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A Celtic Seas Forum

The precise objectives, structure and functioning of a Celtic Seas forum need to be determined. Experiences gained in PISCES have helped to identify key considerations:

  • Geographic scale. There are advantages to mirroring existing boundaries. The Celtic Seas sub-region would be the most practical for the purposes of the MSFD and provide strong synergy with OSPAR Celtic Seas Region III. This could build upon the existing stakeholder group formed as part of the PISCES project.
  • Objectives. The objectives of the forum would need to be determined and set out clearly in a terms of reference. This is likely to include providing an impartially-led platform for dialogue between stakeholders, and between stakeholders and government. The forum could be established with a focus on the MSFD, after which it could be broadened out to wider marine policy and management.
  • Legal status. Evidence suggests that a statutory basis aids formal recognition, funding and effectiveness, and increases stakeholder buy-in. Demonstrating the effectiveness of such a forum through projects like PISCES could support this.
  • Representation. The forum must be representative, and perceived as such. At a minimum it would need to include key industry/sea-user sectors in the Celtic Seas sub-region, NGOs and the research/scientific community. Government could either join as another stakeholder, or take part as observers.
  • Management. The management structure would need to be formally defined, including considerations such as the establishment of a secretariat, membership process, working groups and a meeting programme. Management could be supported (at least initially) directly by government.
  • Funding. Securing long-term funding will be vital. Given the transnational context, this could be from the EC, perhaps in combination with national governments. However, interim funding may be needed. Membership fees are a possibility, but would need to be carefully considered to avoid disadvantaging any individual interest groups.
  • Managing expectations. Members need to understand the group’s role in management decisions and the role and level of influence for each sector. This should be communicated to stakeholders at the outset.
  • Relationship to other mechanisms. Sub-regional stakeholder forums could be part of a hierarchy of stakeholder mechanisms, complementing other governance mechanisms (e.g. regional sea conventions, fisheries regional advisory councils and national/sub-national stakeholder forums). Links should be made between all relevant stakeholder participation processes.

Case study 9: European Fisheries Regional Advisory Councils

The growing international recognition of the need for stakeholder participation in decision-making was given a legal basis in European fisheries management through the creation of regional advisory councils (RACs) during the 2002 reform of the CFP. RACs bring together different interests and different member states at a regional level and are the principal means for providing stakeholder advice to the EC on European fisheries management. RACs were hailed by many as the most positive development of the 2002 reform.

The RACs cover seven geographical areas, pelagic stocks and the high-seas/long-distance fleet. They include representatives from the fishing sector (catch, processing, producers etc.) and one-third representation from ‘other interests’, which includes environmental organisations, anglers and aquaculture.

The establishment of the RACs has improved access to information, understanding between stakeholders (including scientists and policy-makers), and understanding of the decisions made by the EC. Although RACs are clearly involved in fisheries management, their mandate is restricted to giving advice which the Commission may or may not take into account. However, the emphasis on regionalisation in the 2012 reform of the CFP suggests RACs will have an increasingly prominent role in future fisheries management.xix

References

  1. xix.   www.northseacommission.info (accessed on 20th September 2012).

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