored information for planning authorities. You can get a digital copy of the guidelines in our publications library or email us to ask for a hard copy

Recognising the value of the marine environment

Handlining, Cornwall © Jiri Rezac / WWF UK

Everyone depends on the services that the ecosystem provides, but putting a value on these services can be difficult. The project developed a resource pack with tools and recommendations on how to evaluate the services that the marine ecosystem provides. Find out more about the Ecosystem Services Resource Pack

Data access and sharing

An information portal and guide has been created to make it easier to find data and information on the Celtic Seas. A ‘Fishing4Data’ group was also set up to develop a strategy for making data collected by the fishing industry scientifically credible so that it can be used to inform policy making and implementation.

What was the impact?

An independent evaluator carried out the final evaluation of the project. The evaluator looked at outcomes and impacts (both positive and negative), and identified key lessons.

The evaluator found that what people valued most was the unique opportunity to meet and work with others from different sectors and different countries. The project also helped to improve people’s understanding of marine policy and empower them to get involved in shaping policy. This has created a better environment for implementing the policy which should in turn bring environmental improvements in the future.

Many of the people involved in the project said they would like to continue to meet with others from across the Celtic Seas after the project finishes. In today’s economic climate, getting the resources to make this happen will be a challenge. To support the case for resources the project created a statement for people to sign up to and show their support for these opportunities to continue in some way. View the statement of support

Governance and funding

WWF led the project with partners Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, Natural Environment Research Council (British Oceanographic Data Council), SeaWeb Europe and the University of Liverpool.

An Observer Board and Expert Advisory Group were set up to provide specialist advice and invaluable input to the direction of the project. The Observer Board included representation from OSPAR, the EC and the different national administrations. The Expert Advisory Group included specialists from industry and academia.

The primary funder for the project was LIFE+, the EU’s funding instrument for the environment. The project also received support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the Postcode Animal Trust, Next, Marks and Spencer and the Peter Dixon Charitable Trust.