Following an open tender process, I have been commissioned by the ASCOBANS Secretariat to develop guidelines for Cetacean-friendly marine spatial planning. ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas, entered into force 1994) is the key international agreement for the conservation of small cetaceans (harbour porpoises, dolphins, smaller whale species) in Northern and Western Europe. The ASCOBANS Secretariat is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and located in Bonn. The development of guidelines for cetacean-friendly MSP contributes to the realisation of effective ecosystem-based management.
In a scientific report commissioned by NUI Galway, Department of Geography (Dr. Marie Mahon) under the EU Horizon 2020 project IMAJINE: Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe, I was tasked with exploring the relational qualities of spatial justice, together with Dr. Brendan O’ Keeffe. The report was written against the background of increased awareness of the fragility and vulnerability, but also, in some respects, the resilience of European solidarity in the face of external shocks such as the Greek Euro-crisis, the 2015 refugee crisis and the exit of the UK from the EU. Spatial justice is recognised as a fundamentally contested concept related to normative EU concepts of a Social Europe and the discourses of economic, social and territorial cohesion. More recently it is reflected, if partially, in the concept of a Just Transition in the context of the EU Green Deal.
Over the past few months I have worked on the study: ” Best Practice in Maritime Spatial Planning: Towards Mutually Beneficial Outcomes for Fishers, Renewable Energy Production and Marine Conservation” commissioned by Grace O’ Sullivan MEP on behalf of the Greens in the European Parliament. The study has been published today (5.2.2021) and is available to download here. See also an opinion piece by Grace O’ Sullivan MEP on the launch of the study. A webinar will take place later this month (24. Feb) where the report will be discussed with industry and NGO representatives (details tbc).
Now that the contract is signed, I can announce that I am working on a desk-based study of Maritime Spatial Planning focussing on case studies of best / good practice where conflicts between offshore wind, fisheries and nature conservation interests have been resolved or ameliorated through MSP and related practices. This is a tall order of course, but I am confident existing good practices can point the way towards more inclusive and integrated forms of MSP where conflicts are resolved, mitigated and/or ameliorated through open dialogue, strategic planning and regulations sensitive to the particularities of individual places and their communities.
I am very happy to be working on the preparation of synthesis policy reports emerging from the Horizon 2020 IMAJINE (Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe) project led by Prof. Michael Woods of Aberystwyth University. The policy reports will help to inform a scenario-building exercise, focussed on ‘Re-imaging Regional Futures’.
Linking conceptual ideas on relational space and values to the formulation of normative policy frameworks is challenging but rewarding work!